It’s nice to imagine that when we sit down to write our book we can treat it like a full-time job. For most writers, this isn’t even remotely close to being a viable option, especially for first-time authors. It takes a long time for an author to support themselves fully on writing alone. So the more common reality is a book that’s begging to be written paired with a job that pays the bills.
Even if you don’t have a full-time job commitment, there are all sorts of events and demands that vie for a writer’s time. Maintaining hobbies and classes, keeping up on responsibilities, people wanting you to leave your desk and open Christmas presents. I mean, the demands can be just unreasonable! Ask any writer who seems further in the process than you and one of their go-to pieces of advice will be “Make time to write.”.
So what does that actually look like? Obviously, it’s different for every writer, the same as any part of the writing process. There is one thing you need to know to start, though.
What’s the biggest threat to my writing time?
If you don’t know specifically what’s threatening your book writing time, you won’t have much chance of protecting it. Take the time to figure out what’s the biggest threat to your writing time and then get to work conquering it. For me, I’ve learned that I am my own greatest threat to book writing time. Little old me. I know myself well enough to recognize that I’m an easily distracted person. The discipline of sitting down to write is a hard-won effort. Sure, there are plenty of other things making demands on my time, but they still leave me with ample book writing opportunities. It’s getting myself to stay focused and committed that’s the trick.
So how do I protect my writing time? It’s been a long process of trial and error (as almost any part of writing a book is), but I’ve developed some simple strategies to ensure that my writing time is not falling by the wayside.
Learn to say no
I love being spontaneous and I love taking advantage of simple adventures in my day. It’s part of what makes me “me”. But if I’m not careful, I have the tendency to get lost down all sorts of rabbit holes of fun and lose track of writing time. So you have to learn to just say no sometimes, no matter how simple it seems to just cave in.
People won’t always understand why you’re saying no to them in favor of writing time. Say no anyway. If it’s in your scheduled writing time and they’re not in jeopardy if you don’t make it, you don’t have to give up your time. Don’t become a hermit who never leaves the house or anything like that, just set aside some protected, dedicated time.
If you only have an hour, protect that hour. It’s just one hour out of a dozen others. You can move it around to somewhere that fits better in the day, sure. I often move my writing time around in my day, but I never do that without knowing there’s somewhere else in the schedule I can place writing time. But when it gets down to the wire and I have nowhere else I can move my writing time, I start saying no to stuff. Even if *I* really wanted to go to that place or do that thing. Discipline isn’t cheap.
Set a weekly goal
This is the most helpful strategy I use to keep myself on target. It doesn’t have to be a one size fits all kind of goal. Some authors like a page count, others count words. Some set writing time goals, authors base their goals off of content. It’s different for everyone. For me, I like setting a weekly word count for myself.
I say weekly because it’s important to give myself grace in the book writing process. In the past, I’ve set daily word count goals and have ended up beating myself up if I didn’t make them. I’d feel like I wasn’t making par and it was a recipe for slowing the creative process down. By changing to a weekly word count, I’ve given myself some wiggle room to have an off day and celebrate going above and beyond on other days.
A word count works for me because it turns an idea that would feel like a chore into a game, which is a key factor in keeping me focused. Turning something into a game is a sure fire way to get me to do something I’m not excited about. Every week I push myself to make it to the word count, and therefore keep turning out children’s fiction. It’s an easy goal to set, but a much harder one to complete, which is exactly the kind of challenge an author needs.
Don’t wait for inspiration
I can not say this enough. If you wait for the moment of inspiration to hit you will be waiting forever. It’s just not coming. Inspiration in writing is less the norm and more a lovely unexpected bonus that comes around from time to time. If books were written by the availability of inspiration, we’d have never seen some of our favorite classics. Inspiration is nice, but it’s not the meat of writing. Discipline is.
I don’t mean you need to talk to yourself like you’re a rigid drill sergeant with a chip on his shoulder. I just mean that to write a book you need to write, no matter the current circumstances or mood. Just start writing, even if you feel everything you’re putting on the page is plain poo. That’s what editing is for. A lack of inspiration is not an indication of failure, it’s just another hurdle in your way. The truth of the matter is that inspiration usually waits until you’re actually writing to start bubbling and frothing. If you can just get yourself to start you’ll quickly see just how much falls into place.
While not every writer can carve out a full day to write their book, there’s always time to do some writing. At the end of the day, it just takes a little extra fancy footwork on the part of the writer to learn how to get it. There will always be demands on our time, but for the zany, hairbrained writers of the world, it’s worth pushing back a little bit to carve out the time.
Let’s find some joy,