7 tips for writers
People often ask me, ‘how do you find time to write?’ The truth is, I don’t find time. I make it. I want to write, so I do. Do I get busy and overwhelmed? Hell, yes! Do I sometimes go days, weeks, months without writing because life gets in the way? Hell, yes! But I always come back to writing because I love it. I choose to write and it means other areas of my life sometimes fall to the wayside (i.e. housework) and I’m okay with that. Thankfully my husband is mostly okay with that too.
Writing requires sacrifice
I work part-time in a local hospital, I’m the primary caregiver of two kids and I have a freelance writing business. This means I have to make the most of my ‘spare’ time for creative writing. I get behind on household chores and the washing and ‘quick and easy’ meals are often on the cards. If you want to be a writer you have to make sacrifices. In this post, I share my 7 tips on how to make time to write.
7 tips for writers
- Prioritise your writing. If you have the support of your partner or family this part is way easier. I definitely feel guilty about the physical and mental time dedicated to writing but we all deserve a creative outlet and I know I’m a much more pleasant person (and parent) when I have that ‘me’ time. For some people it’s going to the gym, for me it’s writing. I choose to write and so that often means a mad dash around the house on a Friday to get it in shape for the weekend. I’m a procrastinator too. I know I’m the kind of person who if had more time would actually do less. I’ve been far more productive now as a busy parent juggling multiple roles than I was pre-parenthood with just one job to do. Because of my busy life, writing has become MORE important to me. Like many writers if I spend too long away from the writer’s desk I get a little angsty. Most people who know me well know that writing is just part of my life.
- Give yourself permission not to write. If you’re like me, you may feel like you often should be writing when you’re doing something else. I frequently listen to podcasts about writing and so many of the interviewed published authors insist that aspiring writers must write every day. I get the idea behind it because the longer you stay away from your story the harder it is to get back to- but I don’t necessarily believe you have to write every day. I work away from home 2 days per week and I know there a lot of writers who work full-time. Some of these writers can come home and write. I can’t. When I come home I have barely enough energy to kiss and cuddle my kids and get them off to bed, let alone dive into a character’s headspace for a writing session. As a psychologist I’m sitting in the shoes of my clients and their stories all day long. I tend to write novels with a dark edge. So, writing on a work day is just off the cards. I think parents- mother’s in particular- experience a lot of guilt about whether we’re doing a good enough job and we really don’t need to be piling on the writer’s guilt too. I give myself permission to not write on those days.
- Spend a little bit of time on your manuscript each day. This probably contradicts the last point but I do try to work on my manuscript at least 4-5 days per week. That’s working on not necessarily writing. At the moment I’m actually only doing 2-3 writing sessions per week (if that!) but I try to do something for my manuscript on most days, even if it’s only 15 minutes, to keep me in the story. How? I reread what I’ve written. I jot down notes on the next scene (kind of tricking myself into writing without actually writing), sometimes I’ll type up some handwritten notes (and trick myself into writing a little extra), or I’ll be researching. I usually have printed chapters that follow me around the house each day, even if I don’t read them it keeps me conscious of my story and I will mentally dip in and out of the story as I go through the day.
- Trick yourself into writing when you don’t really feel like it. I’ve given a couple of examples of this in the last point, but I find handwriting is an excellent way to help move your story forward without the pressure of sitting at your laptop staring at a blank screen. I’ll jot down anything that comes to mind. Sometimes I struggle to get into a scene so I just write whatever I can think of and then I’ll get to some dialogue and I’ll become really immersed in what I’m writing and this has a positive flow on effect.
- Trust the process. I’ve talked about this on my blog before: there’s a process to writing just like there’s a process in therapy. In both instances, I’ve often felt like I’m just not getting anywhere! What am I doing here? Where is this heading? I find in order to move forward I need to accept that I’ve stalled or things have gone stagnant. I’m currently working on a historical fiction novel which is completely out of my comfort zone and it is SLOW going. I’ve written many other manuscript (8!!) and I know I can get to the end. I know I need to have trust in the process. I try to stay present and not let my mind get too hung up on the end product.
- Be adaptable. At the moment my toddler has a midday sleep and so this is the time I cram in my writing. I know the day naps won’t last forever so I’m making the most of it while I can. When my eldest dropped her day nap (which coincided with an earlier bedtime) I began to write at night. Before I had kids I wrote in the mornings. I’d prefer to write first thing in the morning but I’ve had to adapt or I’d never write a word!
- Tell other people you write. For so long I was embarrassed to tell people I wrote fiction but now I don’t really care. And if I ever do have a novel published there will be an acknowledgments page dedicated to all those friends and colleagues who over the years have asked me ‘how’s your writing going?’- they’ll never know how much this means to me. To have your creativity validated and not dismissed: it’s a very special thing! Also, telling people you write keeps you accountable. So, big tick there.
The only way to find time to write is to make it. Structure your time so that writing is a necessary element of your week. When you set time aside, you make a committment to your writing. When you don’t set time aside, you set yourself up for failure. I know which I’d prefer!