On Track, Module #5, Part #1: Making Time to Write

Recap: In the last module, we covered ways to plan different types of writing projects (including fiction, non-fiction, and blogs) and looked at different planning techniques. Hopefully, you spent 30 minutes or so planning the rest of your project.

We touched on drafts in Module #2, when we looked at mapping out the milestones of a project. In this module, we’re going to take an in-depth look at how first drafts require different techniques from final, polished pieces of writing, and we’re going to examine some of the potential stumbling-blocks on the route from first draft to finished piece.

By now, you’ve probably noticed that life has a tendency to get into the way of your writing. It’s incredibly easy to let days, weeks, months – even years – slip by without ever working on that project which you’ve got tucked away in a drawer.

We’re more than half way through On Track now, and so I hope you’re getting into a good writing routine. I know that it’s all too easy to let good habits slide, though – so today we’re going to start by looking at some ways to carve out time for writing when life is busy.

Image from Flickr by Earls37a

Making Time to Write

I’d love to wave a magic wand and take away all the distractions and unwanted commitments in your life – but I can’t do that. What I can do is share some tips on what works for other busy writers.

  • Learn to say “no”. Turn down commitments that you don’t want. In particular, say “no” to anything which is going to interfere with your writing – if you’re being asked to write for free, for instance, and it’s going to take up time you could spend on paid work.

If you find it particularly difficult to say “no” to someone (perhaps they’re pressuring you), then at least buy some time. Explain that you’re particularly busy right now, but you’d be happy to reconsider in a few months. This means they’re responsible for remembering to ask you again … and they’ll probably find a different solution in the meantime.

  • Find a regular time slot for writing. This always used to be mornings for me, but now I have my daughter Kitty, it’s a bit more flexible! You don’t have to write at the exact same time every day, but it’s helpful if you’ve got at least a somewhat consistent routine. If you’re not sure what your best writing time is, go back to the second part of Module #3.

You don’t need to have a whole morning or afternoon to write, either. It’s great if you do – but even just twenty minutes a day is enough to make steady progress on a big project.

  • Find a good place to write. If it’s next to impossible to write at home because of your kids/partner/housemates/pets etc, then get out to a coffee shop or library. One focused hour’s writing will result in stronger work than three hours spent trying to write through constant distractions and interruptions.

If you write at home, find a space which you can reliably use. It needn’t be a whole room, but it should be somewhere that’s physically and emotionally comfortable: you might find, for instance, that you can’t write when other people can see your screen.

  • Keep a time log. For one week, write down everything you do. You could do this with a notebook, jotting down “9.15am – wrote blog post” “10.00am – checked emails” – and so on, or you could mark out a spreadsheet in fifteen minute intervals and write down what you did during each, using ditto marks where you continued with the same task as before.

This gives you a very clear picture of areas which are taking up a lot more time than you realise, plus having to write down what you’re doing helps you stay on track.

I don’t know what exact situations you’re facing in your life, but my guess is that you have a pretty good idea of what needs to be done to start freeing up decent chunks of quality time for your writing. Find a way, this week, to start giving your writing more priority.

And once you’ve got the time, the trick is to … actually write.

>> Click here to go to part two, where we’ll be looking at first drafts and second drafts