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The Writing Life: Making Time To Write, Part II

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Now that we’ve all been practicing saying “I am a writer. I need time to write.” to ourselves, say it out loud and then plant yourself in a place that works for you and write. Sounds easy enough, right? But doing so can be hard for a variety of reasons. Let’s brainstorm some solutions to the most common barriers to finding time to write.

Often, the best way to get around the endless duties of work and family life is to write early before everyone else is up or late at night, after everyone’s gone to bed. This route takes commitment to your craft and possibly the ability to lose a few hours sleep. It’s not for everyone and I don’t recommend it as a seven days a week solution unless you have a set-in-stone bedtime. For support, try the forums at fwanetwork.ning.com, figment.com, or nanowrimo.org to hook up with other writers doing the same. You can also try Twitter hashtags. Even if you don’t tweet regularly, you can “chat” with the same of group of writers several times a week and doing so does foster a sense of community and accountability. An active hashtag is #5amwritersclub.

Another solution is to take even the smallest amounts of time to write. This really works for upping your daily writing time. While it’s nice to be able to follow a set process, on many days, that’s just not going to happen. Are you waiting in a long line? Be prepared to write by always having a pen and scrap paper, or add a Notes app to your phone or iPad and write on. You’ll be surprised how much character background or conversation between characters you can eke out in just a few minutes. If you’re parked in a car waiting on kids or sitting in bleachers between games or on a bench waiting for a table, instead of scrolling Facebook or Instagram, you can start or finish that scene that’s been making your fingers twitch all day.

Speaking of social media, set a timer. Pinterest or Tumblr is fun, but also a black hole. Set a ten minute timer on each of your social media sites (including your support forums or tags) and visit two a day, shooting for times when they’re active and it’s hard to write anyway, such as during lunch or right after dinner. In May, 2016, the New York Times reported that the average user spends 50 minutes per day on Facebook and Instagram combined. Set your timer and gain 30-40 minutes of writing time. You can also break it up, try five minutes four times a day. If you find it hard to bypass social media or you’re obsessive about checking email, consider purchasing an app that locks you out of social media for a set period of time, such as Cold Turkey, Anti-Social, or the free Self Control for Macs. If you have a little discretionary income, try a retro word processor like the Alphasmart Neo, which gives you a full keyboard, a tiny screen that shows 3-5 lines of text, and nothing else.

Are you a multi-tasker? As long as you don’t suffer from motion sickness, there are several brands of Treadmill Desks available so that you can write and walk or cycle at the same time. You can also combine your day in new ways. Meeting a friend for coffee? Suggest meeting to walk instead. Pre-plan and batch your errands within your week to gain larger blocks of writing time and save gas, too. Pre-plan and cook meals one or two days a week and store or freeze the portion sizes you need each day to give yourself an extra daily writing slot of thirty minutes to an hour. That six hour long writing session you planned on Sunday may go out the window, but a daily time period ups your chances of keeping it at least three or four times a week. You can also use a voice recorder to work out your plot or actually compose your story for transcribing later while you walk, drive, fold clothes, or wash dishes.

And one last suggestion, find a like-minded friend or two through a local writer’s group, FWA, or the regional pages at nanowrimo.org and set an appointment on your calendar for a certain day, time, location, and number of hours each week to meet up. Say hello and then put your heads down and write. Take a ten minute break every hour to talk. Whether it’s one hour or four, treat it as a high priority event on your schedule and ask everyone in your life to do the same. I did this several years ago with a complete stranger (meet up in a public place!) and now we are great friends.

Please comment with your suggestions or tell us what works for you! Join me on the first Friday of each month for exploration, discovery, and discussion of the writing life.

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Elle Andrews Patt's speculative and literary short fiction has appeared in markets such as The Rag, Saw Palm, and DarkFuse, among others. She has earned RPLA awards for her published short fiction, a published novella, Manteo, and an unpublished mystery novel. Her short story, "Prelude To A Murder Conviction" won an Honorable Mention from Writers Of The Future. She'd love to hear from you! Website

One Response

  1. Ken Pelham
    | Reply

    Good advice once again, Elle!
    Back in the years B.C. (Before Children), I kept more or less regular schedule for writing. But the kids throw monkey wrenches into schedules and I haven’t gone back to “regular” schedules since, even though they’re both grown. I just grab blocks of time or snatches of minutes when I can. Writing on a laptop makes that possible.

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