Making time to write can be challenging, we all know that. I don't have children but I do have a full time job, a husband, two pets, and a propensity to procrastinate.
The thing is, for most of us, writing requires a level of solitude. Even if you work best in a buzzing cafe surrounded by people, chances are you don't want to be having a conversation with those people – they are there to serve as background noise. So, resisting the urge to play fetch with the dog, or watch Making a Murderer with your husband, and squirrelling yourself away to write can be tough. Especially when it requires regular effort; momentum is easily lost if you leave too much time between sessions.
If you're struggling to squeeze writing into your life, here are a few tips, from me to you:
1. Tell your loved ones why you need space to write.
You don't have to tell them what you're writing about – us authors can be precious about things like that – just tell them how important it is for you to have some time, each day, to work on your craft. Even if it's just a small amount of time. Think about it: it's far better – and more productive – for you to sit in your garden shed for one solid hour, tapping away on your laptop, than to spend three distracted hours half-watching TV and grunting instead of conversing while you fail to write a decent sentence.
2. Decide when you will write.
Maybe you're an early bird, or perhaps there's a window of time after you put the children to bed. Pick a spot in your day where writing can happen and try to weave it into your routine. It's not always possible to stick to a schedule, but if the people around you get used to you taking a block of time out to write, they will soon find ways to amuse themselves, and may even help to keep you on track.
3. Decide where you will write.
Writing is a very personal experience. Even if we are writing fantasy fiction, we are still pouring the contents of our heart and soul onto the page. This makes us feel vulnerable. So, decide where you feel comfortable writing and make it into a space that relaxes you. If possible, pick a spot where you will only write – nothing else. This is particularly difficult for me, because my day-job involves working from home a couple of days a week. On these days I work upstairs in our study, where I have my laptop, printer, big screen monitor, etc. all set up. So, it's not the ideal place to distance myself and channel creativity. It's a work in progress, and will involve depriving the dog of her own personal sofa, but my plan is to remove the spare couch from our downstairs 'piano room' and insert a small writing desk. It's my favourite room in the house because it has a big window, is always sunny, and is home to our expansive book collection. So it's the ideal place to feel 'inspired'.
4. Once you have your writing spot, make it yours.
Try making a good old fashioned, physical, pin-board with postcards and quotes that inspire you. Add some pictures of your family, pets, friends... anything that makes you smile when you're having a doubtful moment.
5. Goals for the week.
Giving yourself goals can be extremely useful, as long as you don't beat yourself up if you don't manage to make them happen. You can shift your goals as you go along, but if you start each week knowing what you would like to have achieved by the end of it, it will help you to stay on track.
For example, this week my goal was to write 4,500 words, finish my character backstories, and fill in the plot points for the middle of my novel. Remember to keep you goals realistic – don't set yourself a target of 1,000 words a day if you know it's not possible. Try 500 words, or 100 words... they will all add up. It's also handy to have an overall goal so that you know what you are working towards long-term. My 'big goal' is to have my first draft finished by my 30th birthday, which is 8th June this year, in case anyone wants to send me a card.
6. Writing isn't just about writing.
As much as we would like it to be, authoring isn't just about writing beautiful prose. It's about planning, research, drafting, redrafting, editing, reading, admin, and – dreaded word – marketing. Whether your aim is to find yourself a literary agent, or to self-publish, you will need an author presence.We'll cover this more in a later post but, in essence, you will need to spend time before your novel is finished, building up an audience. You will also need time for research, planning, etc.
The way I break up my week goes like so:
Lunch times – my lunch breaks are spent working on blog ideas and social media-ing.
Evenings – I read, plan, research and, sometimes, edit (I am trying to resist this until the first draft is complete).
Weekends – actual writing.
This works for me, because:
Having a focus for my lunch breaks forces me to actually take one!
Research and planning can take place in small spurts, so half an hour after dinner on a weeknight leaves time for socialising with Mr T, and still achieves a fair bit.
Weekends in our house are for 'down time'. Mr T is a teacher and often has quite a bit of lesson planning or marking to do, so it's a good time to 'create' in peace and quiet.
7. Stop feeling guilty!
Would you feel guilty if you were spending an hour a day exercising? What if you were getting paid for doing overtime? No. Probably not. So, stop feeling guilty for spending time working on your craft! Most of us write because we have a need to write. It makes us feel good. Without it, we get grouchy and pent-up. And remember that if you are healthy, happy and proud of yourself, the people around you will benefit from it. Also, if you're lucky your next novel may result in a little extra income. So, accept that writing is an essential part of your life and don't apologise for it!
What do you do to make time for writing? As always, i'd love to hear from you so do comment/email your ideas. And remember, if you don't have time to read and take this all in now - save it and come back to it. In fact, let's call that our bonus tip:
File advice and tips somewhere you can come back to them: you never know when you might need them! Pinterest is great for this, but use whatever method suits you: bookmarks in your browser, an app on your iPhone, even a good old fashioned notebook.