It’s greater than any other obstacle writers may face—more of a barricade than any writer’s block or rejection letter or ending that doesn’t quite end up the way we want it to. It’s that little mark on the calendar to penned in red, the sticky note reminder on your desk, the endless scrawl of a to-do list. What I’m talking about is the real enemy here. It’s name is time management.
Not everyone can manage their schedules in flawless calm while the world itself crumbles around them. If you’re anything like me, it’s more of a matter of not losing your to-do lists than actually doing them. It’s calendars that don’t have enough space in one square for all the things you’re doing that day. It’s putting things off simply because you’re afraid there’s not enough time in the week to get it done anyway.
It’s funny how Sundays always manage to shed a glimmer of light on the past week of half-finished projects and hurried assignments.
Tonight, I have the luxury of looking out my seven-story window onto a street of headlights and colors as Washington D.C. begins it’s Saturday evening. I’m inside, typing my the light of a single lamp in a hotel room that has only just begun to feel like my own. I have said “no” to going out for the sole reason of making time to write before it’s time to sleep.
This is something I must constantly remind myself to do. Every writer I have ever met struggles with this balance. Do I put that extra time in at my job, or do I take my lunch to finish the end of that pesky chapter? Will my novel ever be finished if I keep going out with friends four times a week? When Facebook is daring you to check your feed or your best friend is blowing up your phone, desperate for a night out, remind yourself why you’re a writer.
Creative writing is the labor of love few outsiders can understand. With the following tips, I hope to remind you of a simple things you can take in tandem to bring more writing back into your life.
1. Be Flexible
You don’t need your Pentel Hybrid Technica gel pen or your A5 sized Moleskin journal to write the next sentence. The next sentence is already there. All you have to do is get it out. Sometimes, being a writer simply means being creative in how your ideas get out into the world. In this way, you have to be flexible enough to take the moment you are in and turn it into a writing moment. If something comes to you in the middle of a restaurant, and you feel stranded without a laptop or notebook in front of you, simply jot it down into your phone or onto a napkin. I used to find myself waiting in lines for things or sitting in a car wishing the time wasn’t being wasted on these sort of “idle moments.” Make them into something by typing a paragraph or idea down while you’re on the go.
Similarly, you do not need to be sitting at a desk complete with an ocean view window in order to get into the right mindset. Your writing mindset is always there with you. The key is to buckle down and turn it on, no matter where you are.
2. Make Time
This tidbit of advice is closely married to the first. Making time for writing is essential, and usually one of the hardest things to accomplish on a regular basis. For me, a routine works best when trying to make time for writing. Every Sunday, I take my notebook and laptop to my local Starbucks and write for four hours. Usually I do this around lunchtime, and pack a sandwich to pair with my favorite refresher or latte. When I get home, there’s still plenty of time in the day to accomplish everything else that needs to get done.
I’m lucky to have this luxury, since it’s my one day off every week. Even if you don’t find yourself with an entire afternoon or evening to block in a lengthier writing session, making time for writing is still possible. Try for a half an hour, even twenty minutes per day (or every other day) to complete a quick writing sprint. If you do this regularly, even in spare moments between appointments, school, work, or other obligations, you will be working your writing muscle enough to keep it strong.
3. Be Dedicated
Be dedicated to your writing. Sometimes, it’s just that simple. But being committed to your craft means saying no to things that are determined to get in the way of your project. Things like parties, Sunday brunches, or the latest season of Orange is the New Black on Netflix are distractions you can indulge in when it’s not “writing time.” If your project is important to you, you’ll find the courage to tell yourself that it can wait.
4. Get Involved
Joining a writing group is a different way to give your work some exposure. A fresh set of eyes can give your writing a purpose as well as offer you fresh advice on how you can improve your craft. I find that having a steady reader (or readers) will encourage me to always be coming up with new ideas and fresh pages to show someone. Having a group that shares the same goals as you can also help that painful feeling of alienation that writers often have to face. Your new friends will be great company as your writing flourishes.
For me, this is the hardest piece of advice to follow. Your phone, the internet, email, even the television set—these are all unnecessary distractions in the world of writing. They are also the hardest to shake. Facebook in particular is a huge distract for most writers I know. It’s almost impossible to finish a paragraph without that nagging instinct to refresh my Facebook feed or eliminate the latest notification from my phone.
I challenge you to turn your writing time into true writing time. For me personally, this means ignoring any and all urges to check Twitter or Facebook until I have completed a goal for that session. Sometimes, that means 500 words before I can deviate from my word document. Other times I just set aside twenty interrupted minutes before I allow myself a quick freebie. I find this works better than unplugging cold turkey. I understand myself to know that this small reward system works, and it turns my writing time into productivity.
Give these tips and tricks a try. Customize them to fit your needs and dedicate yourself to bettering your writing productivity. With the right mindset and a love for your craft, you will be able to make more time for your writing than you probably thought possible.