Of all the questions I get asked about my writing—this one is asked more than any other ten to one.
“How do you find the time to write?”
It would perhaps be annoying to hear it over and over except for that fact that of all the questions I have asked, and continue to ask, of other published writers, it’s the first one I pitch as well. Even though I have been doing this for awhile, I’m still curious for the tricks and tips of other writers. Over the years the continual asking of that question has paid off. So what did I learn, you ask? Well, basically this
1) Turn off the TV—I love TV, just ask my kids and husband they will agree. But at some point I have to ask myself, and I encourage you to ask yourself the same thing, are THEIR stories better than mine? The fact is that Gilligan never got off the island, ER is still blood, guts and convoluted love affairs, and regardless of whether you text in your vote or not—America will get another Idol. All those shows, scripts, layouts etc. are the handiwork of a talented writer somewhere. Why watch their stuff when you can write you own? TV is perhaps the biggest time waster in our nation next to the DMV and blog reading so before you sit down and pick up the remote ask yourself if their stories could possibly be more satisfying then creating one of your own?
2) Find the hidden minutes in your day—see that picture up there, that’s me on the beaches of Costa Rica and what am I doing? Why, I’m writing. I’m on vacation which means no kids, no phone calls, no schedules. My husband, before he took the picture, was dozing in a hammock next to me. And I was writing. I wrote 45 pages on that trip without having to MAKE time anywhere—I just wrote a few lines now and then. In my normal un-beach life I write when I wait for the kids after gymnastics, I write when I show up on time for the dentist but the guy before me didn’t, I’ve even written in the checkout line of the grocery store when I got stuck behind the woman with eight kids that shops once a month. We all have them—the nothing minutes in your day. The trick is to catch them. Some writers use a laptop, some use a good old fashioned spiral notebook, I use an Alphasmart. It’s a portable word processor that I later can download to my computer. It turns off and on with the touch of a button and has no features other than typing words. It’s been priceless to me and I’m shocked every time I do a download to realize how much I wrote in those minutes that would have passed me by otherwise. If you want more information go to www.alphasmart.com they have a variety of products—mine is the 3000 model and I love it.
3) Make time—this might mean waking up early, going to bed late, it might mean making breakfast, lunch (in a sack) and dinner (in the crock-pot) while the kids are getting ready for school. It might mean only scheduling your appointments between 1:00 and 3:00 so that your mornings are free, or if you work it might mean taking your lunch break at the computer a few days a week. It’s never worked well for me to have a set time to write everyday. I, like you, have a crazy busy life. What works for me is to look at my day the night before and see where I can fit one hour in my day. Then I plan accordingly and sit my fanny in the chair. I write for one hour. I get up about a dozen times to answer the phone (I won’t turn off the ringer if anyone in my household isn’t at home), to fetch drinks and snacks and answer the door. I don’t know that I’ve ever sat down for an entire hour just to write—in fact I don’t know that I could do it if I had the chance. In the beginning I only wrote when I had a 4 hour block of time. Now I do most of my writing in ten minute segments here and there. But I do try to schedule one hour for writing. It doesn’t always work. But most of the time it does.
Those are the tips I have gleaned from other writers and made my own. Apparently it’s working just fine for me. My seventh book comes out next month—that’s seven books in 6 years. Not bad. If the idea of finding/making time for your writing is overwhelming and not worth your time, that’s fine too. Don’t bother writing if it’s not worth sacrificing something. But the cold hard fact is that we all only have 24 hours—that’s it. None of us can control our lives enough that we get exactly what we want, but we can capture those moments, put the fanny in the chair and write toward our destiny.