Today I have a wonderful Guest Post from Alexandra Wendt. As with most things, they have been on my to-do list for a while and now that I have sorted out my posting schedule you'll be seeing a lot more people popping up with tips for you.
Finding Time To Write
Finding time to write is a hot topic because, let’s be honest, writers at all stages struggle with this. If only we could have more time in the day. If only we didn’t have to sleep.
I’m in my final year of undergraduate, so I very well relate to balancing work and writing and maybe finding some time for a social life in between. I’ve been writing seriously since junior high school, so the school and writing life is the only one I’ve known. I’m sure I’ll uncover new challenges in balancing writing and graduate school and a full-time job down the road, but for now I’ll outline how I manage to find time to write during my busiest days.
Get yourself a planner. It doesn’t have to be a fancy planner, it just has to outline your days and have plenty of space. I use my planner to write down my homework for each day as well as what I want to accomplish in my writing. Even if it’s just write 500 words or edit chapter x, it’s something to get done for that day. This summer, in particular, I used my planner to set goals for finishing the first draft of my current WIP and getting the pre-writing done for another story.
By writing down your goals in this way, you’re making yourself a promise. You’re forcing it into your daily life. You are telling yourself “my writing is my job, not just a hobby.” That doesn’t mean it doesn’t have to be fun anymore. It means you are serious about what you’re doing and you are actively taking steps to make it a part of your daily life.
Prioritize. Look at your to-do list and think, “What absolutely needs to get done first?” For fellow students, I recommend finishing all of your homework for the day before beginning writing. (I suppose this can apply to those in the workforce too.) You don’t want that paper you haven’t started hanging over your head when you’re trying to get the creative juices to flow. You’ll feel much freer and much less guilty working on your writing if the tasks that are imminently due are out of the way.
If you’re a morning person, you could also try waking up early and getting your writing quota for the day done, or mostly done, before going to school or work. I was forced to do this fall semester of last year because I had all afternoon classes. If I waited until all my homework was done, I wouldn’t begin writing until about eight or nine at night—which might work well for some people, but I’m a morning person so that definitely didn’t work well for me. I loved my routine of sitting at my desk with my coffee, going over critique partner notes, right after waking up. Don’t knock it till you try it!
No matter what your perfect routine is, prioritizing what needs to get done is the first step in good time management. So use that planner, and start rating your tasks.
Set some goals. If you don’t set any goals or personal deadlines for your writing, you’ll be far less successful at making progress in it. Personal deadlines are crucial. Just because you aren’t agented or under a contract doesn’t mean you shouldn’t treat yourself like a professional. (And it’s best to get used to deadlines now, when you’re not under as much pressure.) Figure out how many words you’re feasibly able to write on your worst day, set that as a goal, and make a deadline for finishing that first draft. You could also make smaller deadlines in between, such as “hit 30,000 words.” Don’t forget to reward yourself too!
Don’t be too hard on yourself. No matter what, your personal care comes first. Take care of yourself, both mentally and physically. If your only time to write for a day is midnight and you’re exhausted, don’t force it. And don’t beat yourself up if you only manage to write a sentence on a particular day. Writing anything, even a word, is better than nothing. I’ve noticed from experience that getting those initial words might feel like pulling teeth, but once you’ve written something down more words will often come.
If you’d like more help finding a daily writing routine, and holding yourself accountable, I recommend signing up for the Write Chain Challenge!