For most of us, making time to write will always be something of a struggle. With friends and family, financial obligations, and emotional issues all vying for our attention, it takes determination to make a writing schedule and stick to it. I've come to the conclusion that there is no easy answer, but there are concrete things we can do to make time to write.
1. Pinpoint Underlying Issues.
If you've always wanted to write and aren't doing it, invest some thought in figuring out the source of your writer's block
. Is it a fear of failure, a longstanding tendency to procrastinate, or something as simple as a lack of writing space
? If it's not immediately obvious what the block is, spend some time in the self-help aisle, or talk it over with a friend, a therapist, or life coach. As you begin to understand the things that prevent you from writing -- whether internal or external -- you can make a plan to overcome them.
2. Just Say "No."Time is limited, and for most people, the demands on their time are unlimited. "Once you've determined what you want to say yes to, the ability to say no becomes an important muscle to build," writes Cheryl Richardson in Take Time for Your Life. "If you don't say yes, the schedule doesn't fill. And if you say yes only to those things that you really want to do, you can avoid feeling frustrated or angry later . . . " While your writing time should not be the most important thing in your life, it should give way only for the most important things in your life. You might disappoint some people, but if you use tact, they'll get over it. In fact, it might give them permission to carve out space for something they really love, too.
3. Schedule Time to Write.It's not glamorous or exciting to adhere to a schedule, but it really does help. If you work full-time, it may actually be easier to establish a regular time each day in which to write. Get up early and write before you leave the house, take a notepad with you to lunch, or stop off at a coffee shop on your way home. Students may have a full day of the week to devote to creative writing. Stay-at-home moms and dads often rely on nap time. The schedule may evolve as your life changes, but most people get more done if they have a regular writing time. Make that time golden, as you would any important appointment. You'll feel better about yourself and your life if you know you're making time to write.
4. Resist the Impulse to Overdo It.If you're the kind of person who tends to throw yourself into a new project only to burn out after a week or two, consider giving yourself stop times for writing. Don't let yourself become obsessed in the beginning. Write for your hour or two and then continue with your daily routine. And all of us benefit from scheduling time for fun, even if it's only sneaking out to a movie or calling up an old friend. Remember that you're in it for the long haul, and that your mind needs time to replenish itself.
5. Know That It Won't Always Be Easy.You may be more tired at the end of the day. Some social obligations might get pushed aside. Your family might have to pitch in. Decide what you're willing to sacrifice for a few hours a week dedicated to writing. Most of us have obligations we can't avoid, but if you're determined, you can manage both. At the same time, be content with whatever you can realistically give to your writing. Even an hour a day adds up over time.
6. Find Resources to Help.
What you're trying to do isn't easy. Support yourself in as many ways as possible. Books on writing
can help, as does having a dedicated writing space
. And almost all writers benefit from some kind of writing community
. If other people you know are sacrificing aspects of their careers or social lives for creative endeavors, it will be easier to do it yourself. As with any lifestyle choice, associating with a few people who share your priorities and your struggles will help sustain you over time.