If you’re struggling with time management or productivity, take back your control by starting with writing something every day. The key word is “something” — as generic a word that is.
Something could be a journal entry, a poem, a dream, a blog post, a conversation overheard in the coffee shop, a letter to your grandmother, a short story, a memory, a character sketch, captions to summer photos, setting, exchange of dialogue, a chapter to your novel, your author profile, an epilogue, back cover blurb, news article, commenting on an author’s blog/website, a travelogue, a prayer, a wish list to Santa.
By writing something every day you are establishing a writing habit–which helps you manage your time. A writing habit will allow you to build your skills and grow your knowledge. With increased knowledge and stronger skills, you will become a better writer and feel sincere joy as you work. As a better, joyful writer, you will grow your confidence and take risks. With more risk-taking, you will meet people and learn more about the field. Increased networking will bring opportunities knocking on your door. With opportunities, your goals will be accomplished and your writing dream made reality.
Yes, it all starts with writing something every day.
But yikes it takes time!
Yup, it takes time. A lot of time. How can you possibly manage it? How can you fit writing into an already hectic, guardrail-to-guardrail schedule?
First, you need to understand WHY you want to write at all. What is your purpose?
Let’s start with something sans pressure: “I think it would be fun to write a book.”
Most of us have started at exactly this point, right? It’s a normal reason that could apply to any one of us. But where in that statement is the follow-through or the HOW?
There isn’t one. It’s kind of like saying, “I think it would be fun to sky dive.” Well, how do you go from thinking it would be fun to sky dive to ACTUALLY sky dive? Make a plan. Set goals. Call skydiving companies for prices and schedules. Ask a buddy to join you.
But what ABOUT the experience of skydiving compels you to make the plan, reserve a spot, drive to the site?
Whatever you want to get out of it. That is what compels you to follow through. The end goal. Maybe it’s to do something scary, or to honor a friend, or to prove something.
Whatever your end goal is, what you want to get out of skydiving is the incentive to get you to make the skydiving happen.
Making writing happen follows the same idea. You have to understand your end goal. When you know your end goal then you will be able to set the appropriate course of action toward that end goal. Writing a book is a longer commitment than skydiving, but the principle behind making it happen is exactly the same.
Your WHY is your incentive to make a plan, to set goals, to make time to write, to follow through on your commitment. To get the writing done.
Make sure that whatever your purpose is that you are CLEAR on it and FULFILLED by it. Do not hold back, do not limit yourself, do not allow feelings of guilt, shame, or unworthiness shape your purpose.
Once you know your purpose you will be able to make a plan with an appropriate course of action that could include any number of factors, not the least of which is TIME.
Tips on making time to write
- For anyone who honestly doesn’t know where in the day or night you could possibly make the time to write, I highly recommend tracking your time for at least one week. This will be annoying and a PITA but it works like a charm. You will be surprised at the gaps in your day where you could either be writing or shifting tasks around to open up a larger window of time.
- Start with fifteen minutes if you’re feeling overwhelmed or tentative. If you can reasonably invest more time, do so. The sooner you can commit to a solid hour or two of daily writing, the faster you’ll establish this habit. The faster you’ll finish your project. The faster you’ll reach your end goal.
- Tack on a ten-minute ritual at the beginning of your writing time (or 3 minutes if you can only manage a 15-minute session). Your ritual doesn’t need to be fancy, just meaningful. Select two or three small activities that you can do as a way of preparing your creative center. Meditation, playlists, candles, tea – anything that comforts you and helps you into the writer headspace.
- Include reciting your purpose as part of your ritual. Either say it out loud, as part of a meditation, write it in your journal, whatever—but absolutely include an acknowledgement of your purpose: why are you writing this?
- Announce your writing time to anyone who lives with you. You must protect this session — it is all up to you. If you don’t set boundaries–and adhere to them–why would anyone else? They won’t. If you’re not going to respect and honor your time to write, no one else will either.
- Get an accountability partner who can check in on you at regular intervals (however you want to set it up).
- Grow your time. Yes, this can be done, but it takes practice. And you know how to get the practice in? (See tip #8.)
- Write every day.
The magic of journaling
Recording your progress helps you monitor over a period of days, weeks, months, even years how your writer self evolves and grows. Trust me, it will grow and it will blossom and it will take off down unexpected but amazing paths.
Use your journal to capture those extraordinary moments. Story ideas & inspiration linger here. We often miss them on first glance, but we aren’t at risk of losing them when they’re tucked in our written thoughts and observations.
Our journals also act as accountability partners. When we can trace our history of our writing progress, we are more likely to feel inspired by how much work and time we’ve invested. It’s difficult to keep giving up on our stories when we can see how much we’ve already put into them!
How do you manage your writing time? Any special tips that you’ve discovered along your journey?
Have a writerly day!