People are busy beings. We work, study, socialise, care for family and friends, exercise, shop, clean, do the washing and the dishes and if we are lucky find some hours to sleep. With all these factors taking up our time and attention, it can be hard to see a way to make time for anything else.
But you want to write. There is a story, an opinion piece, a memoir, a blog or advice column, novel, poem or text book that is calling out to you, begging to be teased out on a page. Or maybe writing is a personal exeprience for you, a way of coping with the pressures and emotions of life.
So how to do carve out the time to put pen to page, or fingers to keyboard?
Here are 5 tips that have helped me create not only time but mental space to enjoy my passion for the written word.
1) Block out a sensible time during the week
Planning is the key to making more of the hours available to you in a day, week, month. I like to plan week by week, but you may prefer to look a but further forward and block out the month. Start by blocking out your work hours and scheduling the non-negotiable tasks that must be completed, such as food shopping, cooking, cleaning, any classes you are taking, if you are parent things your children have on. Now you can see the spaces (they may only be small, but that's ok). These spaces are where you get to do negoible tasks like exercise, TV watching, socialising with friends and, your writing.
This is where priorising comes into play. You could say that all your free time will be spent taping away at your keyboard, but is that realistic? We all need time with friends and family, and our brains need time off too. But how much time you leave for free tasks and how much you commit to for your writing is a choice you get to make. Take is seriously, the hours you schedule for your writing are locked in, just like other non-negotiable tasks like work.
When I was writing my debut novel Widow's Lace by weekly free choice schedule looked roughly like this:
- Monday: 7pm -10pm writing
- Tuesday: Gym
- Wednesday: 7pm -10pm writing
- Thursday: Gym
- Friday: Date Night
- Saturday : Long walk, time with friends
- Sunday: 9am - 5pm writing
Your schedule will look very different, because it is for you!
It can be challenging to plan out your weeks at first, but stick with it. Before you know it will be a super quick task to start your week and you will find much more time for what you want to do!
2) Accept things will get in the way
No matter how well you plan your week, life happens. The unexpected will pop up and divert your time. Don't let this overwhelm you. It can be easy to feel like you never get time for your work, like its hopeless to even try. But this isn't true. Remember, you can't control the universe, but you can control your response. Accept
Most of the time there will be nothing you could have done to avoid it, like a sick child, or filling in at work for a friend. Other times it may be a result of poor planning. If this is the case, reflect on what you could adjust in your planning for the next week.
3) Have a note book or use your mobile to make notes when they come to you.
Your brain can be its own boss, and it won't nessecarily stick to your planned creative hours. For the times outside your writing window when you are suddenly struck with a new idea or the perfect phrase, have a way to make a note.
Using a note app on your mobile is a great option, or buying yourself a small notebook.
Great for those brilliant flashes of insight that tend to hit just as you are about to drift off to sleep!
4) Accept how much you will be able to write in your window
Sometimes your window for writing may only be small. And it can feel like it's just not enough time to get anything real done. This is not the case.
Remember 20 minutes crafting one paragraph is still progress. It's not about quality but quantity. Focus on writing well, not on writing lots.
Additionally, be realistic about how much you can achieve in the time you have allotted. Don't sit down with 1 hour of time and expect to complete chapters of work. Allow your writing to flow naturally, rather than trying to force yourself to a set word count or page within your give time.
5) Create a writing space – head space shift
And finally, to get the most out of your window of time, create a space that is just for your work. By having a place where you write you create an association for your brain so when you sit down it knows: this is where I write, rather than where I plan, work, do the finances etc...
Its a simple trick to shiftyour head space quickly and get straight into your writing asap. Making the most out of the time you have scheduled.
And that's it. I have found the above to be an enormous help as I worked to find time for what I love to do: write. I hope something here will help you too.