Originally published on December 21, 2014 @ 3:15 pm
Whenever I tell someone that I'm a writer, one of the first things to come out of their mouths is “oh, I've been thinking about writing a book.” And it takes everything I have not to scoff at them. I mean, they make it sound like it's just so easy to get on a computer and just start writing, don't they? Little do they know that sometimes just finding time to write can be a struggle.
Never mind the actual writing itself.
I'm pretty sure that Styx got it wrong. Sorry guys, I still love you! But there is no such thing as a writer with too much time on their hands. And there is little in this world that is more frustrating than trying to pound out new words when you don't have time to write.
Freelance writing may be a dream, but it's a hard dream that is going to take hard work.
And seriously, there isn't always enough time. And yes I know, I know… Sometimes you just have to make the time.
Guess what, these crafty little hands are not good at fabricating hours. Try as I might, I am still stuck with just 24 hours in a day. And growing more and more frustrated that I don't have time to write.
And then they say you have to take the time, as if you can just run up to someone who doesn't look very busy and ask them to apply their wasted hours onto the tail end of your day.
I have discovered that my responsibilities (and my sleep) do not generally like being pushed aside so that I can take the time to do other things.
So how am I supposed to find time to write?
And the holidays are making everything that much more difficult. Because now there are so many cookies that I want to bake and things that I want to make. Families to visit and friends to invite over. I'm already going nonstop.
Add my nine month old into the mix, and I'm surprised that I haven't pulled my hair out already.
I mean seriously, I'm sitting here before the sun is up trying to pound out just this short blog post as quickly as I can before the rest of the house wakes up and my day has to officially begin. Because somewhere out there someone suggested that if you don't have time to write, wake up before the rest of the family.
Let me tell you something — when your family consists of babies, waking up before them is almost impossible.
Not to mention stupid and self-harming because babies also means less than four or five hours of sleep a night taken as a series of power naps. Robbing yourself of even more sleep?
And all the while, my works in progress — my own books and short stories — are screaming at me. They may just decide to hold a revolt, I'm not sure yet. But I swear at night I can hear them all talking about rebelling against me. So, obviously, I have to do something. I have to shut them up. To log at least some progress and keep me from feeling like a complete failure.
So, here is my trick for finding time to write.
First, sleep in if you can.
I know this sounds ridiculous. This took me the longest to implement (which is why I'm saying it first). But it works. Being well-rested helps your creativity flow as well as your productivity. You'll find that your mind wanders less, making it easier to focus.
If you aren't able to sleep in because you have kids or stress or glaring sun shining in on your face, then try to take advantage of naps during the day.
And whatever you do, don't use up your rest time thinking about work. That's so hard to do, especially when you have a to-do list that is out of control. Find a spot to think.
I don't know about you, but sometimes I get my best thinking done when I am just about anywhere except in front of the computer. Going for a walk outside, washing the dishes, folding laundry, even lathering up in the shower all seem to charge up my thinking cap. In just a few minutes, I can sit back down at the computer with a clearer direction of what I want to write.
Take advantage of short writing sprints.
Almost every where you go for writing sprints asks you to commit 20 minutes or more to their sprints. This is fine if you have 20 continuous minutes to spare. I rarely do though (remember, baby). However, I do sit down with my timer and write for shorter, five minute sprints several times a day.
At first, this felt a bit like defeat. After all, how much can you possibly get written in just five minutes? But the answer is — a lot! On average, I can pump out anywhere from 350-400 words in five minutes. That's the equivalent of 4200-4800 words per hour. Of course, when I first started with these short sprints, I averaged much closer to 150-200 words. The key is to do them regularly and to know what you're going to write when you sit down and write. Six or seven well-timed five-minute sprints will net you anywhere from 1200 to 2500 words by the end of the day.
Don't miss family time.
Without a doubt, one of the biggest hurdles to my writing time is interruptions. Kid needs something, husband needs something, father needs something. No matter how much I cry, joke, scream, yell, or beg — the interruptions just don't stop. For a long time I just assumed this was some kind of mental block on their end: like because they see me working from home they assumed that means I am available to talk to.
That might actually be part of it — but there's another part of it, too. I wasn't making myself available to them. I would wake up thinking “get some writing done and then I can take the rest of the day off.” And by the time I went to bed, I had spent the entire day begging and fighting through interruptions to get even the smallest amount of work done. At first I figured if I could just carry my phone with me and take notes even while they were interrupting me, that would work. Make the best of my time and all that. Nope.
Household chores suffered. The house was a mess. Laundry was piling up. I was stressed out and crying by the end of the day because of all the interruptions.
But, once I started making sure that I was available between writing sprints, that all changed. Who knew? Put the phone away and make sure that the time you are spending with family you're actually spending with family. They'll interrupt you less and less.
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