Making time to write can be difficult. For one thing, writers either work full-time and have to fit writing into their “spare” time, or they write full-time, most likely from home, where the daily distractions are hard to overcome. As a writer, how do you get more “butt-in-chair” time? And how do you make the most efficient use of that time?
Identify the things that distract you from writing.
For some this may be a dirty kitchen or a mountain of laundry. For others the telephone is the biggest problem. Once you’ve identified your distractions, you can make moves to minimize them. Use an answering machine, close the door, or schedule a specific time to tackle the laundry. Do not feel guilty for devoting time to your craft!
Email and Internet surfing can also eat up valuable writing time. There are legitimate “writing” reasons to use the Internet, but, if possible, do research and writing-related emailing in a separate block of time. Give yourself specific times to check for incoming mail or catch up on your favorite blogs, and stick to a time limit. (For more, see our article on Wasting Time: Procrastination Problems for Writers.)
Find your optimum writing time.
Some people write best in the wee hours of the morning, while the muse hits others in the evening. Schedule your most productive hours on a calendar and make this prime writing time your own. If you are only able to grab bits and pieces of time here and there, make the most of those episodes—give yourself one task to tackle, and do not deviate from it. If you are hit with inspiration anytime in between, carry a notebook so you don’t lose those ideas.
Gather your materials before you begin writing and organize your workspace. (It’s hard to be productive when you can’t find a new ink cartridge or a thesaurus.) And sometimes organizing your physical surroundings can help your thoughts smooth themselves out.
Consolidate your errands. Set aside a specific time just for shopping, returning library books, or picking up the dry cleaning. If you are in charge of family meals, make a weekly menu and do your grocery shopping all at once. Those little jaunts add up and really cut into writing time.
Set goals. Take advantage of calendars and day planners. There are many electronic organizational tools available, and most email programs have a schedule function. A simple desk calendar might do the trick too. Whatever helps you see the big picture.
The writer’s to-do list.
Make two lists: a master list for big-picture tasks like “Find a literary agent,” and a second list that breaks down tasks into manageable chunks, like “Get latest copy of Writer’s Market.” Keep a running list or create a new one each day. Sometimes filling out your to-do list for the next day keeps those nagging thoughts from disturbing your sleep, and you can wake up fresh, with your day outlined.
Note: Be realistic about your list, or you may find yourself frustrated!
And, finally, make time to write every day. If you’re burned out, write just a few sentences or set a timer and write for five minutes. This will often lead to more enjoyable minutes spent honing your craft. Watching your writing improve is an added bonus.
If you want to make more time for writing, Writer’s Relief can help you get organized and increase your productivity—we take the tedious legwork out of the submission process so you can get more butt-in-chair time!
QUESTION: What daily tasks or distractions take you away from your writing?
I am always getting distrated by other crafts–painting, needle work, music…I’m a really creative person so I’m always working on a lot of things at once. But I figure it’s okay because all the other things that I’m doing will feed back into my writing.
I’m constantly getting distracted by my surroundings. It’s especially bad when I’m trying to write but thinking about other things. I find that listening to music actually helps get me ‘in the zone’. I tend not to focus on the other things that are on my mind when I have my “writing” playlist on. It’s like muscle memory, my brain knows it’s time to write when it hears my writing music.
TV!! I like to have the TV on when I’m home because the background noise is comforting, and I sometimes hesitate to put on music, because that can affect my mood and bias my writing. But I should be putting on something boring, like the news, but I always put on something I’d want to watch, and then end up spending half my time looking up from my laptop/notebook to see what’s going on.
The only thing that gets in my way is life! It’s time to fetch the kids from school, the car needs gas, the fridge is empty, I’ve a class to teach, I should call my grandmother, my husband wants to go out for dinner… My goal in 2014 is to set aside at least 2 hours a day to write. Life means these 2 hours might not be at the same time every day, or indeed even within the same 2 hours, but before I turn off the light at night, I must have scheduled in my 2 hours for the next day. Good luck to me!