Sometimes I wake up, look at my ‘to do’ list for that day, and want to cry. Grocery shopping, bill paying, returning emails, kid schlepping, running to the bank, conference calls…. And here is a favorite that appeared on my list a couple of weeks ago, “Go to vet and get dog’s anal glands expressed.” Yes, this was actually on my list.
And I did it. Did I write that day? No, but I did get my dog’s butt cleaned.
So when I got this question from Susan, one of our readers, I was grateful. She wrote, “How do you carve out time to write when working full time, chaperoning kids, etc.?”
Here’s the thing. I actually know how to carve out time to get my writing done. But what I usually do is put it off until “things calm down.” And guess what? They never freaking do. Ever.
Here are four things you can do to make room for your writing…
1) Make your writing more important than your ‘to do’ list. For those of you who have a full time job, this is tough. So you might take a little longer to mow the lawn, or get that laundry done. You might also have to postpone getting your dog’s anal glands expressed, until you yourself have expressed yourself on your pages. Your writing has to be the number one thing on your list. Then, you can do all that other stuff.
2) Create a Consistent Schedule. Most people try to write when they have “open” slots in their calendar. It’s very difficult to finish a book or screenplay this way, because you’re mostly playing catch-up to get back into the flow. Schedule your writing ON YOUR CALENDAR. Block it off, at least five days a week, AT THE SAME TIME each day. Make your writing a consistent daily habit– it’s the only proven way to finish projects and sustain a career. If the only free block you have every day at the same time is from 6am until 7am (before work,) then that’s when you should write!
3) Act like a pro. This is your work. Not just some thing you’re trying out to see if it’s fun. If you truly want to earn your living as a writer, you need to act like a professional. Once you’ve scheduled your writing time, it needs to be inviolate. Think of yourself as “clocking in.” If you need to feel like someone (an evil boss) is watching, great. Create some social accountability (an evil friend?) who can help you enforce deadlines. You are not allowed to schedule anything during this writing block because that would mean you’re not showing up for your job.
4) Forget inspiration. If you wait to be “inspired” or for “creative juices,” you will never finish. Butt + Chair+Five Days A Week = Finished.
Recently, I got totally swamped and didn’t write for two weeks. I started to feel crabby and upset and annoyed and then realized why. I had bailed on my primary “work”– the thing that makes me happy, allows me a creative outlet, and makes me a better person and writing coach.
I’ve vowed that in the future, I will take my dog to the vet for her “delicate” treatments (I love her, she’s really cute, she’s staring at me right now,) but only after I’ve written my pages.
Take Action! If you’re having trouble finding time to write, put your ‘to do’ list in second place. Schedule your writing time. If you have to do it before work, at 5am, so be it. Act like a pro! Treat your writing like a job, with real hours and expectations, and a consistent approach. Let go of the idea that you need to be “inspired” to write well.
Toni Morrison writes every single morning at the same time. Stephen King sits down at his desk with his tea, music and dog Molly (aka ‘the thing of evil’), between 8 and 8:30 am. Flannery O’Connor wrote for 2 hours, at the same time, every day. And Richard Wright got up at 5am and walked to Fort Greene Park with his pad and pen.
It’s only impossible to carve out time to write, if you put it last on your list. Make it your priority. Watch the pages flow….
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