A little while ago, I received an ad for a writer’s conference. It had beautiful, glossy photos of a resort where writers gathered and dedicated a full weekend to nothing but scribbling words down onto paper.
Even though there was no way I could go, I began to long for a weekend where all I had to do was write. I am somebody who loves language, but I’ll admit that it’s hard to fit a literary life into a busy schedule.
When you’re a student, your life sort of works like this…
Things I would like: Getting enough sleep, getting good grades, getting writing done, getting reading done.
Now pick one.
I don’t know what scheduling is like after high school, but I’m going to take a wild guess and say it only gets busier. A lot busier.
This makes finding time to write difficult, but not impossible. Time will not magically appear for you to write. There will never be a 25th hour that descends from the heavens wearing a halo and brandishing a pen, declaring itself, “The Writer’s Hour.”
And if you have a life-long dream of writing a book, and are just waiting for some more time to do so- I hate to be the one to burst your bubble, but that time is never going to materialize. Finding time to write is a daily, active process. It requires your dedication just like any passion and yes, job, that you might have.
So here are some actual, legitimate ways to make room in your schedule for writing.
No, unfortunately singing “Say No To This,” from Hamilton will not give you more time to write. But you know what will? Saying no to other things. Now, I’m not saying you should pull a Thoreau on all social engagements. But, in the words of the flawless queen known as J.K Rowling,
“Be ruthless about protecting writing days, i.e., do not cave in to endless requests to have ‘essential’ and ‘long overdue’ meetings on those days.”
It’s okay to tell friends that you can’t attend events or hang out, especially if you already planned to write that day. I’ve often had friends tell me that they can’t make a sleepover because they had work in the morning, which we have accepted as a perfectly logical excuse. However, writing is also work. (A lot of work.) So if you can’t make every club meeting or every PTA fair and you start to feel guilty, repeat to yourself, “I’m working.” Do not feel guilty about protecting something so dear to you.
If I put something on a to-do list, I am much more likely to get it done. Create goals for your writing, and plan out how much work you will have to do in a certain week, month, or year to achieve that goal. I just started using mywritingclub, which is really helpful for setting goals! Have any of you heard about it? I read about it on the wonderful Writer’s Faith blog. It has features such as built-in word sprints, the ability to encourage friends, and charts to show your goal progress. You can add me as a friend – my username is vivian_parkin_derosa.
I also use a traditional paper planner to plan my specific daily writing goals.
All of it. Goodbye Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest – stop looking at those mason jars! – the news, Facebook, your favorite blogs, and yes, even WordPress. You have no idea how much time you spend on these things. For every ten minutes that you spend scrolling through Instagram photos of people you only followed because they followed you, you could have written another 300 words on your manuscript. Maybe more, if you’re a fast writer.
This isn’t to say you can’t ever go on the internet. (It’s a brilliant place to find inspiration, after all.) But most definitely NOT during designated writing time, and I would recommend trying to quit for one half of the day. When you have a spare minute in the morning, instead of reaching for your phone, reach for your computer. Or if you’re more productive at night, instead of scrolling through Facebook before you go to bed, try writing a poem.
And if you’re truly dedicated for getting more time to write, give yourself days where you quit media entirely. You won’t believe all the time you suddenly have on your hands.
Okay, so I did an entire blog post about making the perfect writing workspace, and my writing desk is featured on my Instagram. And when you’re able to schedule an hour at home to write, or you’re a writer who works from home, a writer’s desk is essential to have. But there are days (and weeks, and months, and sometimes years) when you do not have a full hour at home to schedule for writing.
That’s okay. Forget the desk.
Invest in a laptop or journal, something portable, so you can bring your writing with you wherever you go. Writing on the bus in the morning is how I finished my rough draft. Public transportation is the perfect place to get some work done. So are your schools and offices. If you have time in your day to write, do so, even if you’re not in your usual space.
I just saw the movie Paterson, which is about a bus driver in Paterson, New Jersey who writes poetry. (It’s an excellent movie, one I would highly recommend!) There’s one small, repeated scene that really stuck with me. The driver, who is coincidentally also named Paterson, pulls up the bus to the edge of the parking garage each morning and waits for somebody to check off his bus and wave him into the street. Now, the time between him pulling the car up and him being seen by a supervisor is short and slim, a minute or two at best. But each time, he whips out a notebook and starts working on a poem. This movie reminded me of something important: Literally every minute counts.
You don’t need a $5,000 writer’s conference to actually have time to write. You need the twenty-minute morning bus ride to school to flesh out a novel scene. You need the five minutes that it takes for your sister to get ready before you leave to finish your plot outline. You need the three minutes that’s left in the period after you finish taking a test to write a Haiku.
Take advantage of every minute in your day. Write during your lunch break. Write when people are talking about something you don’t care about. If you’re playing fetch with your dog, write a sentence while they’re chasing the stick. (Unless you’re playing fetch with my dog, who doesn’t know how fetch works. There is no chasing of sticks, only him barking at me as I wave a branch in his face because he thinks it’s food.)
In order to find more time for your writing, allow yourself to believe in a greater concept of time. All those little minutes add up, and what they have the power to create is extraordinary.