Finding the Time to Write

With NaNoWriMo breathing down our necks, I wanted to talk briefly about something that is crucial to the success of any writer, but especially those of us doing a sprint across November, eeking out 50,000 words (or more!) in 30 days.

For me, there’s always been a particular type of anger that comes up whenever I read a book of writing advice that tries to give me pointers on how to find the time to write. The anger, naturally, stems from the inevitable process that’s outlined within its pages – write down what a week looks like for you and find empty blocks of time you can fill with writing. It’s a good strategy – if you have a consistent schedule week to week.

Me? I’m lucky. I get my schedule early Thursday for the following week. I get a whole four days to plan the next week out. My last job? I got the schedule on Saturday, midday if I were lucky, afternoon if not.

Of course, just having the luxury of a few extra days to plan out the week ahead isn’t enough – my schedule still varies wildly from week to week. While I rarely have to be at work before 10 a.m., I’m sometimes off work at 4, and other days I start at that time, not getting off until 11:30 or later. (To add to the frustration – one of the writing workbooks I used had a blank schedule you could fill in, and it didn’t extend past 9 p.m.!) And of course my days off vary as wildly as the rest of my schedule. There’s never telling when I’ll be scheduled for.

It felt silly to try and build a schedule when 13-14 hours of my days were set aside as potential hours I’d be working. A written schedule was clearly going to be a waste of time – I’d have to look for pockets of time that may not fall into the same time slot on a calendar, but still remained consistent week to week.

One of these pockets is my lunch break at work. I pretty consistently get shifts long enough to warrant a half-hour break where I can do whatever I want. A notebook and a pen allow me to make the most use of it.

Also, speaking of work, I tend to arrive early. I can eat food and chill in the lobby and enjoy the coffee-shop like environment without having to make a special trip – or pay out the nose for food and drinks. (Hey, I make minimum wage at my day job. Coffee shops are expensive to me.)

Buses and mass transit are my bread and butter for getting around town, and by some miracle, I don’t get car sick. So that half-hour ride just turned into 20 minutes of writing time, provided I find a seat.

Google Keep is my best friend – I can hash out plot points or a quick poem if I forgot my notebook and pen on my phone and re-open it with ease on my computer. It’s a lifesaver.

I’ve also learned to multitask like a pro.

Waiting for resources to accumulate in a video game? Alt-tab to Scrivener.

Watching Voyager with the boyfriend or Leverage with the girlfriend? I’m cuddled up with them with my laptop open and writing away.

Tea is steeping? I can eek out a few hundred words if I’m quick (or lose track of time and over-brew my tea).

Listening to podcasts or lectures? You guessed it!

I don’t have the ability to write in the shower, but believe me, I would if I could.

(And believe it or not, I accidentally composed a poem in my sleep the other night. It wasn’t very good, mind you, but that’s got to count for something, right?)

Try not to stress too much about creating precise time slots in which to write. Try instead to find holes in your schedule that crop up regularly, though maybe not in the same time slot, whether it’s your lunch break or the hour after you get off work, or your daily commute, or that half-hour soak in the tub that’s your only quiet time to yourself.

Originally posted on Tumblr.

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