Today’s post was written by Brandon Dahlberg.
Your time is precious and demands on it are ever-present. Between responsibilities in the workplace, commitments to friends, and taking care of family, there’s little time left over for anything else. Carving out hours every day to write seems like an impossible task, but with planning and organization, you can find time to work on your book.
Finding the exact formula requires a bit of trial and error. What works well for one writer may not work at all for another. Experimentation is required to find a balance that works best for you. But, these initial steps should get you started.
1. Form a routine, by whatever means necessary
The first thing you should do is make a list of everything you do during an average day and how long it takes, your entire schedule. It’s important to get in the habit of writing daily. This doesn’t necessarily mean finding existing free time. You’ll probably need to redistribute time from other tasks. This can be tricky, and may require waking up half an hour earlier, or going to bed a little later. Is there anything on that list you could cut back on, or get rid of entirely? Maybe you watch less Netflix, or cut down on the time you spend on your phone. Don’t stop all recreation or you’ll risk burning out. But, see if some of that time could be used for writing. Small changes can add up quickly, so think creatively.
It’s also important for your family to know when you plan to do your daily writing. You do a lot for your family, and when they realize how important your project is to you, they’ll want to help however they can. This almost always means giving you uninterrupted time in your own space. Make sure your spouse and children know when your writing time begins and that you’ll need a specific space to yourself. And remember, just because you’re writing alone doesn’t mean you are alone—this will be a team effort. By making family a part of the process, they can do their best to give you the time you need.
2. Carry a notebook
Having a half hour of writing time blocked out every morning doesn’t mean you can’t be productive outside of that time slot. A great idea could present itself anytime during your day, regardless of work or kids. Don’t make the mistake of shrugging it off, thinking you’ll remember it, only to sit down later to write with no idea what you’d thought of. The solution is straight forward: carry notebook, or use a note taking app on your phone. This allows you to quickly jot down ideas whenever and wherever inspiration strikes. These don’t need to be extensive or thorough notes, just enough to jump start your creative process next time you sit down to write. This is a great habit to get into and you’ll quickly see ample material develop.
3. Learn how to “write” when your time is otherwise occupied
This one is less tangible than the previous suggestions and will mostly take place in your head. It can get tricky and requires good multitasking skills. Not everyone will have a job or a family situation that readily lends itself to putting this step into practice. But, as you get more into a project, you’ll find yourself thinking about it all the time. You play with sentences in your head, consider the merits of different plot developments, even think in your characters’ voices. Eventually, your project becomes a sort of background noise in your head—you never really stop working on it. When you have a limited amount of time each day to put words on the page, it’s important not to waste that time brainstorming. Do all of your thinking whenever you can, that way your limited writing time is as productive as possible.