Finding the Time to Write

A few years ago I started my career as a full-time writer. The direction of my new job was not a surprise, since I have never wanted to do anything else for as long as I can remember. However, the way I started to freelance as well was something that just fell into my lap and was far from what I had originally expected to turn to.

While the opportunity is an amazing one, and I would never choose to do anything else, it isn’t always easy. In fact, keeping to a strict schedule so I can get to all of my work on deadline can be downright nightmarish at times–mainly, because it isn’t always so simple to keep yourself accountable and on track without a task master flicking the whip behind you.

In this post, I’ll share some of the techniques I use to find the time to write.

My Struggle with Time

Besides work there are the daily parts of life that also come around to distract and eat up time. There are budgets to be made, bills to pay, groceries to get, a house to clean, a social life to maintain–not to mention the general hobbies and relaxation time. All of that while maintaining my No. 1 work priority: writing.

Not only do I write for my job–and I am doing so right now, in writing this article–but I also write for pleasure. Every day I try to create something: a poem, a haiku, a short story, a chapter on something larger–anything that will keep my creativity flowing and the words coming. This isn’t always easy with my busy schedule and the fact that I write for work. Freelancing is wonderful, but it has a way of burning you out.

It isn’t surprising that this is one of my own personal challenges. But not everyone has that issue, and the question I am asked most by friends, colleagues and others is: When do you find the time to sit down and write? I was asked this just the other day by a friend of mine who also has two young children to care for.

If this is something you are struggling with, for any reason, take heart! You are not alone. Most of us have trouble finding the time and keeping on top of things. Here are a few tips on how you can make sure to always have a few moments to get those words on paper (or a computer screen), no matter how busy you might be.

Give Yourself a Goal and Deadline

The thing is, if you aren’t writing for your livelihood, you don’t have to do it. Even those of us who turn to creativity as a means of maintaining our sanity sometimes find it easier to slip away in our stress than give in to our need to write. That is why setting a goal and a date to complete it by is very important.

Depending on what it is you are working on, your goal will be different from what might work for someone else. For example, let’s say you work mainly with poetry and short stories. So, rather than go by word count, you could go by daily writings. Just make sure you write one thing every day or maybe a few times a week. Sometimes it might be something as short as a haiku, or if you have the idea and time you could write a short story.

My friend, however, is a novelist. She sets a final date (unless a deadline is set for her) to be complete. She then calculates how much will have to be written to meet that date, keeping in mind a few days off a week where she can relax and regroup. She averages 2,000 words per day, four days a week on average. Now, she can write on days off if she has an idea or the need, but she makes sure that she makes 8,000 words minimum every single week.

Use Positive or Negative Reinforcement

I keep reading about people who claim we should only reward ourselves and never punish for missing a goal. For some this is a good idea, because most people react better to positive reinforcement. Getting something special or doing something you enjoy for a job well done is a great motivator.

But not all of us work best this way when alone. I use negative reinforcement with myself because I know I will be even more motivated if I am losing something tangible than if I am losing the chance at something positive in the future. I set mini rewards and punishments along the way at each goal. I occasionally switch them up. Then, at the end of the month, I use a big reward to push through that final stage.

Be Reasonable with Yourself

Remember that anyone can get burned out or just run out of time. Be honest about what you can handle and don’t be hard on yourself if it isn’t as much as you would like. Take breaks and stay calm, because if you get too stressed out about it you will see your productivity–and creativity–go down.

We all struggle to find the time to fit everything in we would like to do a day. But you don’t have to sacrifice your writing, no matter how much you have on your plate. Anyone can find time if they try.

Your Turn

How do you find the time to write? Do you use negative or positive reinforcement, or both?

Image by bogenfreund