Making Time to Write

One of the hardest things for a writer, I think, is making time to write around all the other things that you need to do over the course of a day. Let’s face it, very few people have the luxury of writing full time, particularly when first starting out. There are day jobs to consider (or night jobs), plus all the other things that require time and attention, from family to laundry to grocery shopping to dealing with a busted furnace. Life takes up a lot of time and energy.

But the reality is you need to make time to write if that’s what you want to do. It has to be important enough for you to wake up an hour early or stay up an extra hour at night; you need to have a notebook with you on your train/subway ride; when lunch rolls around, you have to want to write badly enough that you pass up the meal with chatty co-workers at the local greasy spoon and instead take your bag lunch and laptop to a quiet corner to get some pages done. If you don’t want it badly enough to do those things — and more — then you don’t really want to be a writer.

Nanowrimo is done for another year. Whether or not you completed the required word count, chances are that participating gave you a new appreciation for what it takes to put in writing time every single day. If you didn’t participate because you already have a writing practice, are publishing and were mid-project, or simply knew that sort of pedal-to-the-metal writing style wasn’t for you, good for you. However, if you considered playing along but didn’t because you wouldn’t have the time, you’re missing the point.

No one has the time to be a writer. Not really. There are more than enough things to fill your day without taking a few hours to sit at your keyboard and commit your thoughts and imaginings to paper/screen. The reality is, writers write. Day in, day out. Maybe they take a few days off between projects or during a vacation; perhaps they work best by picking one or two days each week and making them “writing days.” It does not matter how you get it done, only that you do.

Today is December 1st. December is, perhaps, the busiest month of the year. Whatever your beliefs, whatever you celebrate, this is a month filled with holiday gatherings, events, shopping, traffic. Stores are crowded, gridlock takes over major cities, and everyone seems to be in a hurry to get somewhere.

I challenge you to write this month. If you call yourself a writer or aspire to, I challenge you to write during the month of December. You get to take two days off. I’m not telling you that you have to write for a certain length of time, or come up with a particular word count per day or for the month, but I am saying you should sit down and write something 29 out of the next 31 days.

Keep track of your output, whether you date your files or put your writing in a special folder or mark your calendar, but track your writing. Do it every day, with 2 off for holidays/illness/emergencies etc. Make the time. Find the time. Demand the time. If it’s important to you, do it. No excuses.

Write whatever you want, but make it for yourself. No fair counting a note you dash off to your child’s teacher to excuse them for a doctor’s appointment. Work on a novel, a short story, a personal essay, a blog post. Work on one project all month or different ones. Write for ten minutes or an hour. But write. I dare you.

This isn’t a formal thing. No sign ups or counting days at the end of the month. But if you’d like to commit somewhere to help yourself stick to the challenge, please post in comments here. I’ll be doing more pep talks over the month, geared toward helping people put in their writing time, so everyone is more than welcome to join in and chat about how they’re doing.

20 thoughts on “Making Time to Write

  1. This point is, well, timely! I’d already decided not to accept necessary invitations this month and to put put my writing commitment front and center.

    For me the crunch is on. In January I start a correspondence in creative writing program with Humber College (Toronto) and I’ve been assigned a mentor, novelist David Adams Richards. My short-term goal is to have revisions on the present version of my novel manuscript completed by then so he’s critiquing the best I can offer and I’m making further revisions from there. My ultimate goal is to have a more refined version completed when the course ends (August) or shortly thereafter.

    Present personal push aside, I do write most days and if need be, I rise early (about 5 or 5:30) to put something to page before tackling other work commitments. My days inevitably go better, I feel more energetic (even if sleep deprived), i”m kinder to others and generally feel fulfilled, if I write each day.

    I’m looking forward to your ‘pep talks’! It doesn’t hurt to be reminded.

    1. Good for you! It’s always helpful when you have a goal of that sort. It doesn’t always need to be a looming word count for Nano. 🙂

  2. I usually write every day, at least a blog post. Someone once told me blog posts don’t count – that was a couple of years ago. When I look back at my blog now I can see the progress I’ve made as a writer. My voice is stronger, I’m able to get a point across more efficiently…I really think that person was wrong. It might not count toward pages in my novel, but it has surely been good practice. A nice perk is that I find it easier to write on any project now, whether it’s a blog post, short story or novel pages whereas before it was a struggle just to get a paragraph down.

    1. I think it depends on where you are in your process as a writer. If you have trouble making any time to write, blog posts certainly count. If you already blog regularly, try to make time to write in addition to that and don’t let blogging be a crutch. Only you can determine what progress you want to make. But I do maintain that any writing at all will help you improve your craft.

  3. I finished NaNo a bit early and I intended to give myself until Monday to start writing again (house guests and husband on vacation). But I think I’ll take this challenge instead. I’m glad I found it today so I was able to get a few words in before bedtime. I’ll get up earlier and do a few hundred tomorrow. Weekends are the hardest — my schedule gets disrupted — but I promise to do at least something every day. Thanks for the encouragement.

    1. Good for you! I think half the battle is training your brain to produce. If you know you have to write something every day, it really will oblige you with something to say. It’s like working out; just another muscle to whip into shape.

    1. Congratulations! Sounds like you’re off to a good start. The thing about writing is you don’t have to start with an enormous, ambitious project. Any regular writing habit is going to help you improve your skills.

  4. Writing is an art. As an artist I must write. The problem is there is so much to write about. The trick is to stay with one project until it is finished.
    Like a hummingbird in love with one flower until it is enticed by the next.
    Thank you for the article. We need pep talks and community for encouragement in this discouraging world.

    1. LInda,

      I’ve found reading books on writing uplifting in this regard. Stephen King wrote a great book on the writing life. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott is my favorite. Currently I’m reading Betsty Lerner’s Forest for the Trees and she addresses the issue you mention in the first chapter, I believe.

      Good luck!

    2. It can be hard to stick to a project when you’ve got so many ideas. And no one says you have to work on just one at a time. But try to be aware of why you’re moving on to the next idea. Are you really out of steam on your current project, or have you just hit a difficult patch that requires more thought and attention. Don’t let those other pretty blooms drag you away from that first flower unless you can’t work it anymore. Good luck!

  5. Do you have any thoughts on how to squeeze time into a busy life for reading as well? I feel like every writer should also be a reader too, but sometimes I feel like I only have time for one or the other, not both.

    1. Yes, by all means, reading is important, though you don’t necessarily have to do it every day, not in the way I think you should write to build up those skills. But it can be hard to find time to read, as well. I’m a big fan of reading on the commute to work, but if you’re the one driving that can be hard. Have you considered audio books? You can get them for your car or even for your iPod, and they’re great for listening to books whenever you’re doing some chore that keeps your hands busy: driving, folding laundry, fixing dinner, etc. It’s not quite the same as reading to yourself, especially for a writer, but it’s better than nothing.

      I’m also a firm believer in being selfish about it. That sounds a little mean, but the day has 24 hours in it, and once you kick out work and sleep, a few meals and personal hygiene, you deserve to take a couple hours for yourself. If not every day, at least on the weekends. If you have kids old enough to read, maybe institute a family reading time, where everyone sits with their book for an hour on Sunday after lunch. If you have little children, maybe assign two days out of the week where their nap time is your reading time, no excuses. Say no to things that steal time from you, like endless checking of e-mail or bad TV shows. You might have to exchange one thing for another, but most of us can find an extra hour to read, at least a few days out of our week.Good luck!

      1. Thanks for this! I think it’s awesome that you take the time to reply to your comments. You hit the nail on the head with the time stealers. In fact, I think I’ll make that one of my new years resolutions. Figure out a few of my biggest time bandits and look for ways to minimize them. Audiobooks are a great suggestion too. I do them here and there, but I should start utilizing them more. They are a great way to multitask. Thanks again!!!

  6. Thank you for finding the time to write such helpful blogs / articles, and more importantly, for replying to those comments left by others. It makes reading your articles repsonding even more worthwhile.

    Finding time to do everything you want or need to do in a day especially when working full time is definaitely a juggling act. Something always has to be left out. For me, it’s either watching my favourite TV programmes/Dramas or reading (I have about thirty books in my collection yet to read). On a few occasions I will refrain from writing or reviewing my work, but usually oly when I’ve been out all day or my eyes are too tired to concentrate. I guess you have to consider what is important and what gives the most pleasure, and leave the rest.

    Leaving out two days in December will be a challenge what with Xmas celebrations to consider, but a challenge is a challenge!

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