Finding TIME TO WRITE can be done, no matter how busy you are! Time to Write: More Than 100 Professional Writers Reveal How to Fit Writing into Your Busy Life (Adams Media, Jan 2008) reveals how 104 professional authors, including more than 40 NYT bestsellers, managed to find time to write before they were career published, all while holding down jobs, caring for families, juggling household responsibilities and managing to get sufficient amounts of sleep.
Everyone is busy, so finding time to write must be woven into the fabric of your day to day life, one thread at a time. Here are a few tips:
1) Make writing appointments. Making time to write is similar to any new activity that you are attempting to fit into your life; let's use exercise as an example. How do you do it? You plan ahead. You decide that you'll exercise for twenty minutes, three times a week. You might choose Tuesday and Thursday at six o’clock and Saturday at nine o’clock. It's the same idea with writing. Decide when you will write, and then jot it down in your calendar. Whatever time slots you choose, write them down and then…
2) …keep the appointments. Just like you won't reap the health benefits that come with exercise if you don’t regularly break a sweat, you won't reap the benefits of consistent writing if you routinely blow it off. So work hard to keep that writing appointment. Treat it like it’s “real,” just like an appointment with the doctor or at your child’s school. The only way to do this is to exercise self-discipline and make yourself follow through.
3) Stay Focused. When it’s writing time, you should be writing. Don't let yourself get sucked into surfing the Internet, checking e-mail or making a grocery list.
4) Plan your work. When you make the weekly appointments, also plan what you’ll be working on during that time: Monday you'll use your twenty minutes to create plot points, Wednesday you'll use the hour for writing freely on your draft and during Friday’s thirty minute session, you'll revise what you did that week. Maximize the time spent at your desk by planning ahead how you'll tackle that day's writing session.
5) Set long range and intermediate goals. Knowing what you're striving for (long range goals) will help you decide how much time you need to write and how much work you should produce during that time (intermediate goals). For example, decide what date in the future you want to have your book finished. Then, work backwards to determine how much writing you should do every week to meet that deadline. If the draft of your novel will be four hundred pages and you want to finish it in a year, then you'll have to write thirty-three pages per month (four-hundred divided by twelve), or roughly eight pages a week (thirty-three divided by four). If you write three days a week, that's two to three pages each sitting. Break your writing down this way to make time management seem easier.
6) Make up lost time. Let’s face it--life happens. If you miss a writing appointment because your kid gets sick or your car breaks down or there’s a family function you simply must attend, cut yourself some slack, but do plan to make up the lost time the following week if possible. This means you might have to make four writing appointments instead of your usual three, or write two hours one day instead of just one. Make every effort to stay on track with your weekly goal.
7) Reward yourself. This is an important step because you want to associate positive feelings with that self-discipline you’ve been practicing. It reinforces the behavior and increases the chances that you’ll do it again. So at the end of each week that you kept your writing appointments, do something nice for yourself. Take a bubble bath, get a pedicure, have a romantic dinner with your spouse or buy your favorite author's latest release. You can even reward yourself at the end of each writing session. For example: If I write for thirty minutes, I can watch General Hospital.Finding time to write is a dilemma that every writer faces, published or not. The tips above are based on my interviews with 104 professional writers on how they do it, and there are a lot more in TIME TO WRITE. Give them a try!