A very typical response to telling someone you’re an author is, “I’ve always wanted to write a book.” A lot of people ask where I find the time to churn out words. The truth is, and I’ve said this before, we make time for the things we want to fit into our lives.
I have friends who write on their thirty-minute lunch breaks, my daughter writes on her phone sometimes when we’re in the car (I’m driving), and there are those unicorns I can’t believe exist who write at 5 a.m.
We are a very busy group of people, trying to slate in work, pleasure, socialization (for the non-introverts out there), and maybe even, a little down time. So, if you really want to write, you’re really committed to it, how can you fit it in around all of the other things you have to do.
There are a few tips and techniques I’ve tried, recommended by friends who somehow seem to juggle it all. One of those, I got from writer, Dylann Crush. I know she got it from someone else—writers are cool sharers that way.
The technique is to set a ten-minute timer. Write hard, don’t stop, don’t correct, don’t re-read. Just write. When the timer goes, set it for five minutes. Do whatever you want. Run get a drink, play on social media, stare at the wall. Whatever you want. When that timer goes, repeat the process. When I heard about this, I thought there was no way I’d get any amount of words down.
Since I was currently doing twenty minutes on social media to three lines of writing, it didn’t seem like a bad idea to try. You’d be surprised how many words you can pull off in mini sprints.
Speaking of sprints, I wrote a whole book doing these, online, with friends. I haven’t done one in a really long time but I remember feeling incredibly connected and productive when I did. Someone on Twitter would give a shout out, say they were writing for the next hour and invite others in. It’s an incredibly effective way to build your online community of support.
You check in with others on how many words you wrote (or edited) in that amount of time. My book, Falling for Home, was written thanks to writing sprints.
When I’m not creating new worlds and mushy moments, I’m a teacher. As such, I attend a fair amount of professional development. The connect between productivity in writing and ways to impact students is fairly strong. Students learn and perform better in small, interactive chunks of time. So do we.
Ever gone to a meeting that you felt would never end? Did you try to keep yourself awake by doodling, planning dinner in your head, or catching the eye of someone across the table who understood your boredom. I’m hopeful this isn’t how my students feel each day but I try to be proactive rather than reactive. Which is also a good plan for your writing.
Allot small chunks of time. Under thirty minutes. Give yourself a goal—something tangible. Five hundred words. Fifty words. It doesn’t matter. The point is, keep your brain actively engaged in the task for the set amount of time, then take a break. That productivity will fuel you for the next chunk of time. If you can’t fit it in that day, it’s okay.
Another connection between writing and teaching is recognizing that like students, every writer is a unique individual with their own background story. For some writers, five hundred words in a week is fantastic. For others, five hundred in a half hour is the norm. It doesn’t matter what others are doing. If you want to write, you have to fit it into your life in the way that best suits you.
If I were to go to the gym (insert laughter), I wouldn’t expect to keep up with the woman on the treadmill next to me who clearly attends every day. Likewise, if I was going faster than the seventy-five- year-old woman on my other side (I’m not sure I would be), it wouldn’t matter. Because no one’s journey is yours. Writing fits into my life because I make it work in a way that suits me, my family, our needs and our lives.
You want to write a book? Write it. Get words down. The incomparable Nora Roberts says, “A writer never finds the time to write. A writer makes it.” Regardless of how you find the time, the way you get the words onto the page—dictation, scrawling on a notepad, a laptop, whatever—the only way to publish a book, is to write the words.