How do writers find time to write?
Given the opportunity, we’d allow writing to consume our world. Deadlines, plots, and ideas would overtake us, and we’d live in fantasyland while blissfully ignoring reality. But apparently, that’s frowned upon, so we live the other way around.
We end up abandoning our written worlds to attend our many other roles. You know, to deal with our ordinary-hectic-people lives. And truly? That’s okay. The people in our lives deserve our time. We deserve their time. And most importantly, we have to live. Through these roles and through our experiences we’re able to pour life into our books . . . blabbity blah blah. WE ARE WRITERS! Do we really want to lose a part of ourselves? Ignore our imaginary friends? No. No, we do not.
So here I am, sharing some tips to help you find a writing routine that works for you. I’m warning you, you won’t like me very much with some of them . . . but it’s up to you to decide what’s a priority in your life.
The first thing is . . . Okay, I’m gonna say it because I have to say it. Don’t bite my head off (the sad thing is I’m telling that to myself, because even I am angry at me, but it’s better to get it over with):
1-No overindulging on TV. Oh, come on! I know you’re tired, stressed, and cranky, so yes, you need some down time. No one is saying not to watch one show to wind down. But every time you decide to binge-watch a whole series instead of writing your book, you’re dismissing its importance. Thanks so much, Netflix, grrr! (But seriously, thank you.) When you have a finished draft in your hands, go ahead and reward yourself with a good TV binge. At that point, you deserve it, you killer storyteller, you!
And since you already hate, me I’ll go ahead and add:
Step away from the Internet and put your phone on airplane mode. I’m sorry, but you have to. Priorities, remember?
2-Do research . . . on yourself. Find out everything you need to know about your writing habits and be honest! What days do you feel most productive and why? How long are your writing sessions? Do you enjoy morning, afternoon, or night writing? How many words do you average per writing session? How often do you take the time to write?
Use this information to switch things around and take advantage of what you learned. Maybe you’ve been choosing the wrong days and times. Maybe you need to increase your word count and writing speed. Or decrease it if it helps produce higher quality work. The more you know about your writing habits, the better you can adjust. It will help with planning ahead—and to:
3-Organize your week. Finding time to write in our chaotic lives is like rationalizing with a toddler as to why vegetables are important. It’s tough, but not impossible. I just tell my kids no veggies, no dessert. Not my best explanation, but an effective one. So you may not have the perfect schedule, but if you can organize and squeeze it in, it can be effective as well.
Use what you learned about your writing habits and go a step further by looking into your other daily habits. If you look closely enough, you’ll notice that some things aren’t as important. Make a list of your to-dos, must-dos, and wanna-dos and arrange them on your planner. Most importantly, pencil in your writing time and don’t put it off. That’s just plain disrespectful! Okay, maybe it’s something less dramatic, but you know . . . tough love.
4-Write ahead in your head. Do some prewriting in your head before you sit down. Maybe while you’re doing dishes, or even while you’re pretending to listen to your significant other. Just kidding; you should listen to them. But seriously, think ahead on your way home or to work on what your writing goal will be for the day. It doesn’t have to be a detailed plan. Just figure out for a few minutes what you think would be nice to accomplish. Maybe finishing two chapters, write an epic death scene, or polishing your descriptions. Whatever it may be, if you sit down with a plan each time, you’re more likely to stick to your writing schedule.
6-Create a playlist. This is one I personally love. And it works! (Unless you need total silence when writing, in which case skip to the next point.) Just like you would create a workout playlist, take the time to create a writing playlist. Each story should have its own compilation of mood-specific songs. As a bonus, no timer necessary! Each playlist should last the same amount of time as your writing session. Go in, get your writing groove on, get out. Boom!
6-Make it a ritual. It’s no different than your morning routine while getting ready for work. Follow your own set of steps for writing. This is not the same as having your week organized or having it on your schedule. It’s about being physically and mentally prepared. We’re creatures of habit, and having a familiar process helps us respond to our environment.
A baby knows that when she cries, she’ll get fed or changed. So you know when you finish your dinner, grab your coffee, meditate, burn incense, collect a basket of snacks, and start your playlist that you’re going to write. Whatever your “thing” is, make it a ritual, and it will be just like breathing. It just happens.
Do you have any other tips for creating an effective ritual? Do share!
S. Katherine Anthony