Being able to sit down and write for a long period of time is many a writer’s dream—but it can be hard to do.
Life tends to get in the way, and as a result, we may end up putting our writing off. But staying consistent with our writing is important, and easier than you might think!
There are short periods of time in our lives that we can take full advantage of, if we know how to find them. Not every writing session needs to be long in order for us to produce good writing, or for us to see progress.
[03:34] I think it’s really important for us to have those times in our writing life, but sometimes life is really full of life, right? Sometimes life just gets in the way of our creative aspirations.
[04:29] The answer is not to give up. The answer is not to start avoiding your writing sessions because you don't have the perfect writing life.
[05:06] I take up my calendar and I'm planning my week. I'm looking at all my appointments, all of my meetings, the errands I've got to do to maintain my life and not be a complete and total slob who never does a dish.
[07:54] It can be hard, and we can kind of put off continuing to work on our books, our stories, our poems. And what happens is you kind of create the situation where it becomes really hard to get back into it when you've left it for a while, but you don't need to leave it for a while.
[10:02] It's really easy when life gets busy to say, “I don't have time to write.” We know it's a lie.
[10:55] Now our brain is telling us it's not a priority. Our brain is telling us that we're not a real writer anyway.
[12:00] Because when we have a call to write, when we know we are creative beings, it's not optional. Your creativity, your creative life, is not optional.
[15:26] Hey, I want you to have the long-time blissful sessions too, but we can all fit more writing into our lives using these short time sessions.
Well, hey there, writer. Welcome to The Resilient Writers Radio Show. I'm your host, Rhonda Douglas, and this is the podcast for writers who want to create and sustain a writing life they love.
Because—let's face it—the writing life has its ups and downs, and we wanna not just write, but also to be able to enjoy the process so that we'll spend more time with our butt-in-chair getting those words on the page.
This podcast is for writers who love books, and everything that goes into the making of them. For writers who wanna learn and grow in their craft, and improve their writing skills. Writers who want to finish their books, and get them out into the world so their ideal readers can enjoy them, writers who wanna spend more time in that flow state, writers who want to connect with other writers to celebrate and be in community in this crazy roller coaster ride we call “the writing life.”
We are resilient writers. We're writing for the rest of our lives, and we're having a good time doing it. So welcome, writer, I'm so glad you're here. Let's jump right into today's show.
Well, hey there, writer. Welcome back to another episode of The Resilient Writers Radio Show. Today is a solo episode, it's just me and you. We're hanging out and talking about all things writing, and today I want to talk about the ideas we have about the time we need to spend on our writing. So, if you find yourself thinking, “I just wish I had more time to write,” you are not alone, my friend. That is a thing that all of us feel from time to time. I know it certainly occurs to me, especially right now.
As I'm recording this, it is the end of August, so it's back to school time. Things are hectic if you work full-time, if you have kids, volunteer commitments kick up again, work gets busy right as we head into the fall. And so you can find yourself thinking, “I'm not going to be able to do this. I'm not going to be able to find the time I need to finish my novel, finish my memoir, write those last 10 poems for my poetry book,” whatever it is, or just to be able to spend the time that you normally love to spend on your writing.
What happens is when we say, “oh, I really need to spend more time on my writing,” what we're thinking when we say that is, “gosh, it would be really lovely if I could look ahead in my schedule and see that I've got a whole day blocked out, maybe even a whole weekend that I can just devote to my writing.” And don't get me wrong, I love that. I love it. I think of those times as long writing sessions.
Those are the times when I've got 45 minutes or more and maybe a couple of stacked 45 minute sessions, one right after the other, with a little break in between, a nice longer break after a few of them, and I can just devote my whole day, my whole weekend, to writing.
Honestly, as I say that the feeling I get in my body is just one of peace and joy and happiness. I love being able to have those blissful, open times in my writing life, and I want you to have those as well. I think it’s really important for us to have those times in our writing life, but sometimes life is really full of life, right? Sometimes life just gets in the way of our creative aspirations. Most of us are not writing full-time. No one is paying us to write. Most of us don't have a wealthy patron who said, “I really love those quirky little short stories you write. Here's 50 grand, why don't you spend the next year just writing?” Wouldn't that be awesome? It'd be great.
But most of us, we don't have that. So we're piecing together a living—most writers I know are, right? They're teaching. They're doing workshops and so on in order to make a living, pay the mortgage, pay the rent, buy groceries, get the kids the new back to school outfits and the pencils in the backpack.
So what do we do? The answer is not to be frustrated. The answer is not to give up. The answer is not to start avoiding your writing sessions because you don't have the perfect writing life. The answer is to own your own power in your own agency as a human being in the world, and to figure out how to make something happen even in the busiest times.
That's where I love what I think of as short-time writing sessions. If you've got 10 minutes, you can get some writing done. And you know what? We've all got 10 minutes here and there. Every week I look at my schedule for the week. I take up my calendar and I'm planning my week. I'm looking at all my appointments, all of my meetings, the errands I've got to do to maintain my life and not be a complete and total slob who never does a dish. I would love to, but it's life, right? We’ve got to keep life maintained.
So, I look at my schedule for the week and I look for where I can fit in longer sessions. For me, I write often with the Writer's Flow Studio. I host a session on Wednesday nights, so I know that's going to be one of my sessions. But if life's really busy, the time I can fit in to write sometimes is only 10, 15, 20 minutes. And where can I fit those in? And it turns out, you can fit in 10 and 15 minute sessions all over the place.
Think about your life. You can fit in a 10 minute session in your car before you go in and get the groceries. If somebody says, “oh, it took you longer to get the groceries this week,” it’s, “oh, the grocery store was really busy.” But you had 10 precious minutes with your writing in the car before you went in to get the groceries. Don't do it after, the ice cream will melt. But before you go in to get the groceries, 10 minutes, 15 minutes in your car, with a timer on your phone, and just focus.
What you can do in those 10 minutes will just astonish you. For example, you can do a character sketch for a new character that you think you're going to integrate into your story. You can work on setting. You can flesh out a scene, you can edit a scene, you can work on your line breaks in your poetry. There's all kinds of things that you can do.
Now, you need a mobile writing kit. I talk about having a mobile writing kit anyway, that's a tote bag or something where you have a notebook and pencils, and maybe some printed out writing prompts and printed out copies of your writing project. Then off you go, and you can take that kit with you when you go to the dentist. You’ve got to take your kids to the dentist or you've got to go to the dentist. They are going to keep you waiting, right? You're going to be waiting 10, 15 minutes.
Same with the doctor's office, same with the hairdresser. Anywhere you go, you're probably going to end up waiting. Instead of spending that time on Instagram, scrolling on your phone, I see you, this is what we do. We pull out the phone, we scroll, 10, 15 minutes go by. You can spend that time as a short time writing session, and you want to do that because it achieves a couple of things.
One, is it keeps you connected to your current writing project. It can be hard when we don't have the kind of blissful, long-time writing sessions of like 45 minutes or 90 minutes or 180 minutes in a weekend. It can be hard, and we can kind of put off continuing to work on our books, our stories, our poems.
What happens is, you kind of create the situation where it becomes really hard to get back into it when you've left it for a while, but you don't need to leave it for a while. You can just grab 10, 15 minutes, and it's connecting you to the characters. It's connecting you to your drive and your passion for the story, your passion for the poetry project, whatever you're working on, it keeps you in it, right?
And what's important there is not just for the 10, 15 minutes that you spend working on it that keeps you connected—definitely, that time keeps you connected and moves you forward another little bit in your project. Love it for that. But also, there's something that happens where we're consistently and constantly engaged with our writing. When we're not writing, our subconscious is still working on it.
Alice Munro said that she often gets her best work done just staring out the window. It's when you are working away on a scene and then you put it aside, and then while you're doing the dishes, or while you're in the shower, or while you're doing the laundry, or anytime you're just out for a walk with the dog and your subconscious is still working away, figuring out, “what is the necessary point of tension that I need to add to that scene? How am I going to insert non-dialogue beats in my dialogue to mix it up and make that scene more interesting? How am I going to close out that character arc? What about a romance subplot, how would that work?”
We are constantly working when we're connected to our writing. These short time sessions are really essential, and I want you to have some of them every week, even in your busiest weeks, because it'll help us get that sense of momentum and keep your subconscious working away on your writing project. That's why it's important, but it's also important because it helps you stay connected to your identity as a writer.
It's really easy when life gets busy to say, “I don't have time to write.” We know it's a lie. Every week, your phone is going to send you a little notification saying, “this is how much time you spend on your screen this week.” Mine said four hours a day last week, so I know I've got time to write. I'm just spending it on Facebook, Instagram, email, whatever.
We know this, let's not lie to ourselves. We have the time. But often when we're busy, we don't make the time. These short-time sessions really help with that because what happens when we're not making the time to write is that we become disconnected from our identity as a writer. We skip our writing sessions this week and we say we'll get back to them next week. Next week comes, it's still busy. We skip that week.
Now our brain is telling us it's not a priority. Our brain is telling us that we're not a real writer anyway. And those little insidious, nasty, negative messages, those little negative voices that show up for us really eat away at our writing life. They really generate additional creative anxiety, and they make it that much harder to get back into our writing on a regular and consistent basis.
Short time writing sessions keep you writing in your busiest, busiest times, and that tells your brain that this is important to you and reinforces that sense of your identity as a writer, as someone who just does this because this is who she is.
The other thing it does is keeps you happier. I'm just going to say it. I think that as writers, we are happier when we're writing consistently. I know this is very much the case for me. When I find myself avoiding my writing life, avoiding my writing sessions, I can actually become mildly depressed. Because when we have a call to write, when we know we are creative beings, it's not optional. Your creativity, your creative life, is not optional. It's who you are. It's what you're meant to do. It's part of your life's purpose, and so you need to be doing it.
And when you do it, you will be happier. If you can spend the day—it's crazy busy, but you get a break in the middle of your morning, and so you take 10 minutes of that break and just write, you're going to feel so much better the rest of the day because you filled up your own cup first. It's easier then to be busy and not resent it. I used to be so busy. I was a single mother. I was working full-time in the voluntary sector, which required a lot of travel and big events, and I was also in graduate school, and I had volunteer commitments. I was a crazy person. I get tired just thinking about it right now.
And what happened was, I would put my writing aside for periods of time, and I would resent it so much. I would feel so much more stressed when I was busy because I wasn't giving myself the gift of a few minutes of writing every day, or every second day, just to feel like, “yep, that's who I am. I'm a writer. I'm writing. I'm resilient. I come back to it, and it fills me up.”
So that now I've got to do the laundry, and now I've got to run and get the groceries, and now I've got to file that report from my boss who wanted it yesterday, I don't feel resentful about that because I have given time, energy, and focus even for a small amount of time to my main purpose, which is my creativity and generating new writing.
That's what I want for you. I want you to feel that sense of purposefulness in your writing life, and we get to that through consistent writing. Sometimes we wait to feel that we're that kind of a writer before we write consistently, and that's the wrong way around.
The only way you feel like a quote-unquote real writer is by writing consistently. It doesn't have to be every day, but it does have to be a couple of times every week, even if it's just for 10 to 15 minutes. I want you to have a look at the week ahead for you. We're heading into the weekend, but the following week, just the next seven to 10 days, what's going on and where can you fit in 10 to 15 minutes? Maybe it's 10 to 15 minutes a day, maybe it's 10 to 15 minutes every couple of days.
It's going to help you stay connected to your writing project, it's going to help you make a little bit more momentum, Because these sessions add up. It's 15 minutes today and it's 15 minutes two days from now, and it's 15 minutes again. And the next thing you know, you've written a scene that you otherwise wouldn't have written.
Don't tell yourself that you can't write because you don't have enough time. It's a lie. We can write in short time intervals and continue to kind of lay words like bricks that eventually come together to build the house. Have a look at your week. Where can you fit in some Short Time? Hey, I want you to have the Long Time blissful sessions too, but we can all fit more writing into our lives using these short-time sessions.
So that's something I'd really love to see you try this week. I hope that's been helpful, and I'm looking forward to being back with you soon with another episode of The Resilient Writers Radio Show. I'll talk to you soon. Happy writing.
Thanks so much for hanging out with me today and for listening all the way to the end. I hope you enjoyed today's episode of the Resilient Writers Radio Show. While you're here, I would really appreciate it if you'd consider leaving a rating and review of the show. You can do that in whatever app you're using to listen to the show right now, and it just takes a few minutes. Your ratings and reviews tell the podcast algorithm gods that “yes, this is a great show. Definitely recommend it to other writers.” And that will help us reach new listeners who might need a boost in their writing lives today as well. So please take a moment and leave a review. I'd really appreciate it, and I promise to read every single one. Thank you so much.