Here are a few things I’ve learned over the years of writing and working that you may find helpful…
1. Assess your daily activities and prioritize.
Here’s the bad news: you can’t get it all done. It’s simply not possible. So go easy on yourself and set realistic expectations. If you’re going to add writing to your day, something else probably has to go away or shift lower on the priority scale. Consider the importance of writing in your life. What ranks beneath it in priority? Watching television? Doing laundry?
A hundred years from now, no one will ever see your name and say, "Wow. She saw every episode of Sex and The City three times, and she never left a dirty dish in the sink overnight." But they might say, "Wow. She wrote a book." My intention is not to disparage television or household chores, but merely to point out that we sometimes assign them an importance they don’t always deserve. If you really want to write, you should write. The reruns and dinner dishes aren’t going anywhere.
2. Use your commute.
Depending on where you live, this may or may not be as helpful to you. I spend about an hour and half in the car every day, going to and from work. That’s an hour and a half that belongs to me. Do what you can to reclaim that commute time. Take the train and bring your laptop, if you can.
Or, if you have to drive, try thinking about your story instead of the workday ahead of you. Sometimes your mind needs time to wander in order to discover that next plot twist or new character. Imagine the next scene or keep reworking that troublesome chapter in your head. Maybe burn a CD or make a mix tape (yeah, I’m that old) of songs that remind you of your story or character. Get lost in your story’s soundtrack, and see what happens next. Keep a notebook available to jot down notes at red lights, or better yet, get one of those little handheld voice recorders.
3. Look for wasted time and use it.
In the history of corporate America, no meeting has ever started on time. Use the few minutes of milling around time at the start of every meeting to make some notes about your story or create a list of research questions. The added bonus is that, unless someone gets close enough to read what you’re writing, you look like an industrious worker bee taking notes before the meeting even starts.
We spend a lot of our lives waiting in line, too. Keep your notebook with you so that you can take advantage of these stolen moments. Index cards can also work well for this purpose.
4. Lunchtime is your time.
Reclaim your lunch hour. Even if you can’t use it for writing or writing-related work every day, even once or twice a week will help. If you don’t feel comfortable writing at work (I, for one, don’t, but other authors do), bring in printed pages to edit, make notes on forthcoming scenes, or use the internet to address some research questions.
5. Write in your head first.
You probably already know this, but most of writing actually takes place in your head. The act of putting it on the computer or the pad of paper is secondary to knowing what happens next in the story. So, think about your story whenever you can. That way, when you sit down to type on the computer or write longhand, the words are right there, ready to roll out onto the page.
6. Schedule time for writing.
We schedule all the other important activities in our lives, why not writing? The common misconception is that writers only write when inspiration moves them, but that is not very practical in practice, particularly for writers who have work and family obligations. Find the time of day that works best for you, and show up…every day. Mark your daily writing appointment in your calendar, if you think that might help.
7. Communicate with other family members.
Writing can be a solitary profession, but sometimes, it isn’t solitary enough. Most likely you have family, friends, pets and neighbors who miss you while you’re at work during the day, and they want to spend time with you when you’re home. If you suddenly disappear for two hours behind your computer every night and don’t explain why, they’ll likely be hurt or confused. Be upfront about your writing goals, but make sure you understand what they need from you and when they need it. Making writing a priority doesn’t give you permission to write off everyone and everything else in your life.
8. Make a promise to yourself.
This is probably both the easiest and hardest thing to do. After all, it’s very easy to promise ourselves something and just as easy to break that promise…even while we kill ourselves to keep our commitments to other people. If writing fulfills you in some way—as it does for most of us, or else we wouldn’t do it—and you want to do more of it, then you must make it a priority for yourself. Time is like money. You’ll never have enough of it. So, you have to make the time you have stretch to meet your needs.
Stacey Klemstein is a novelist and an award-winning copywriter. Her sci-fi romance, THE SILVER SPOON, was released in September 2004 (RuneStone Publishing), and she’s currently working on the sequel. Stacey lives in the Chicago suburbs with her husband and two retired racing greyhounds.
Visit her website at www.staceyklemstein.com to read a free excerpt of her book or to check out her blog, MY DAILY DIATRIBE.