One of the questions I’m asked most often is how do I find time to write. Everyone is extremely busy these days and half the time, it feels like we barely remember to eat, let alone write. I fill a lot of roles in my personal life: I’m a mom to a 4-year-old, I’m a wife, I’m a writer, I’m a friend, I’m a daughter, and many more that I won’t bore you with here. I’m not alone in how many hats I wear; aren’t we all so many things to so many people? There are only so many hours in a day and, frankly, sometimes I’m fucking exhausted and just want to watch reruns of a garbage TV show.
However, it’s important that I write, not only because that’s my job, but because it’s essential to who I am as a person. In the same way that artists need to create and musicians need to play, I need to write. It’s just a thing and I can’t turn it off. And whether you’re like me and you need to write or you just want to write but can’t find the time, I think I can help you.
What it all boils down to is creating a routine to get you in the daily habit of writing. My writing mentor, the brilliant Dan Crawley, once told me that it was necessary for him to write at least one line of fiction every day. It’s a small goal, but sometimes life kicks you in the metaphorical balls and a sentence is all you can handle.
Stephen King expressed a similar sentiment in Danse Macabre when he suggested writing 300 words per day, approximately one double-spaced page. At the end of the year, you’ll have written a whole book. Neil Gaiman, author of insanely popular books like American Gods, said in an article about King that Gaiman used this particular tactic to write Coraline. If it worked for them, it can work for you!
So now we’ve established that it’s important to write a little bit every day, but how do you actually get down to the business of writing? As I said before, it’s essential to create a routine. Here are a few tips to get you started:
Consistency is really important when you’re first trying to create a routine, so pick a spot where you can work. The location varies for everyone; Isaac Asimov could sit down in the middle of a crowded street with a typewriter and write a whole book. Other people require solitude. It’s all about figuring out what works for you. Years ago, I spent some time in Spain and I used to take a notebook to a local Irish pub, order food and a pint, and write in a notebook for hours. Nowadays, I usually write while sitting cross-legged on my bed while my four-year-old comes racing in and out of the room while singing Moana songs at the top of his lungs.
Whatever spot you pick to write, make sure you return to it every day. Sitting down in the same place will help you to return to the creative mind frame.
Back when I was in Spain, it was my habit to get food and a pint when I wrote at the pub. Now, I start my writing sessions by brewing a fresh cup of coffee and I make sure to spoil myself with it–fancy chocolate to mix in, whipped cream, white chocolate syrup to drizzle on tops, the works. Indulging myself makes me feel happy which puts me in the mood to write. But do whatever works for you! Maybe you want to make a smoothie or set yourself up with a favorite snack. Maya Angelou would rent a hotel room and set herself up with a legal pad, an ashtray, and a bottle of sherry. The latter wasn’t saved for cocktail hour either–if she wanted to write at 6 AM, she poured herself a glass. I don’t necessarily recommend day drinking, but it did work for Maya Angelou, so who am I to argue with someone else’s routine?
This is the trickiest part because let’s be honest, our lives only seem to get busier with every passing day. However, if you’re serious about writing, it’s imperative that you find a time every day that works for you. Maybe you could get up a little earlier in the day and write before everyone else in your house gets up, or do the opposite and stay up a little later if you feel more creative at night. Perhaps writing after lunch would work best for you, or in the hour after dinner. I can’t say one definitive time that works best for everyone because everyone’s schedule is different. However, if possible, I would recommend setting aside at least an hour to write. I know that’s not always realistic–my own schedule sometimes gets so crazy that I feel like I barely have time to breathe, let alone write–but make sure you at least write a few words. If all you can do is a sentence, then that counts. You wrote for the day! Congratulations!
None of the advice I’ve given here can guarantee you’re going to write a bestseller, but it can get you writing every day. You can’t write that book without actually writing it, every journey begins with a single step, blah blah blah. It’s trite but it’s true. If you want to be a writer, you have to actually write, even if it’s just a few words. Creating a writing routine can help get you in the habit and pretty soon, you’ll be on your way!
What sort of routine do you have? Are there any routine-creating tips I missed? Let me know in the comments!
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