3 Tips That Will Help You Make Time to Write

4 years ago

One of the most common questions I'm asked by budding writers -- second only to "how do you make money freelancing?" -- is How do I find motivation to write when I'm exhausted after a long day of work/family/kids/housekeeping/ etc.?

Image: Tonyhall via Flickr

If you're not making a full income freelancing or selling books, it's quite likely you have to work a full-time or part-time job to support yourself while you try to launch a career as a writer on the side. That's a lot of work, but, unless you aren't responsible for any expenses or you have a partner or family member flipping the bill, you probably don't have much choice. Starting a side hustle, transitioning careers, or picking up writing as a hobby means that you're going to have to put in a little overtime.

It keeps a lot of writers from ever getting started in the first place.

Regardless of how much you love writing, that extra discipline is hard to come by, especially when it has to be self-imposed. And when you begin to imagine all the time you believe this new career or hobby is going to suck out of your schedule, you decide there's no way. You put it off, make excuses not to write each day, and continue to tell yourself "someday" you'll be a writer.

I don't know how many times the cliché has to be stated before people start believing it: "Someday" never comes.

If you want to be a writer, you have to start today. You have to make the decision to make this love of yours a priority in your life and figure out how to make it fit in with your other obligations.

But that's all we ever tell you, isn't it? Big meanie writing experts and teachers and gurus just keep saying, "Just write!" Nobody seems to understand your exhaustion and stress, the chaos of your life, the lack of support, the few hours each day you have to sleep or even devote to anything for yourself.

I understand.

But I still want you to write. So, if your life is just too damn crazy to facilitate lazy afternoons on the front porch with your journal, summers at the beach with your laptop, an inspiring writing retreat every fall -- all those things prolific writers must have, right? -- take these three simple tips to heart.
Don't just read them, walk away, and continue to wonder how to be a writer. Read them, write them down, pin them to your wall, read them again every day, and take action every single day. Then, you could be a writer.

1. Stop asking, Where do I find time to write?

The second you ask that question, you're already making an excuse not to write. You've decided in your mind that your life is full; there's no room left for writing. If you're asking this question, you're already losing. Stop. Instead, as you run through your busy day in your head, simply finish it with, And then I'll write.

Write it down if you have to, to train yourself to believe it. Add it to your to-do list, tack it to the refrigerator: Wake up, breakfast, kids to school, work, lunch break, afternoon meeting, kids to soccer practice, dinner, piano recital, dishes, homework, kids to bed, movie with hubby, fold the laundry, hubby to bed -- and then I'll write.

2. Facilitate your muse by coming to your writing time with a clear head.

Even on days when you "find time" to write, you might think it's useless because you're so stressed or tired that you can't possibly write anything worthwhile. So relax, and clear your head before writing.

If you're most clear-headed, calm, and stress-free early in the morning before you've gone through a day of work, wake up 10 or 15 minutes early, and write then. (Think you can do 5am? Here's a cool free iPhone app to help motivate you.) If you're not a morning person (I'm totally not, even though that seems blasphemous to admit as a writer!), add something small to your after-work routine to clear your mind and re-invigorate you after a stressful day -- go for a walk, do yoga (another app -- this one has changed my life), listen to your favorite music while you wash the dishes, etc.

3. Commit to only a tiny amount of writing each day.

This is the most important piece of this whole puzzle. Don't tell yourself you have to write for an hour every day, because on busy, exhausting days you simply won't make time for it.

Instead, commit to something totally manageable -- 10 to 15 minutes each day. After you clear your head with step 2, set a timer and sit down to write. Those 10 or 15 minute sessions can easily turn into two hours if you get on a roll -- but they don't have to. All you need to be successful is that little 10 minutes each day, and those little successes will help you form a habit that will make it easier to "make time" to write each day. (Need an extra boost forming a daily writing habit? Try 750words.com.)

The key to writing when you feel like you don't have time or you're too stressed out is to be easy on yourself. Don't over-commit, don't measure yourself against what everyone else is doing (because they're not living your life), and don't be too critical of what you write in those daily sessions. It's not as bad as you think -- and if it is, fine! Edit it later, or throw it away and consider it a good workout.

Just write!

What secret tricks do you use to motivate yourself to write every day, no matter what?

Dana Sitar is a consultant, author, and blogger helping entrepreneurial writers and writerly entrepreneurs build thriving communities around their brands. She edits the DIY Writing community blog at WritersBucketList.com.

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