Life is a dynamic, terribly interesting force that is swirling around us all the time. It never stops. That’s why we love to write about it.
That’s also why, if you want to be a writer who finishes anything, your life must include some semblance of a writing routine or schedule.
You’ve heard or said the most of the typical reasons why you can’t write.
Someday, when I have the time, I’d love to write a novel.
I need to spend my time on money-making pursuits now.
I only write when I feel inspired (this one particularly frustrates me, in part because I used to say it)
This month is just too hectic. Maybe next month, or the one after that, or the one after… (yeah, you see where I’m going).
There are plenty more excuses.
But it all comes down to a deep belief that we (as procrastinating writers) continue to hold–there are many more things (infinitely many, in some cases) that we allow to take a higher priority than writing. I’m not saying writing should be THE goal above all others.
I personally have a few things that rank higher than my writing, such as my time spent praying and talking to God, and having dinner every night with my husband. Those two priorities are non-negotiable. But writing is third on my list.
I had a creative writing teacher advise me in spring quarter of my senior year of college to work as little as possible after graduating. At first, I was shocked. What my professor had meant was this: work to cover your basic needs and use the rest of your time to write.
You mean there’s not a law out there that says all college grads need to work 40 hours a week?
There are certainly lifestyles and situations that require this amount of work (or possibly even more than 40 hours), but I’m talking about the people who don’t have to. People who could make a few cuts in their spending habits, reduce their hours, and have time to pursue other things.
It’s easy to think we’re supposed to reach for raises and do our best to become a successful, productive, and responsible contributor to society. The sad side effect is that we’re often too tired to even think about writing when we finally come home.
Don’t get me wrong: working hard isn’t bad. We need industrious, disciplined writers. But you must have the discipline to make the time to write regularly.
For a while, I wrote once a week on Friday afternoons. I negotiated with three separate employers to not work Fridays and explained that I was writing a novel and this was time I needed. Based on referrals and recommendations from past employers, my terms were accepted. I worked hard, and I earned my keep. They respected my reasons for wanting that day off.
And you know what I did when Friday came around? I wrote.
When I took the 12 week Artist’s Way course, I discovered three handwritten pages were required every morning. I negotiated a space in my morning before work emails poured over me and I found the half hour I needed to write my pages.
When my editing pile of pieces to revise was looming over my head, I set aside two hours on Monday evenings to chip away at my work that needed improvement.
I found a small group of friends who had mentioned they liked writing and invited them to have breakfast at my house on Saturday mornings and critique each other’s writing over muffins and coffee. Almost all of us have full-time jobs. We’ve been meeting for over a year.
Write on your lunch break. Get up twenty minutes early and write before you go for a run. Write on the bus. Write for ten or fifteen minutes during one of your job’s mandatory employee breaks instead of checking facebook. Write for two hours on Saturday morning and then go out and play for the rest of the day.
I wrote on Fridays for years. Then I added the morning pages from the Artist’s Way. Then I started a writer’s group and met once a month on Saturdays. Then I started editing on Monday nights. When I left my job in August 2010, I realized that I wanted to make a lifestyle out of this, to really try to go “pro” with writing. I couldn’t have done it had I not taken the prior baby steps, making more time for writing with each one.
Fifteen focused minutes a day is nothing to sniff at. Novels have been written by people with full-time non-writing jobs.
Your first step, before you even try to find where you can carve out some writing time, is to ask yourself how much do you really want this? Why do you need to write? Will it kill you or send you into a dark depression if you stopped? What are your goals with writing? How much do you want to improve? Get real with yourself.
I had to decide that writing was more important than having more money in the bank. My husband was willing to make that sacrifice with me. We might not get the large house we’ve dreamed of. Will you need to give something up for your dream of writing? Are you willing to give it?
I realize this post may frustrate some of you. Please feel free to comment with your struggles in finding time to write and how life gets in the way.