Time. That elusive substance we all need more of (even as we waste what we have on browsing through funny cat pictures). Don’t you wish you could sit down at your computer and type away for six or eight hours a day? Surely that’s what serious writers do.
The thing is, most of us still have to earn a living, maintain a household, or both. But the desire to write doesn’t just go away. So how do we squeeze in writing time and still be in our boss’s/family’s good books?
If They Can Do It…
Stephen King wrote Carrie while he was still teaching English to high school students. He would go home at night and place his notepad on a board on his lap because there was no room for a desk their mobile home.
William Golding was one up on King, and wrote Lord of the Flies while his students were quietly completing the assignments that he would give them to do.
Margaret Mitchell, author of Gone with the Wind, wrote while she cleaned her house. Apparently, she kept a notebook under her apron and would scribble between chores.
John Grisham was still a busy lawyer in a law firm before his second book, The Firm, became a blockbuster and brought in enough money so that he could turn to full-time writing. He would arrive at his law office at five in the morning, six days a week, and work on his writing.
… So Can You!
What we learn from these great authors is that when you have made writing your priority, nothing much will stop you from writing. But you can’t skip that first and ultimate step. You must make writing your priority and respect that priority. Here are a few pointers that may be of help:
Break it up: If you write only 250 words every day (that’s half this post), you will complete an unedited 90k-word novel in only ONE YEAR.1 Write 500 words per day, and within that year you can spend six months editing and polishing it. Careful not to set unrealistic goals; they will only frustrate you. Choose a mild, achievable word count, and stick to it. Try to hit it every day.
Keep a notebook with you AT ALL TIMES. And then make a point of writing something (anything) in it at every opportunity: during lunch at the office, while waiting for someone, in the loo. Your spurts of ad-hoc writing will encourage creativity and when you do sit down at your computer, your brain will be primed and the crazy thoughts you came up with earlier sometimes add a new, much-needed dimension to your work.
Wake up half an hour earlier, or go to sleep half an hour later. (Or both.) Whichever you choose, USE THAT TIME TO WRITE. Even if it’s only half an hour every morning and every evening, that’s FIVE writing hours per work week. It may seem like little, but these hours add up–they may add up to a novel before you realize it.
Good luck on your time-hunting and hitting your daily goals. But don’t be too despondent if you don’t get your quota in on the first day. As Scarlett O’Hara said, "Tomorrow is another day!"