Originally published at Stuff Writers Like
Writers write, right?
Then why is it so hard to carve out time to follow your passion and to do what you do best? Why does it seem that your time is always being pulled in ten different directions? Why is it being intruded upon—by family, friends, and your own tendency to procrastinate?
We all need help protecting our writing time, like a pirate guarding stolen treasure. Here are 12 tips to make sure your writing time remains your writing time.
Define Your Writing Time
Before you can protect your writing time, you have to define it. Create a clear boundary between writing and not-writing.
1. Set aside regular time to write.
Consistency is key. Even if you can only find five minutes, use every one of those 300 seconds. Try to write at the same time each day, whether it’s eleven at night or five in the morning. Create a routine, and stick to it. Make your writing time sacred, and alter the rest of your routine to accommodate your writing.
2. Have a writing space.
Pick a spot, any spot. An office, a certain kitchen chair, the front porch, the top of the Empire State Building. Just choose somewhere to go, where you know and everyone else knows you are writing. You’re not playing Angry Birds or binge-watching Arrow. You’re forging sentences from words and paragraphs from sentences.
3. Have a routine.
In athletics, an important aspect of preparing for a game is having a routine to separate your athlete-self from every other aspect of yourself. For example, as a softball player, when I laced up my spikes I was no longer a student/daughter/friend/writer. I was a softball player, an athlete, and every single thought was related to playing ball. As a writer, it’s just as important to have a routine that lets your brain know it’s time to write. Maybe it’s logging into a separate account on your laptop. Maybe it’s sharpening your pencil or using a special pen. Give yourself a routine, and stick to it.
Protect It From Others
Ok, you’ve determined your writing time. But now, everyone is tugging at it! What do you do?
4. Don’t be afraid to say no.
It’s all right, really. You don’t have to go to every outing with your friends. You don’t have to see every movie in theaters. Yes, you need a life outside writing. But don’t let it encroach on your writing time. Saying no is ok.
5. Tell your friends and family.
To make saying no easier, let your loved ones into your routine! Tell them that when you’re sitting on the park bench with your hat on backwards, that means your writing. Tell them you’re working on a YA paranormal mystery with gothic elements, and let them get excited for you and your project. If you let them in, they will find it much easier to accept that your writing time is sacred because they will understand exactly why you’re turning down a chance to see the world’s largest cowboy boot.
6. Recognize that you own your time.
No matter how obligated you feel to the people in your life, your time is yours. You own it, and you get to decide how you use it. Never let anyone convince you otherwise.
Protect It From Yourself
All right, you’ve got your time. You’ve saved it from the hoards around you. You have one last villain from whom you must protect your precious writing time: yourself.
7. Be present. When you’re writing, write.
Don’t worry about the shopping list. Don’t think about what’s on TV tonight. Don’t worry about finding a cure for world hunger. When you’re writing, write. Don’t feel like you should be doing something else because you shouldn’t. When it’s time to write, that’s what you’re supposed to be doing. And you should never feel ashamed of setting aside that time.
8. Check your baggage at the door.
We’ve all got shit. Writers are people. I attended a lecture by the wonderful screenwriter, Lisa Soland, during which she said, “You're not a writer. You're a person that's experiencing life intensely." Writers often feel things very deeply, and that passion colors and informs their writing. But don’t let it become a distraction from your writing. I mentioned having a routine, something that helps you switch gears into writing-mode. Use that routine, that physical action, to mentally check everything else going on in your life. Let your writing be an escape.
9. Try the Pomodoro Technique.
If you find yourself slogging through writing sessions, try this technique. It involves breaking down tasks into twenty-five-minute intervals. It’s basically a HIIT (high intensity interval training) workout for your mind.
10. Recruit others to help you stay on track.
If you struggle with holding yourself accountable (be honest, we all do), become part of a community! Join the Community of Readers & Writers! Twitter, writing challenges (such as NaNoWriMo), and local writing groups are all great places to meet fellow writers and accountability partners. Commit to checking in with each other once a week or once a month. Share word counts, and keep each other on track! If you’re having trouble finding writers to help you out with this, email me! Seriously, this is key. Suzanne Lieurance calls them “accountabilibuddies,” and having one is probably the single most important thing you can do for your writing productivity.
11. Be structured, but don’t be a prison warden.
All of the previous tips are geared toward creating structure, but don’t lock yourself in a cage. You’ll burn out and come to resent your writing. That is the last thing you want to happen.
12. Make time for other things.
It makes #7 a hell of a lot easier. Make time to go to a baseball game or a movie. Go out with friends. Go to the park! If you’re an obsessive writer (ahem, like me), you might find yourself glued to your laptop for hours (Who am I kidding? More like weeks.) Don’t become a recluse. (That’s the word my mother uses.) Get out, and enjoy life! After all, you’ve got to live and have experiences in order to have something to write about.
I hope these tips help you define and protect your writing time—from the people around you and from yourself! Have you tried any of these? Do you have any tips I missed? Leave a comment!