Do you sometimes get frustrated by the fact that you don’t have the time to write a book?
I think this is one of the comments, Autumn and I receive the most. For a lot of people there always seem to be something else taking up the intended writing time or perhaps you’re one of those who have more or less given up, believing that you’ll never find the time.
Finding time to write a novel is hard. Last time I checked we all had 24 hours in a day and those hours gets filled pretty quickly between getting sleep, taking care of a day job, attending family needs, perhaps you have kids and then there’s choirs like doing laundry, preparing food, do the grocery shopping and so on and so on… no wonder we find it hard to find the time to write.
It can at times seem more or less impossible. Am I right?
At the same time, we’ve all heard the wisdom that you’re supposed to write every day. Well… that’s nice, but how in the world is that possible with all the things, I’m supposed to do? The reality is simply that with the busy lives almost all of us lives, you’ll never find the time to write.
You have to make time to write.
I’ll get into how you can do that next, but I also have to be honest with you. What this comes down to is how bad do you want to write a novel?
For any of the advice, I’m going to give to be applicable, you have to start by taking your writing very seriously. It’s not something that will all of a sudden find its way into your life when it convenient for you. Writing a novel is a lot of work and if you aren’t willing to commit to it and make the necessary sacrifices, everything else I’m about to say is pointless.
I needed to get that out the way first, but if you’re still here that means that you’re taking this seriously, so let’s talk about how you make time to write instead of finding time to write.
The first thing you want to do is to decide when it suits your schedule the most to carve out some writing time. This is not a matter of finding three hours every day where you can write. For most of you that would most definitely be impossible.
Your rule of thumb is that a little is better than nothing. Ask yourself where you can 15 minutes, half an hour, an hour, something like that. If you can only find the time to write 300 words a day, that’s still 100,000 words in a year and a full fantasy novel. This is an agreement you’re making with yourself, so don’t break it.
When can you fit in some writing time on a daily basis and for how long?
That’s the question and only you can answer it, but I will say that it’s probably best to either aim for late at night when the other members of the household have gone to sleep, or in the very early morning when you’re the only one awake. The reason is that at these times the likelihood of distractions getting in your way are at the lowest. There aren’t any dishes or something like that to attend to at these hours.
I’ll get back to distractions in a minute, but I also want to clarify that while I’m recommending to schedule writing time at evenings or early mornings, I’m not advocating that you should skimp on sleep.
I’m a very strong believer in how we humans need our sleep to function well, so if you like to write in the evenings don’t stay up until midnight if you’ve got to get up at 6am. Instead watch less or no TV and then write instead. If you want to get up at 5am like I do, then make sure you go to bed early enough that you can still catch your 7 or 8 hours of sleep.
So, once you’ve decided on the timeslot for your writing time, you’ll need to turn it into a daily routine. I’ll say it again before we move on, decide a daily slot for your writing because if you think you’ll be able to find a bit of time here and there, you’re kidding yourself.
You need to establish a routine because we humans are creatures of habit.
A routine can be anything. Perhaps you brush your teeth, grab a cup of tea and then you start writing. Perhaps you take some comfortable clothes on, or light a candle. As I said, it can be anything. The point of a routine is that you do it at the same time every day and the ritual around it is the same every day.
You’re making writing a part of your daily life and that’s the way it should be.
For some, it can be extremely helpful to set some daily goals.
Writing a novel is a huge task and it can be quite daunting when you’re standing in front of a mountain of 100,000 words you’ve gotta climb, so break it down into smaller chunks. You don’t have to use word count as you daily goal although you can. A daily goal can also be that you want to finish one scene every day, or that you want to be actively writing for one hour a day.
Every day when you achieve your goal you can set a mark in the calendar. Keep going and make sure not to break that chain of marks. Know that if you miss one day, it’ll be easier to allow yourself to skip the next and the next… So, don’t do that!
A useful trick I wanted to mention is to think about what you’re going to write tomorrow as you end today’s session. Autumn and I love outlining so that makes things easy, but even if you don’t outline just let it percolate in your mind overnight. At least make sure you know what needs to happen in the next writing session so you can get right into it.
Sometimes your loved ones will distract you too, but now that you have a fixed writing time – and if your writing time isn’t when everyone else is at sleep – it’ll be easier for them to understand when not to disturb you. You can tell them, every day between five and six PM I close this door and I write. Unless the house is on fire, please don’t disturb me for that one hour.
Once you’ve made writing a priority in your life and are writing every day, it wouldn’t be uncommon that you still feel as if it’s not enough.
You want to write more and although the previously mentioned 300 words a day will produce a novel in years time, what if you want to write a novel in six months?
Well, this is more of a productivity question. If you only have an hour a day to write, how can you produce as many words as possible in that hour. Dictation helps a lot. It goes much faster than writing. If you want me to share my process on dictation let me know in the comment section below.
An even better productivity tip is to get some writing done while you’re doing something else anyway. That’s like stealing some more writing time out of a busy life. If we take dictation as an example again, perhaps you can dictate while you’re out walking the dog anyway. That’s 15 minutes of additional writing right there.
Or, you can use a notebook, notetaking apps, write an email to yourself containing the next chapter while you’re on your daily commute, waiting in line at the grocery store and so forth.
Stay focused and steal writing time where you can, do it everyday, and set some goals. But absolutely do not wait for writing time to suddenly appear in your life. It won’t. You have to make it happen.