How do I find the time to write? It’s a common concern for busy people. Travel writer Chloe Winston, through her own trial and error, has found a way to make it work. She shares her techniques with you. Here’s how you can find time to write that novel, nonfiction book, poem, travel article…anything!
(And Happy Writing – using Chloe’s excellent advice).
Founder of Killer Nashville
Eons ago, when I was in high school, I bought a copy of Writers’ Digest, when it was a magazine about 5” x 7”. Encouraged to send an article to some magazine (time fogs memory), I took my pencil and yellow lined school notepad and wrote a story I sent to a romance magazine. (We’re talking real “yellow journalism” here!) Of course, I never heard from the magazine. My next excuse for not writing was that I “couldn’t find a good spot in which to write.” Then the author of Please Don’t Eat the Daisies confessed that she wrote sitting in the car after her family went to bed and before they got up. That took care of that excuse. And she didn’t even have a computer! (But she did have a book . . . and later a movie!)
But we continue to find reasons and excuses to postpone applying seat to chair…or car seat, if you prefer. This brings to mind the two most hated words in the English language for writers: time management. We all have the same 24-hour day and we all struggle with how to manage that time. There are tricks to reaching that goal. Let’s explore some.
“Time” calls for decision-making. Do you really want to write, be a writer? I heard, “yes.” So first get the family on board, then (and this is hard) look at your surroundings. What keeps us from writing? Dishes to do, clothes to iron, house to clean, checks to write. Consider paper plates during writing time, wash and wear clothes, paying a teenager to clean the house twice a month, and setting aside one hour a week or month to pay your bills. (Efficiency experts advise such bill-paying habits.) Maybe even rearrange your house to eliminate distractions. Have a garage sale to open up an area in which you can write. Donate excess stuff to a thrift shop. Now you are lean and mean. Now there are no more excuses.
Time to write also means considering how you organize your day around your writing. If I simply show up by sitting down at the computer, it’s amazing how much I can get done. Before you quit writing at night, leave your hero somewhere, doing something, with someone else keeping him from doing it or putting him in danger as he does it. This teases your reader into continuing to read. And it teases you to continue writing the next day. Your new chapter picks him up where you left off the night before.
You have that wonderful jazzy computer, and you have great ideas. Here’s something I forget to do: take time to lay out some rough idea of where you want the book, or article, or poem to go. (It sounds boring, uncreative…and changes as you go along, but it will save you more time/hair-pulling/discouragement down the line. This took me a long time to learn.)
Now with the family and house onboard, when have you found you write the best? Early morning? Late at night? I find that when I turn out the light and my head hits the pillow, I think of all sorts of things I want to add to my work. DO NOT believe that you’ll remember those amazing sentences in the morning. Get up, yes, right now, and scrawl the sentences on paper you have handy. (I buy lots of pens when stores have back-to-school-sales, enough pens that they are all over every level space in my office area and house. I also buy bright folders, catchy binders, and yellow tablets at the same time.)
Now there are no excuses for not keeping stuff in the right spot. This is important. It also took me a long time to learn. It means you can find your work-in-progress novel about Peru in the binder with the gypsy dancing on its cover or the short story is in the pastoral scene folder– without plowing through fifteen or twenty stacks of stuff in your writing area. Time saved for the #1 objective: writing.
If you live alone, all this is easy; if there’s a family involved, some negotiations have to take place. You’ve heard of the author who told her children that unless they were bleeding profusely, they couldn’t interrupt her while she’s writing. She’s on the right track to effective time management and family cooperation!
Finally, and most vital of all, commit a certain amount of time each day to your writing. Two hours out of 24 isn’t too much to ask, is it? Three’s even better, and when you’re on a roll, time means nothing. Maybe consider keeping two days a week open for your family or for yourself; pretend you’re working at a job downtown…five days is a usual work week. Try that. You’ll find your writing will sneak in; let it, then go on and enjoy your own time.
Travel writer and cruise destination lecturer (31 cruises), Chloe Ryan Winston continues to hone her writing skills in a hut on a hill in Northern California.
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