If you’re reading this blog, it’s probably because A) you want to improve your writing skills or B) you really enjoy writing. Maybe it’s both. Either way, you’re here, investing your valuable and fleeting time, so I thank you–and I hope it will be worth your while. In a recent post, I detailed my Writing Resolutions for 2017, all of which involve (duh!) taking time out to write–which can be a pretty difficult feat to accomplish with our busy schedules.
Now, most of us (and by “us,” I mean writers) harbor some kind of literary ambition. We want to write The Great American Novel. We want to see our book-turned-Hollywood-blockbuster play out on the big screen. We want to sign autographs and be interviewed on NPR’s Fresh Air. But the truth is, unless and until we hit it big, we all have to keep our day jobs, and fitting writing into our busy, normal-people, pre-fame lives can be, well, really, really hard sometimes.
Here are some tips for fitting it in:
Try for Ten
While we’d all love to have hours on end to pen our literary masterpieces, the real world we live in doesn’t often allow that kind of luxury. I’ve been to many talks hosted by many authors who recount days when they would wake up at 5 o’clock in the morning to write for an hour or two before they left for work. For someone like me, who gets up before 5 o’clock in the morning just to make it to work on time, even that seems impossible (I’m dedicated to my craft, but getting up at 3 in the morning is really just not going to happen). Ideally, yes, we would all find a way to carve an hour or two into every day and reserve it for our writing, but that won’t always happen. We have jobs and errands and chores and children and calendars full of obligations.
Make yourself this promise: On the days when it seems all your time has been squeezed into anything but writing, write for ten minutes. That’s all.
Make yourself this promise: On the days when it seems all your time has been squeezed into anything but writing, write for ten minutes. That’s all. It doesn’t matter what you write. It doesn’t matter how much you write. Just set a timer and write until time’s up. You could get up ten minutes earlier (well, maybe you could…I’m not going to), stay up ten minutes later, cram it into the first or last ten minutes of your lunch break. I’d love to claim this idea as mine, but truthfully, I read about in Valley Haggard’s book The Halfway House for Writers, and lived it when I took one of her writing workshops last winter (I relive it on busy days when I otherwise would’ve skipped writing).
Most writers harbor some kind of literary ambition. We want to write The Great American Novel. We want to see our book-turned-Hollywood-blockbuster play out on the big screen. We want to sign autographs and be interviewed on NPR’s Fresh Air. But the truth is, unless and until we hit it big, we all have to keep our day jobs, and fitting writing into our busy, normal-people, pre-fame lives can be, well, really, really hard sometimes.
Plan On It
Many studies show that we are more likely to act on something–an idea, a goal–when we write it down. If you know you want to write, include writing on your daily schedule. Write it down on your to-do list or in your planner or on your calendar–wherever you keep track of your daily responsibilities, tasks, and obligations. If you want to write on a regular basis, you have to make it a priority. Including it–in writing–on your list of other priorities lends it the urgency and respect it deserves.
Talk to Text
Some days, finding time for the physical act of writing can be difficult. These are the days when you are overflowing with ideas, inspiration, motivation, and desire, but you simply can’t build the seat time into your day, for whatever reason. Often, my most impressive ideas come to me while I am driving, walking my dogs, or running. I can’t very well plop down and start writing in these situations; doing so would be logistically impossible, if not life-threatening. When this happens, I dictate a text message to my own phone number. Then, I send the dictated text to myself. At a later juncture, when I have more time or find myself in a situation more conducive to actually writing, I can leisurely write, type, and revise the “writing” I sent myself earlier in the day.
Remember, Every Word Counts
I used to live under the impression that unless I wrote something substantial on a given day, I had not lived up to the title of writer on said day. What would entail something substantial? I didn’t have any set criteria, really–an entire essay, a complete poem, a chapter of a book, a full diary entry relating the happenings of my day and how I felt about each of them. You know–a comprehensive piece.
This is unrealistic.
As I have grown as a writer, I have decided that anything I do today that helps support my writing habit counts. Every word counts. Even if the only thing I did today was find time to write out a list of topics to explore, I wrote. Would having finished the restructuring of my novel have been more productive and exciting? Probably. Would writing a poem and submitting it to a literary magazine have been more satisfying? Probably. Would publishing a blog post and a new story for mytrendingstories.com have made me feel like more of a writer? Probably. But I am not less of a writer on any given day simply because I didn’t write as much on that day. If on a busy day I completed even one activity–writing for ten minutes, attending a writing class, writing just one paragraph of a blog post–that supports my overall writing, I wrote.
And after all that, I’ll say it: You are not going to be able to write every day. You might not even be able to write every week. Even the most acclaimed authors and poets probably don’t write every day. Always keep in mind that writing is, after all, something you love to do. Avoid making it a chore by mandating you write X amount of days per week for X amount of hours each day. Don’t beat yourself up if your goal today was 1,000 words and you only churned out 726. If you wrote, that is good. If you didn’t write, that is good, too. You can write tomorrow. Or the next day. In addition to a writer, I am a runner–but I don’t run every day. And on my rest days, I don’t beat myself up, wondering if I’m a real runner. I need to rest,too. I will run again tomorrow, or the next day. The same goes for writing. You are not going to be able to write an entire short story every single day. You might not even be able to write an entire three-line poem every single day. You might not write every single day. That’s okay. You’re still a writer. Writing is a release, an escape, a pleasure. Do not make it a prison or a burden.
Always keep in mind that writing is, after all, something you love to do. Avoid making it a chore. Writing is a release, an escape, a pleasure. Do not make it a prison or a burden.