How I make time to write

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Trying to find time to write is one of the main ways I learned time management, which I went on to teach to college students for over twenty years. I thought I might share some of the strategies that helped me most, with the YMMV caveat (Your Mileage May Vary, that is, your experiences may be different).

1. Write every day. If possible, save one specific time each day to write. Or vow to squeeze in at least fifteen minutes every day.

The power of daily practice amazes me. When I write every day, I find myself solving problems in between writing sessions; little ideas or insights appear as if by magic as I do random activities such as washing the laundry or picking up the kids from school. If I spend time with a writing project every day, the project itself begins to marinate, and even the time in between writing becomes fruitful.

I have also noticed that writing each day makes it easier for me to write.

Note: In order for me to implement this habit, I have to accept that my daily writing results may be meager. On some days, I might put in ten minutes just to honor the commitment. Or I might write for a decent amount of time, but I accept that what I am writing is mostly a warm-up rather than anything worth saving.

2. Identify then eliminate/avoid time wasters.

This was the most helpful strategy for me. A time waster is any activity that takes up time that I did not mean to spend in that way at that moment or that I did not mean to spend as much time doing.

My best example is when I first started teaching full-time, and I identified 8 pm each evening as my “time to write.” Weeks passed. “Why am I not writing?” I asked myself. I replayed my evenings in my mind and saw myself turning on the TV just around 8 pm “for a minute.” The next thing I knew, hours had passed.

So I tried this experiment: Don’t turn on the TV. Don’t go near the couch. Sit down in front of my computer or journal. Suddenly, I was writing every night.

So I tried this experiment: Don’t turn on the TV. Don’t go near the couch. Sit down in front of my computer or journal. Suddenly, I was writing every night.

A miracle.

3. Don’t wait for inspiration. Don’t try to get the perfect mood or atmosphere for writing. Just write.

I admit I love to indulge myself in writerly treats—a beautiful journal, a cool writing app, a well-stocked desk. But I don’t need any of these things to write. I don’t even need to be in the mood to write. Once I learned that, I spent far more time writing.

4. Identify a portable system to capture ideas on the go. A scrap of paper works as well as a high tech gizmo. Just make sure you have it with you at all times.

Some of my best ideas come to me when I am far from my writing tools. It has been difficult to make myself record these ideas as they arise because I am so sure I will remember that great idea later. Spoiler alert: I don’t/I won’t. So now I always have something with me to capture ideas, which is also a way to sneak in more writing time without even realizing it.

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