Friday 28 February 2020

Writers’ Questions: How do I find (or make) the time to write?

In my Writers’ Questions series I’ve been tackling the craft and business of writing, including whether or not to outline, finding a literary agent and showing vs. telling. Today, we’re taking a look at a more logistical and psychological question, and one lots of people ask me: just how does anyone have the time to write?

Let’s start with the obvious point. People’s lives are very different and there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to giving yourself the time to write. Some people put in long hours at a day job, while others don’t have to work, or are retired. Many writers have responsibilities at home—partners to spend time with, children to raise, parents to care for. 

Broadly speaking, however, there seem to me to be two buckets of ideas if you’re someone who wants to spend more time on your writing: there is the time we find and the time we make. I don’t know what your circumstances are, but maybe some of these tips will spark some inspiration.

Finding Time

Is there time that you’re currently spending idly? Or time you’re dedicating to an activity that’s non-crucial to your life and not as important to you as your writing? Consider reallocating it.

Maybe you’re playing a game on your phone when you’re commuting. You could be writing then in the notes section of your phone. Sometimes it’s important to relax, but, ask yourself, what is going to make you feel better on a Thursday night? Another episode of a TV show or writing a few hundred words?

Personally, I find travel to be a wonderful opportunity to discover time. My self-imposed ‘rule’ on flights is that I only ever sleep or write (and read when laptops must be stowed for take-off and landing). That means no movies and no games (wine is ok though, thanks to multitasking!). Are you on a business trip? Treat your hotel room like a writer’s room once your meetings are done. Maybe take the slow train, not an express, if the extra time in transit will be time well spent.

Sometimes finding time will involve hard choices. I frequently find myself feeling guilty about the path not taken. If I’m working out in the morning, I feel I should be writing. But if I’m snuggled in bed with my laptop, shouldn’t I be at the gym? It’s not easy to go through a process of ruthless prioritisation. But maybe asking yourself to make these binary choices will allow you to assess how important your writing is to you really.

Making Time

My second bucket of ideas is more about making time i.e. making changes to your lifestyle to carve out time for your creative process.

This could be a one off or an occasional thing, like treating yourself to a writing retreat, at home or away. Maybe you can afford to pay for an organised retreat with other writers. Or perhaps your retreat is simply a weekend without plans, or kids, or spouse.

But making time could also involve something more drastic and ongoing. A standing ‘date’ with yourself on certain days or evenings, which your friends and family know is sacred. A change to your working hours at your other job. Or a minimum number of hours a day you will dedicate to writing. Maybe you need to renegotiate time management with your partner, or others in your circle, to live the life you want to.

I actually schedule meetings with my characters on my digital calendar (a little strange I know!) to trick my brain into viewing my commitment to writing as immovable as my other social engagements. The even stranger thing? It works.

Only you can look at your own life and assess: what time can I find and what time can I make? And so I would caution against comparison with other writers. It doesn’t matter if you’re the fastest or the steadiest as long as you get what you want to achieve done. Find and make the time and I promise that every minute you spend writing and every word you type will add up, bringing you closer to your goals.

Do you have any other questions for me to address as part of my Writers’ Questions series? Let me know—here, on Facebook, on Instagram, or by tweeting @SVictorianist. And if you want to learn more about my forthcoming novel, Bronte’s Mistress, check out this link or sign up for my newsletter below.

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