Recently, I attended the premiere of a film about extreme athletes (Don’t Crack Under Pressure—I highly recommend it). I was impressed by the feats they have achieved, but also impressed with the passion they have, which sustains them and keeps them going. Even after breaking two legs, a skier comes back a year later to tackle a difficult mountain. A surfer almost drowns after being pounded by three massive waves. He is hesitant to go out again, but he does.
If you are a writer, you have a passion for writing. At times, it may take over your life. Other times, you struggle to fit it into the rest of your life. Here are 10 tips to help you when it comes to writing time. Surf’s up, so ride those waves of creativity!
1) Make writing your job. Schedule a time as if you were going to an out-of-the-house job. Don’t wait for the muse to show up; sit down and write at whatever time you have set aside for writing. I find it helps to use an online time tracker, such as toggl.
2) Start with half an hour a day, if that’s all you have. Build it up to an hour, then two hours, as you have time. A novel can be written in even that short amount of time. I’ve heard of authors with young children who only had 15 minutes a day some days—and made that work.
3) Once you have a schedule, don’t miss more than two days in a row. If you do so, you start a new—bad—habit, and it becomes easier to miss another day and another day.
4) Create a ritual. My ritual begins with making myself a cup of Earl Grey tea (the first of many throughout the day). My first hour is often spent answering emails before editing or doing other work. Some writers say they spend half an hour reading poetry before writing. Others may spend the first hour doing research, or reviewing what they wrote the day before. Some do free writing—a way to warm up before doing the actual writing at hand.
5) Set daily word count goals. If you are looking to write an 80,000-word novel, then break it down to how many words you need to write to finish the book in, say, six months. Make sure to build in time for editing and revising, if you hope to submit it to an agent by a certain date.
6) Set deadlines. Even if it is an arbitrary deadline—I’m going to start submitting this novel in six months—make sure you have a date in mind. Deadlines are great motivators!
7) Work with a partner. One author I know is part of a two-person team. Each week, she and her partner exchange what they have written for the week. This makes you accountable to someone else, and will spur you to write. You can also join critique groups or writing groups that meet monthly.
8) Turn off the Internet. Some writers have had to set Internet blockers in order to stay off Facebook or Twitter. It’s too easy to say you are just going to check Facebook for five minutes—only to look up an hour later. Some restriction apps are Cold Turkey, Freedom, Anti-Social, RescueTime, and LeechBlock.
9) Get out of the house. If you absolutely can’t work at home because of too many distractions—from family members to piled-up laundry—then get out of the house. Write at a Starbucks or find working spaces that rent by the hour. Some authors, such as Maya Angelou and JK Rowling, have even gone to the extreme of renting hotel rooms!
10) Plan what you are doing the next day. This can be as simple as writing a few words on a notepad you keep at your desk. When you come back to your desk the next day, you have a plan set for you.
Lourdes Venard is a freelance editor and copyediting instructor.