Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Finding Time to Write

By Brian Kaufman

Writers procrastinate. In a busy world, finding something other than writing to do is easy. Having dawdled away entire decades, I found myself without anything to show for the time spent talking about writing (most often with a beer in my hand). By the time I got serious, I was a forty-year-old man with two full-time jobs, a mountain of debt, and three children to worry over. 

That’s when I began to write my first novel.

My two jobs left me with a weekly writing window of about five hours—Sunday morning from 2 a.m. until dawn. Because that was my only free time during the week, writing had to share time with a VHS movie, some cooking and cleaning, and the aforementioned beer. 

I maximized my efficiency by spending working hours inside my novel’s world. The more mindless the task (and there’s nothing more mind-numbing than a cook deveining shrimp), the better I was able to slip into my novel. Time dissolved for me, a phenomenon that had its drawbacks. Cooking involves sharp knives—it’s a wonder I kept my typing fingers intact. By week’s end, however, I was ready to put words on the page.

I don’t mention this time of my life to illustrate my superior will-power. I’m setting up a punchline. My kids are grown. I’m down to one job. My evenings are free. And I still have trouble finding time to write.

So must it always be, but rather than commiserate, let me offer some suggestions for a problem that I believe is, for writers, universal. I present you with four tips for finding the time to write:
Let's Face It, We All Need A Tardis.

1. Steal time. 

Too often, your grandiose plans for a full day of writing go astray. Plan your sessions in smaller blocks, which allows you to jam your short sessions into a few minutes of dead time between the breakfast dishes and the laundry. Have a long commute? Try dictating your novel as you drive. Sneak away from the family whenever you can, and be happy with your page or two—they add up.

2. Plan to avoid distractions. 

When you choose a location to do your writing, select somewhere that’s off the beaten path. (The living room of a family home might not be the wisest choice.) Stay away from television screens, and shut off your social media. (Will you really miss those political posts on Facebook?) Explain to friends and family that you are working (and be prepared to repeat yourself endlessly).

3. Plan for efficiency. 

Project management tools like outlines and do-lists can help. If you have trouble with a scene, move on. Make a note of your sticking point, and go to the next scene. Efficient writing also means a quick start. Try leaving your previous writing session in the middle of an action sequence or dramatic scene to make picking up the storytelling that much more relaxed at your next session.

Write Like Your Head Was Hanging Out The Window.

4. Enjoy writing. 

Finding time is easier if you revel in your craft. And if you love writing—really love writing—you’ll find the time.

When discussing this topic with successful writers (some of whom post maddening daily word count totals on the social media I advised you to ignore), the common prescription is “just do it.” 

For most of us, that’s the struggle. Happy writing!


Ronda Simmons said...

Thank you, Brian for this timely and wise post! I do that mindless, day dreamy technique a lot. Like, when I'm driving or folding clothes or at a middle school concert. I've gotten my protagonist in all kinds of trouble that way!

Katherine Valdez said...

Excellent, real-world advice, Brian! Thanks for sharing your experience.

Kristin Owens said...

Great article! Thanks

Patricia Stoltey said...

You would think being retired from real world work would give me hours and hours of writing time. And yet, it's still a struggle. I'm now in the revision stage of my current wip, my favorite part of writing, yet have a long list of other things I need to do first. Finding time is a neverending project.

Unknown said...

Thanks for the comments! I stopped by to see what folks had written, ironically enough, as a form of procrastination. Thus reminded, I'm back to work...just as soon as the dishes are done.

JC Lynne said...

Hahahaha! This is why writers need community!

Eleanor Shelton said...

Finding time to write with a full time job and a half is tough, but instead of beer, I begin my day at 5 am with coffee. The beer comes later. I putz for about 30 minutes and then gear up to write. I find the only truly quiet time is the wee hours of the morning. A solid hour a day at least keeps the momentum going.

Laura Mahal said...

Great post, Brian. It's a reminder that I ought to fit in at least ten minutes per day of new writing during the periods when I'm focused on editing for myself or others. And, I'm always open to meeting fellow writers for coffee (or beer). We could generate five hundred words or so, then reward ourselves with a beverage. Or, alternatively, have the beverage first and then get words on the page. Both strategies appeal to me. Hint, hint. :)

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