“I just don’t have the time.”
This is usually one of the biggest excuses people use when they dream of writing but don’t ACTUALLY write. I get it – finding the time is not easy. I’ve struggled off and on with being consistent about my writing. Between work, grad school, marriage, kids and a social life, (and whatever else you have going on) it’s no cakewalk. It can be incredibly discouraging when you have the itch to write but no opportunity.
While I don’t have the magic secret to becoming a perfectly consistent writer, I do have some tips to try that may help you to practice your craft on a more regular basis. These are a list of things to think over and try if you want to establish a writing habit.
CATEGORIZE YOUR TIME
Yes, it’s true that we’re busy, but we probably have more free time than we think. Try taking an inventory of your normal schedule. List out the different types of activities you engage in every day and make realistic estimates about how much time you spend on each one.
Now sort through the things you do in your day and place them into one of three categories: Necessary, Valuable, or “Other”.
Necessary activities include responsibilities that just have to get done. These can include tasks such as work, bill paying, or making dinner. They are the things in our adult life that we simply cannot avoid, even though we’d love to. Alas, we are adults, and we must therefore show it once in a while. Sigh.
Valuable activities are ones that bring you joy and grow you as an individual. This could include things like working out, spending time with your family, meditating, or reading. These activities are uplifting, rejuvenating, and stimulating. They are what you would choose if you were allowed to create “the perfect day” for yourself.
Hint: Writing should be in one of the two categories above.
“Other” activities are those things that don’t fit into either of the two categories above. These are the little time-fillers that slip into our day and make things feel busier than they really are. They can include social media browsing, checking your email five times of a day instead of just one or two, that third episode of Game of Thrones, etc.
SAY “GOODBYE” TO LESS IMPORTANT THINGS
Now that we have our activities sorted, take another look at your “Other” list. These are the things are taking up your time. They are what you do when you could be writing. Get rid of them. I promise, even being aware of what fillers you have in your day can help you manage your time better.
If writing is something that you truly want to do, you have give something else up. Whenever we are doing something of value, we are choosing to do so at the expense of less important things.
PLAN YOUR DAY IN ADVANCE
Now that you know what activities are valuable and important, you can schedule your day more effectively.
Start by scheduling in your “Big Rocks” first – the most important and pressing activities and tasks in your day, and then schedule everything else around them. Make writing one of those big rocks. If you keep your writing time last on the list, you’re never going to get to it. There is always more list than there is time.
SEPARATE WRITING TIME FROM OTHER WRITING DUTIES
While most of us would love to just sit in a remote place with our quill pens and unlimited paper, writing is more than just writing. If you’re a blogger, there’s a lot of planning, scheduling, and social media upkeep to do. If you’re writing a book, there is always platform building and research.
It is incredibly easy for these little tasks related to writing to take over our writing time. This is why I suggest separating writing duties from the actual act of writing. Maybe for you, this means doing research on one day while writing on another. Maybe it’s simply designating one hour to content writing before moving on to blog scheduling. Whatever it is, make sure that you create space for each of these things without neglecting the other.
MAKE YOUR OWN DEADLINES
One of the difficult things about writing (if you don’t have an agent or editor yet) is that it’s ALL ON YOU. You don’t have some professor with a syllabus reminding you to submit your paper by Friday, which means that you could spend a year on a single short story if you want and no one will call you out on it.
While it’s nice to have this flexibility, it can also make it easy to put things off. Remember that you are writing for a reason, and that you will get nowhere unless you actually WRITE. Set (realistic) deadlines for yourself.
Maybe your deadline is to have a short story written by the end of the month, or so many words written by the end of the day. Whatever it is, set them and make it happen. Ask someone to hold you accountable. Reward yourself with chocolate cake once your deadline is met.
The more you meet your own deadlines, the more accomplished you will feel. You will find yourself writing more consistently simply because you’ve had small victories along the way. And don’t hesitate to celebrate the small victories! You are making things happen one word at a time, and that is worth celebrating.
Now go write, friends.