This was the first article I wrote for the Beverley Guardian. Since their site has disappeared, I’m re-posting it here. If you have any other tips on how to make time to write, please let me know in the comments.
Are you one of those people who says ‘I’d love to write a book one day, but I don’t have the time’? I have a day job and I have two small children. If I can find the time to write novels, so can you.
First, let’s break down the task. Most novels are about 70000 words long. That’s a lot of words. It would be almost impossible to write that in one day. You could dedicate a week to it and get it done, but we’ve already established that time is a limiting factor. So, let’s spread it over more days. 70K is 70 days of writing 1000 words a day. Or 140 days of 500 words a day. Or even 280 days writing 250 words a day. 250 words is easy, right? After all, I’ve written over a 100 just to get to this point. So you can write 250 words a day.
Now that we’ve agreed on 250 words, we need to find an hour or so to get those words down. The good news is that you can easily write more 250 words in an hour. The bad news is that you’ll probably have to write about 1500 words to make sure you have 250 usable ones.
So what next? Well, just make sure you do you 250 words every day. If you can’t manage every day, try four days a week. Any less than that, and you risk straying off and not finishing the book.
You don’t have an hour each day? Are you sure about that?
Here are ten ways how to make time:
1) Make writing a priority. When you say you don’t have time to write – you actually mean ‘I have other things I’d rather do with my time than write’. Making the mental shift to believe that writing is important is a major step towards finding more time.
2) Stop watching TV. I don’t mean stop watching it entirely. There are, after all, essentials – The Big Bang Theory and Dr Who for me. Everything else will have to wait until it comes out on DVD. If you have young children who distract you, wait until they’re watching something and use that time to write. You know you won’t be disturbed for 30 minutes. That’s gold dust.
3) Get up earlier. I’m told this works. I’ve never tried it because I have trouble with anything earlier than 6am. Early morning people also claim that creativity flows better early in the morning. They’re probably right. I’m never up early enough to find out.
4) Go to bed later. As above, but at the other end of the day. I do this. If you fall asleep, just delete all the bits that say fffow;elklrkje;lja before you start writing the next day.
5) Turn off the internet. Wait, wait. Calm down. Breathe. I don’t mean permanently. Just for an hour or so during you ‘writing time’. It’s amazing how much you can get done if you don’t have the excuse of ‘research’ or ‘just quickly checking my email’.
6) Make up an hour, fifteen minutes at a time. This is something I was taught by my old Physics teacher. He suggested that a full hour was hard to find, but four lots of fifteen minutes wasn’t. This is also a good way of getting pesky things that you have been putting off done. Set a timer for 15 minutes, then get that editing done.
7) Steal time from your social life. Get used to saying ‘I can’t come out tonight. I’m writing’. Back in the day (before I had kids), I used to have one day a week (usually Saturday night) when I didn’t write. This was mainly so that people didn’t think I had become a hermit.
8) Do your preparation beforehand. Not all writing time is spent writing. The bit that hits the page is only a small fraction of the work that goes on with writing. A lot of the plotting, character building, general day dreaming doesn’t require you to use your hands. Do it while you’re waiting for the kids to finish school, while you’re washing up or while you’re clearing frost off the car. Let ideas turn over and mulch down in your mind and, over time, lovely things will grow.
9) Put your phone on answerphone. Or, if you live attached to your mobile phone, turn it off or onto silent/ do not disturb. No, don’t get distracted and quickly check Twitter. Turn it off.
10) This one’s my dream – go on a writing retreat (cue inspirational music). Preferably somewhere hot, where someone else does the cooking, cleaning and washing up. Use it wisely so that you can pour out words like nobody’s business. I’ve never been on one, but I imagine them to be magical, life altering events.
One more bonus tip: Keep a stack of Post-Its nearby while you write. If you get an idea that won’t fit with what you’re doing right now, but would help in a different chapter/book, write it on a Post-It and get back to what you’re meant to be doing. That way you won’t forget it and you won’t get side tracked by it. Every so often have a 15 minute session sorting out the Post Its. A word of warning – try and make your notes comprehensible. My favourite random Post-It says ‘giving up on disasters waiting to happen’ on it. It was obviously a brilliant idea. I wish I could remember what it was.
Do you have a question about creative writing? Get in touch!