Question from the email:
“Things here with me have been busy, some with writing related and workshop related things but mostly being a Mr Mom to my kids (my 7 year old stepson, aka The Young Squire and my 18 month old son, aka L H) and I WANT to write but I haven’t in a while… Can you help at all?”
This is something a lot of writers struggle with, and I often find myself juggling my own writing, work, family, and other commitments. To best answer that question, I came up with these seven tips that have worked wonders for me.
1. Prioritize to Create Time. If you care about writing, then it should be one of your top priorities. I know that sounds a little basic, but take a piece of paper and write down where you spend your time. Then look at what your priorities are, and you may be able to remove a few things a replace it with other things that are higher priorities, such as writing. This might include sacrifices, like cutting your favorite game or TV show to make time. This also involves saying ‘no’ when you are asked to do things Seriously, limit the extra things you do in your life. Best thing to do is set a priority list, and follow that as best you can.
2. Write every day. This may seem hard, but I know exactly how you are feeling. Seriously, if I’m not writing every day, or at least regularly, then my writing sucks. It just does. I have to get over this bridge back into ‘good writing land’ or something, and it takes a lot of words. So it’s just easier if I find a little bit of time every day to write.
3. Read. The more you read, the more you’ll find the words coming. I am so crazy-busy that I listen to audiobooks as I’m cleaning, or read a chapter before I go to bed. I also have set aside 2 hours a week where I just read. If you need to, replace a TV show you watch with reading. You can also reference my post on reading here: Why Writers Need to be Readers. You’ll find that the more you read, the easier falling into writing will be and the more you write, the faster you’ll go.
4. Go on a writing sprint. Take fifteen minutes and just write. Write about anything and everything if you can’t actually work on your story. Your whole focus is just getting words on the page. Once the timer is up, check your word count. How many words did you get in? You can even find other authors who may do a word sprint with you so that you can compare and share. I’ve done this in hourly sprints, and that really helped me build up how many words I can write in an hour. After a year, I had doubled my word count, and now other writers are surprised with how many words I get out in an hour. With that in mind, just remember you have to go back and revise because when you are writing fast, you are definitely not pouring gold onto those pages.
5. Communicate. Just like Spark Joy and the KonMarie thing is all about communicating your desire to simplify and getting the whole family on board, writing is the same. If the other significant people in your life don’t understand that writing is important to you, then they won’t have the chance to also make it important. Talk about it, even to your kids. J.K. Rowling’s daughter was famously answered the question: What do mommy’s do? by saying: Mommy’s write.
Yeah, that might be urban legend and I’m very much paraphrasing there, but the moral of the story is that one author communicated to her young daughter what she was doing. Sometimes when others just see you on any electronic device, they think you may be able to be interrupted, or even that you’r just playing a game.
I’m very clear with my husband on when I can’t be interrupted (this is a really tough scene so I need emergency-level interruptions only for the next two hours) to when I can (I’m just doing a quick revision of this scene, so no vital lines of prose will be lost if you interrupt me in the middle of of a sentence here).
6. Dedicate a time and space just to writing. Pick a specific time each day where you dedicate it to writing. This helps if you also have a place. This can be a chair in your front room, a table at Starbucks, or the couch at your local library. Once you have time and location, turn off every distraction. Silence (or turn off) your phone, stay off the internet (airplane mode is your friend) and only allow yourself to focus on writing. For some, this may start out to be initially harder. You’ll face writer’s block or just not be able to focus. But once you make it a pattern, you’ll find yourself slipping into writing mode faster and faster, so don’t stop.
7. Have Grit. Angela Duckworth has an excellent book on Grit that I’m completely in love with. I feel that grit is essential for writers. I’ve seen authors whose careers come and go, who face obstacle after obstacle, or who just can’t get the story quite the way they want it. What gets them through it? Grit. Passion + determination + perseverance. In short, if you can’t find time to write the first week but try items 1-6, don’t give up. Keep pushing for your goals and soon they will become reality.