Raise your hand if any of the below is true for you:
- You have a day job.
- You have children or other dependents.
- You have responsibilities.
- You have to sleep. At least sometimes. Maybe.
- You’re burning to write your story and you just can’t find the time.
I’ve had this conversation multiple times with writer friends, and it’s always the same: I wish I had more time. I’m not writing enough. My word count is too low. I’ll never get this book finished. The hardest part of writing isn’t the writing itself, it’s learning how to make time for it even in the midst of all of your other obligations.
In the past year, I’ve written a short story, a screenplay, and am at 34,000 words in the novel, all while holding down a day job as a lawyer. There have been weeks when I haven’t written a word (work obligations, vacation, simply needing a break), but the rest of the time, I follow a simple rule: Pick a time you have complete control over, show up regularly, even if only have 15 minutes, and make writing a habit.
That’s my key to writing success, and here’s how you do it:
- Pick a time over which you have complete control. “Complete control” means that you can shut off all distractions and no-one and nothing else demands your attention. For me, it’s early mornings, when I don’t have any other responsibilities. The time that works for you may be late at night, on your lunch break, or on your commute, and it may take some trial and error to find it. But rust me, if you really want to do this, chances are you can find 15-20 minutes several times a week that you control.
- Show up regularly, even when you feel like you “don’t have enough time.“ Have you heard the myth, “I have to have at least an hour to get any writing done”? Not true. When you’re writing regularly – at least 3 times a week – the story remains fresh in your mind, so you don’t need a lot of time upfront to get back into it. The more you show up, the better and better you get at diving right in, so after a few weeks, you’ll be able to get some words in, even if you have only 15 minutes.
- Stack writing on top of other habits. There are a lot of excellent articles out there on habit stacking, but the basic idea is: you make writing so much a part of your daily routine that it’s no longer something you have to actively choose – you just do it, and you do this by “stacking” writing on top of other habits. For me, the habit stack routine is: wake up, skim the news, make breakfast, put on the coffee, and sit down to write, in that order. When the coffee goes on, I know it’s writing time.
If it sounds deceptively simple, that’s because it is – it takes practice and patience to get into the habit. And that’s why I have two more critical pieces of advice:
- Be patient with yourself. It takes time to build a writing routine and learn what works for you and what doesn’t. Be kind and patient with yourself. Please trust that you will find a routine that works, and you will write your story. I know, because there was a time when I had no idea how I’d do it, but I did it!
- Congratulate yourself. We rarely pause to recognize our accomplishments, but it’s so important. Celebrate your progress – you deserve it!
Yours truly, one word at a time,
Photo Credit: Dustin Lee on Unsplash.