If you’ve ever said that to yourself, you’re not alone. The vast majority of writers are writing while also doing #allofthethings: working, parenting, volunteering, going to school, spending time with family and friends.
We are all always busy and often getting busier with every year that passes. But writing -- and writing well -- simply takes time. What’s a busy writer to do?
Here’s the straight-up truth: the world will not find you time to write.
In fact, today’s world is designed to work against your ability to create and sustain a writing life you love. No one is going to find the time for you...you have to find, and protect, that time.
Here are 3 important actions to take if you really want to find more time to write right now:
Tell the people who love you that you need time to write. Explain to them how important your writing life is to you, and that you’re a better person (a more patient spouse, a more engaged parent) when you also have time to write. Ask them to work with you to help find and protect the time you need.
If you have a partner, offer to swap time where you also protect the time they need to do something important to them. And then take the time, close the door and put up a sign “WRITER AT WORK: DO NOT DISTURB.” If you are interrupted after that, just calmly ask if it can wait until you’re finished this writing session.
You need to train your people to help you find and protect your writing time. When you finish a writing session, come out prepared to spend engaged time with your loved ones once again -- get them accustomed to seeing the happy and satisfied version of you after you have that time to write.
You wouldn’t be the first writer to set aside time to write and then not write. But every time you avoid a planned writing session, you give yourself permission to do it again...and again. Don’t set yourself up for disappointment and depression (no joke!) by avoiding your writing time.
If you find yourself anxious or distracted, and tempted to not write during a planned writing session, I want you to do one of two things:
a) Sit at your desk and work on your current writing project for just 10 minutes. Set a timer and tell yourself you can leave after just 10 minutes. You’ll likely find that by the 10 minute mark, you’ve reached a state of flow and are happy to continue. Most often, the issue is just getting started.
b) Sit at your desk and do some form of creative play. Adult coloring, doodling, sketching -- anything that is NOT on a computer and involves using your hands. Do this for 10 minutes and then try writing, or if you’re still too anxious and distracted to write at that point, come back tomorrow and do it again. Keep doing this until you feel capable leaning into the writing during your writing time.
The point is to not give yourself the choice to run away. You’re scheduled to write, so you’ll write. Day by day, session by session, you train yourself to stay put and write. Do this consistently and it will get easier until you don’t have to force yourself to get to your desk, it’s just something you naturally want to do. Stop running and train yourself to stay put and write.
We tend to think we need to find 2 or 3 hours of total concentration to be able to really get any writing done. But this defies how our brains and bodies naturally prefer to work. We’re not machines, our energy comes in cycles and we need a break from time to time.
Even if you can get 2 hours free to write, try breaking it up into shorter sessions and give your body and mind a break throughout. I recommend trying the Pomodoro technique: 25 minutes of writing, followed by 5 minutes to stretch or use the washroom and refill your tea...then back at it for another 25 minutes of writing time. Something about the focus+break rhythm is helpful in generating a state of creative flow. Try it for your next writing session and see how it feels.
But you also don’t need 2 to 3 hours of writing time for every single writing session. Try scheduling just 15-20 minutes, taking advantage of times in the day when you’d find yourself waiting for something else...at a doctor’s office, or in the car picking up children. Or just schedule shorter sessions into your writing routine for the week. These are ideal for working with writing prompts, journaling, or even just moving your current work-in-progress ahead by just one page. That’s one more page than you had yesterday!
I hope you find more time to write this week, and in the weeks to come.