There are about five million three hundred and sixty-six blog posts about this very topic. Yet every single writer will struggle with this; thus, the subject is worth yet another examination.
Setting words to a page is just one aspect of the time-suck that is writing. There are minutes upon hours spent in one’s head, too: brainstorming, plotting, drifting… There is an entire mental game being played before even one word is put down: a scrimmage, if you will. Psychological preparation is an underestimated part of the process by many writers. You have to find your headspace; this might include feeling comfortable in the right location, or picking the right muse-music; it could be ensuring there will be no audible disruptions at all. You might need to put your dog away so he’s not constantly shoving his toy against your leg as you try to write. Perhaps you even need to shelve particular worries you hold. Whatever your needs, the goal should be to find a place where you can 100% commit to the mental process of writing, and all of the thinking that goes along with it. Life will always get in the way, it’s just the natural order of things. But carving out those moments is what will get you through and keep the creative juices flowing.
Regular meditation sessions may help you find that space more and more easily as time goes on, if you’re into that sort of thing. If not, that’s cool–there are other ways to prepare. So many articles about this subject will recommend that you get up an hour earlier, or stay up an hour later, and sure–that’s an obvious solution. But you know what? I hate getting up early; it’s anathema to me. I’m sure I’m not the only one. It’s the same thing that people will tell you about exercising: if it’s important to you, you’ll find the extra time and get up at the ass-crack of dawn if you have to. Bullshit. I don’t need to necessarily change my whole sleep schedule just to find the time to write; not wanting to do so doesn’t mean that writing isn’t important to me though. I’ve tried it, and you know what I discovered? I’m brain-dead at those hours. If I stay up late, my mind gets fuzzy and thoughts wander; I constantly yawn, and focus is really hard to come by. If I get up early to write, I feel pressured to get as many words in as I can before I start the “real” part of my day, and rushing is never good. All this does is ultimately waste time.
I propose instead just reevaluating your priorities and identifying those parts of the day that are hindering effective time-management. I will never EVER suggest that a writer should stop reading, but maybe you can stop a few chapters early today? Boom, thirty minutes. Maybe on THIS night, you’ll choose to make a quick stir-fry instead of a fully- involved beef wellington (speaking from my die-hard foodie heart). Scrolling through Facebook every night? Just don’t. Remove the app from your home screen and try to check in only once every few days instead of four hundred times a day (yeah, I know…easier said than done). The point is, all of us waste time constantly. And to an extent, this is also a healthy part of living life; you do need to relax after all. It’s just as unhealthy to be constantly on the move and working our brains at warp speed as it is to be a sloth. But as writers, it’s especially important to be self-aware and to acknowledge that perhaps in this particular moment, my time is better spent fueling my creativity. Eventually, these small moments you’ve salvaged will become hours, and then you’ll find the entire endeavor of finding time to be habitual. And who knows? Maybe the impossible will happen and your sleep schedule will adjust naturally, allowing you to get that extra time at the beginning or end of the day.
Life is ever a fickle mistress, and there will be times when your best efforts are thwarted. Most of us have full-time jobs that are not writing-related. Hell, some of us even have second jobs on top of that. Maybe your family isn’t always cool with you spending your time doing something so seemingly unproductive. It’s ok, just move on when you can. Try dictating your stories out loud while driving in the car (full disclosure: I tried this and found it to be incredibly difficult; nevertheless, this might work for some of you). Schedule one day a week where you just don’t do house chores–the Earth won’t burn to ashes if the laundry sits in the dryer for a day.
I, for one, constantly try and fail to find multiple consecutive hours where I can sit and write. I’m posting this today as much to inspire myself to do better with eliminating the small time-sucking moments of my day as I am to possibly inspire even just one other person to do the same. Let’s get our heads in the game, folks!