Reading time: Just over 3 minutes
Are you someone who believes you just don’t have enough time to do what you want? Here’s how to find more time for writing….
The hardest part of doing just about anything is getting started. For you, this principle might apply to reading, cleaning your garage, working on your income taxes or doing the vacuuming. For most people, however, this principle surely applies to writing.
Why? We tell ourselves stories about how difficult, challenging and boring the task is going to be. We visualize all the previous times during which we struggled to get sentences onto the page and wrestled with finding the right words. We remember the time that writing XYZ document was going to take two hours and, actually, it took 16.
But here is a universal truth relating to every task we want to postpone: once we get started, it is never as bad as we thought it was going to be. Athletes understand this quirk of human nature and take steps to deal with it. For example, many of them put on their running shoes and head out the door for a 10-minute run no matter how crappy they feel. And guess what happens? That 10-minute commitment usually turns into a 30- to 45-minute run.
Here are seven ways you can find more time for writing:
- Take SMALL steps. Really small steps. If you don’t already have a writing habit, start with no more than 15 minutes a day. And if that sounds too daunting, start with just five. There is no amount of time that’s too small — only time commitments that are too large. I’ve found the people who procrastinate the most are almost always the ones who’ve set the biggest, most difficult-to-achieve goals for themselves.
- Pay yourself first! The concept long promoted by financial planners — of earmarking a percentage of your paycheque for your savings even before you pay your bills — also works for writers, at least as far as time is concerned. I suggest squeezing in a small amount of writing time in the morning, before you do anything else. Why? Nothing will have gone wrong in your day yet. You’ll have more energy and fewer interruptions. Most of all, you won’t have wrestled with guilt (“I should have started writing at 11 am. Why didn’t I do that?”) so you’re going to be happier — and happy writers write better.
- Declare a time and space for your writing. Advance planning helps all people achieve their goals. Instead of vaguely imagining you want to write, visualize yourself writing in a specific place (at the desk in your spare room? At the kitchen table? In your office?) and at a specific time. Scientists know this type of visualization will help you to achieve your goal.
- Do your research the day before you write. It’s important to draw a clear line between all steps of the writing process, making sure you don’t mix them up. Never edit while you write. And never research while you write, either. I’m not saying that research isn’t important. Of course, it’s essential. But do your research at least a day before you write — or sooner than that, if you like. If you fall into a rabbit hole with research (a surprisingly common predicament) don’t let it affect your writing time. As well, having the opportunity to “sleep on” your research will help make the writing a lot easier.
- Never be afraid to write a BAD first draft. Instead, understand it’s a necessity. Many clients tell me that their first draft is always terrible. “Welcome to the club!” I say. In fact, if you look at the first drafts of writers like Arthur Conan Doyle and Virginia Woolf — written before the days of the easy delete key — you will see multiple crossings out, angry-looking XXXs and gigantic arrows indicating a desire to move huge swathes of text to an entirely different section of the document. Truth is, no one writes a first draft that’s much good. The difference between professional writers and everyone else is that the pros understand the necessity of editing, which they do later, not with the writing.
- Manage your expectations. As I suggested at the top of this post, many people tell themselves stories about how horrible and uncomfortable the process of writing is going to be. You can short-circuit those stories in two ways: First, make your time commitment small enough so that it seems easy (so easy that you’d be embarrassed not to do it). Second, remind yourself that your ONLY job when writing is to produce quantity. You want to accumulate as many words as you can. Quality is irrelevant until you get to the editing stage.
- STOP writing while you still have ideas. Many of my clients begin with the idea that they need to write themselves out each day. In other words, they want to wring as many words out of themselves as possible — as if they were trying to squeeze excess water from a facecloth — so they will have accomplished as much as possible. Some of them think they are more likely to achieve flow this way. Instead, I suggest they follow the wise example of Ernest Hemingway who typically ended his day’s worth of writing in the middle of a sentence. Why? He wanted to make the job of getting started the next day easier on himself.
As I researched this post, I discovered some coaches making comments like, “a daily writing practice isn’t …always possible.” They’re wrong, I say. If you make the practice small and sustainable, you will be able to find more time for writing, no matter what else is going on in your life.
As E. B. White put it, “A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.”
Need some help developing a sustainable writing routine? Learn more about my Get It Done program. The group is now full but there is turn-over each month, and priority will go to those who have applied first. You can go directly to the application form and you’ll hear back from me within 24 hours.
My video podcast last week addressed the problems with outlining. Or, see the transcript, and consider subscribing to my YouTube channel. If you have a question about writing you’d like me to address, be sure to send it to me by email, Twitter or Skype and I’ll try to answer it in the podcast.
Do you have difficulty finding enough time to write? What do you do about it? We can all learn from each other so, please, share your thoughts with my readers and me in the “comments” section, below. And congratulations to Rosie Aslam, the winner of this month’s book prize, for a Jan. 12/21 comment. (Please send me your email address, Rosie!) Anyone who comments on today’s post (or any others) by Feb 28/21 will be put in a draw for a digital copy of my first book, 8 1/2 Steps to Writing Faster, Better. To leave your own comment, please, scroll down to the section, directly underneath the “related posts” links, below. Note that you don’t have to join the commenting software to post. See here to learn how to post as a guest. It’s easy!