Life is busy. It’s easy to get stumped on how to find time to write in the face of everything else that you have to do. Especially if you work full-time (or if you’re a parent!), setting aside that precious time to focus on your writing can become a real challenge.
The older I get, the more I feel the pressure of other responsibilities trying to get in the way of my writing time. It’s easy to allow it to happen, and once you do, your carefully-maintained writing habits can quickly become a thing of the past.
However, there are also some tried-and-true strategies for maintaining that writing habit, even when life demands more from you.
1. Identify distractions that hold you back from writing.
There are so many distractions in our world. Think about your daily habits. Do you come home and veg out on Netflix for 3 hours every night? Do you let yourself play Candy Crush even though you know it’s not productive?
Now, I’m not saying you should cut these things out of your life entirely. Particularly if you spend time doing these things often, you’ll want to leave room to keep doing them. But give yourself a set time for these activities so they don’t encroach on your writing time.
When I write, I only allow myself to have two browser tabs (music & a thesaurus) and one writing program (Write or Die, or Open Office) open at a time. This helps me focus on the writing itself, and prevents me from getting distracted by other things.
Oh, and do yourself a favor. Turn off your phone during writing time, or at least put your phone on silent. You’ll thank yourself for it later!
2. Set aside dedicated time for writing and treat it like your day job.
If you think you don’t have time to write, chances are you just aren’t making enough time.
Jot down your daily habits in the form of a schedule. This will help you identify times when you could be writing instead of doing something else. Particularly once you’ve limited distractions, finding time to set aside for writing becomes easier.
Don’t stress about giving yourself huge chunks of time to write. Rather, try to find 30 minutes to an hour each day, or every other day, that you can dedicate to writing.
The point is to make this a regular habit, so try to make your goal realistic.
Once you’ve decided on a goal, stick to it like you would get fired from your job if you didn’t. Treating your writing habits like your day job will help you create a more regular routine.
3. Let go of the guilt and perfectionism that can stop you from writing.
Do you ever think you’re not ready to start writing yet because it needs to be perfect and you’re just not there yet?
Or, do you stress out so much about the fact that you won’t meet your writing goal for the day, you just can’t bring yourself to even start writing?
Well, cut it out. I know it’s challenging to get past feeling like you shouldn’t even bother because it won’t be perfect, or you won’t meet your goals. But you have to stop guilting yourself into not writing.
Otherwise, you’ll never find time to write, because your time will be consumed with these worries.
Recognize that your writing will not be perfect the first time, or even the thousandth time. This is completely normal. It’s okay if it isn’t perfect today, or tomorrow, or even a year from now. But you won’t ever get there if you don’t get it onto paper first.
It’s also okay, and normal, to experience feelings of helplessness, frustration, and being lost in the writing process. Every writer on Earth has felt this, throughout all of
4. Ask yourself why you’re doing this. Why is writing so important to you?
If you just read Point #3 above, you may have already answered this for yourself.
Why are you doing this? Why do you want to write?
If it’s important enough, you’ll make time for it.
And if it’s that important to you, it’s not a bad idea to remind yourself why on a regular basis. Make yourself an inspiration board, or simply write it down and keep it on your fridge.
Whatever the method, remind yourself often why your writing matters. It can be motivating in those moments when you really don’t feel like making yourself write.
5. Create a routine to signal your brain it’s time to write.
Many writers have a creative routine that helps them maintain regular writing habits.
For me, making coffee and playing music helps me get into “writing mode.” I struggle to start writing without these factors, so I tend to carry headphones wherever I go. When I make writing pit stops, it’s often at a coffee shop, for this reason.
For others, it might be lighting a candle, or visualizing opening a “writing box” and closing the “everything else box.”
Think about your writing routine. Do you have one? How does it help you? How can you replicate the factors that help you write wherever you go?
If you don’t have a creative routine, think about the things that make you feel inspired. How can you incorporate those things into a daily routine to wake up your creative mind?
6. If you have kids, get creative about your writing habits and location to make more time.
If your kids are anything like mine, they like to button-mash your keyboard instead of letting you write. They could be playing outside together, perfectly content, but the moment you open your laptop, it’s all “
But you’re a parent, and if anyone is a master of distraction, it’s you.
I don’t do this as often as I used to, but when my kids were 2 and 3 years old, I used to take them to a restaurant with a PlayPlace a few days a week. I would bring my laptop and let my kids run wild where I could keep them corralled with minimal attention.
Of course, this only gave me an hour max to spend on writing, and some days my kids required more direct supervision. But it was a far cry from trying to get anything done at home, where the kids wanted non-stop attention from me.
I was always sure to reward them for good behavior, and I focused on spending extra time with the kids before and after the PlayPlace (otherwise, they wanted my attention at the PlayPlace, too).
If you don’t like fast food places (believe me, I don’t, but I learned to find the cleanest ones),
There’s even a coffee shop near me (ok, not so near me, or I would go there more often) that offers huge buckets of Legos and action figures for kids (and adults) to play with. The kids love going there while I write, and I’m usually able to write for at least an hour before they’re ready to leave.
7. Plan a business retreat to get in some extra writing time.
While letting the kids play at a PlayPlace can help you find time to write, there’s something to be said for 100% focus on your writing.
Particularly if you have a big project (hello, revisions!), the value of uninterrupted writing time can’t be overstated.
Staying in a hotel is by far the easiest way to get some much-needed alone time with your book. But writing retreats don’t have to be expensive. Once, I scheduled a writing retreat for a single day.
I left my house at 7 am, (you might be saying “yuck,” but at the time I was working at 5:30 am every day, so 7 wasn’t bad), equipped with my laptop, charger, headphones, writing
This particular retreat was spent in the Salt Lake City Library, which is eye-catching enough to inspire even the most stuck novelist. The plan was to sit on the rooftop garden to write, but unfortunately, it rained that day. Instead, I sat next to one of the library’s many fireplaces.
There’s even a Dunkin Doughnuts across the street from the library, so when I ran out of coffee, I just crossed the street and took a quick break. (I drink a lot of coffee, okay? Don’t judge me).
Writing retreats can last several days or several hours. I will say that I’ve been most effective when I schedule at least an entire day or two. I also find that I’m more productive when I’m feeling inspired (you know, when you feel like you can’t sit still at work because your brain’s about to burst?), but that’s just me. It’s up to you and what you can fit into your schedule.
8. Create extra time in your day to write by waking up early or staying up late.
Yeah, yeah. The classic “successful people wake up at 4 am” garbage.
Truth: you don’t have to wake up at 4 am to be successful (J.K. Rowling says so).
But you do have to budget your time. Maybe you’re like me and you stay up until midnight watching Netflix on a weeknight when you know you shouldn’t.
Then, you roll out of bed and get to work on time (barely). You work, rush home, make dinner, do laundry, then collapse on the couch. At this point, your willpower is effectively gone, and you end up watching Netflix until midnight again.
Rinse and repeat.
It’s not that there isn’t time to write. It’s that you weren’t being mindful about how you spent your time.
Whenever I find myself wondering how to find time to write, I usually realize I haven’t been getting enough sleep. So, I start going to bed earlier and getting up earlier (not at 4 am though). I get my writing done first thing in the
It’s not that there’s any more or less time in my day than there was before. But suddenly, when I start budgeting my time toward the things that are most important, I’m able to find time to write again.
9. Planning ahead in other areas of your life helps you make enough time to write each day.
Meal prep. Cleaning. Grocery shopping. Bills. One-time events.
All of these are factors that regularly get in the way of my writing time.
Some of this comes back to budgeting time again. Whenever I’m able to get on top of how I use my time, I also find myself scrutinizing the things on which I spend my time.
When I’m behind on cleaning, I struggle to focus on writing time. Often, I feel that I can’t start writing until the chores are caught up. Then, before I know it, my entire day is gone (but my house is clean!)
Being a little more disciplined with doing chores every day (Every. Single. Day.) helps me free up my time and energy during the weekend.
I’ve even started using curbside pick up at the grocery store more often. See, I had an epiphany the other day–I realized it takes me, literally, two hours to go grocery shopping. But it only takes 30 minutes to order my groceries online, and another 5-10 minutes to pick up at the curb.
10. Focus on the things that are truly important in your life, not just writing.
We’ve talked a lot about the importance of writing, and how to find time to write.
But the truth is, there are plenty of things that are more important than writing in your life. Maybe it’s spending time with loved ones, or practicing self-care.
Even Stephen King agrees that writing shouldn’t consume all of your time.
“It starts with this: put your desk in the corner, and every time you sit down there to write, remind yourself why it isn’t in the middle of the room. Life isn’t a support system for art. It’s the other way around.”
― Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
And the fact is, just like with everything else, if you make time in your life to fill your cup and take a break from writing, it will be more fulfilling when you do sit down to write.
I look at it this way: My writing means nothing to me–being a successful author means nothing to me–if it comes at the expense of my family and my relationships.
When you dedicate time to friends & family, you enable them to support your writing habits.
Many writers will agree that getting support from friends and family can make a huge difference in your ability to write consistently.
However, your friends and family are more likely to be supportive if they don’t feel that your writing habits make you avoid the people who matter in your life. When the people closest to you feel fulfilled by your relationship, they’ll feel enabled to be supportive.
(Chances are, if you fill their cup, they’ll fill yours!)
Note: This principle doesn’t apply to toxic influences in your life. If there are people around you who consistently demean your work or discourage you from doing what you love, nothing in the world can make them support you. In that case, it might be time to make a change.
Don’t wait to start changing your writing habits. Set aside time to write today!
Do you ever make a New Year’s resolution to work out more often, but you keep telling yourself, “I’ll start tomorrow”?
Writing is a workout for your brain. It’s hard. Sometimes, it’s painful. And it’s much harder to get started if you’re out of practice.
Increase your chances of making more time to write every day by starting now. If you fail miserably, start again, and keep pushing. And who knows? Maybe you’ll build up your writing stamina in time to join Camp NaNoWriMo!