by Suzanna E. Henshon, Ph.D.
How do you find time to write? Many people struggle through their day-to-day lives, only to discover at the end of the week they haven’t taken five minutes away from the madding crowds. But writers need to write on a regular basis.
Conditions are rarely optimal. While we fantasize about writing a few hours a day, this isn’t reality for most people. Very few people make their living entirely from writing, and even those who do have to deal with the business side of it—from sending out query letters to answering fan mail.
So, how do you deal with it? Many writers have a variety of other responsibilities to deal with, yet they still manage to finish projects. A perfect example is Jane Yolen, who has more than 300 books in print. What can we learn from these literary superstars?
Here’s an idea: Trick yourself into thinking you have time to write. But is it that simple?
I decided to try an experiment. I was grading papers at a local bookstore. I had 30 papers to grade that night, and realistically I didn’t have time to write. I only had time to correct, correct, correct.
However, I took a 15 minute creativity break. It saved my sanity. Taking that break was better for everyone, including my students; it allowed me to give them better comments on the papers they worked so hard on. Even if I didn’t finish all 30 papers in one night, it wasn’t the end of the world; it turned out not be a very realistic goal to begin with!
So, how can you trick yourself into finding writing time? Here are some tips.
Give yourself five minutes. You’d be surprised at what you can do in five minutes. Pull out a pen and let your thoughts unravel. Remember, five minutes isn’t even one percent of a day. Now, how do you feel afterward?
Find ten minutes here and there. Now that you’ve managed to snag five minutes out of the day, why not try for ten minutes? Don’t you deserve a short break every day? I’ve seen physical fitness plans for sale on QVC which highlight a ten minute workout, once or twice a day. Why not try this approach? It’s far more manageable than you may think.
Write while you are doing other things. If you are watching your child’s baseball game, why not pull out a notebook and write between plays? Many times you feel like that two hour period is booked solid, but there are short breaks. Between innings, you can write your heart out without missing a single pitch.
Write to a prompt. Sometimes it’s less intimidating if you write to a prompt. You don’t have to commit to even writing a page response; just write a paragraph. You can even do this between commercial breaks, if you are watching TV. Why not give it a try? You’d be surprised how much you can accomplish in just a few minutes.
Take a careful look at your schedule. Chances are you aren’t using your time as wisely as you could. For instance, how often do you check your email? Couldn’t you spend this time writing? If you are checking your email ten times a day, try to cut it to three times day and utilize this time for writing instead.
Be realistic. If your goals are too lofty, you may not be able to accomplish anything. So be realistic with your expectations, and hope for the best. You may not be able to write an entire book series, but you could start working on a picture book.
Write on a consistent basis, and don’t feel badly if you don’t write every day. The best projects are accomplished one day at a time. If you write regularly, you’ll make great progress on your larger goals.
Just do it. If you think of excuses not to write, you’ll never get anything done. Think of how many great books never would have been written if their authors had turned on a television every night. Just write!
Dr. Suzanna E. Henshon teaches full-time at Florida Gulf Coast University and is the author of several young adult and middle grade books, and two collections of writing exercises. Her newest book, Andy Lightfoot and the Time Warp, is available for the Kindle on Amazon.
Tags: writing time