When I tell people that I am a creative writer, the first response I always receive is, “How do you have time?” At first, I made it seem like writing time randomly occurred, “Oh well…I just sit down for a little bit here and there” or “I have the weekends sometimes,” but the more I reflect on when I write, the more I realize that it is not a hobby that just pops up here and there.
I don’t HAVE time.
I MAKE time.
Wake Up Early
I am definitely not a morning person. I am slowly attempting to become one by getting up and practicing yoga, but I wouldn’t call myself an “early bird”. Waking up early gives you time. This time does not necessarily have to be used to write (God knows I can’t form sentences at 5 AM), but it can be time to do other things like cleaning, reading, working out, or accomplishing tasks on your To Do list that might take up writing time later in the day. The morning gives you QUIET (especially if you have children or a hectic, quick-paced job). Start by waking up 10-30 minutes earlier than you normally do and just enjoy that quiet with a cup of tea or a short walk. After realizing how much you need that time for yourself, you become more excited about the practice of waking up early.
Schedule Your Writing
Put it in your calendar. Use a timer. You have a date with your computer or journal or whatever it is you use to write. Make a commitment and stick to it! I also like to schedule periodic writing time or writing retreats with friends to keep me motivated and productive. There are earlier posts about my past writing retreats! If you schedule a cup of tea a day (however long it take you to finish drinking it) or an hour on a timer, I guarantee you will focus and write.
Speaking of focus, it is important to remove distractions. People are distracted by different things. If I am at home, I want to clean. I keep my study tidy and sweep the floor before I sit down to write. My bookshelves are behind me, so I do not have the sudden urge to organize them. I make a pot of tea, so I do not get up and go into the kitchen only to accidentally notice the dishwasher needs to be unloaded.
In my study, I play music, so I can’t hear what is going on in the rest of the house. I shut all of the doors (one is slightly cracked for Scout, my cat to come and go as she pleases). These are my habits because I learned over time there are certain things that derail me. For many people, having their phone is a problem. I keep mine on silent and only check it when I have to go to the bathroom.
I wrote an earlier post about creating a writing space that you love. My study has become my little retreat for yoga and writing. Not everyone has an entire room dedicated to writing, but if you can create a corner in your apartment, I promise having an inspiring space helps a great deal!
Take a Class
I am a firm believer in taking creative writing classes as your funds and schedule allows. My first class (outside of academia) was an on-line novel writing class because I felt I did not have time to drive into the city for a course. On Tuesdays, I attended a weekly virtual meeting with four other writers and an instructor in a chat room. I was accountable for submitting a weekly amount of words, as well as reading the submissions of others throughout the week and writing comments, which was truly a lot of work. However, I found that I had much more time to write and read than I thought I did. Instead of aimlessly watching television, checking social media, or walking around Target (guilty pleasure), I sat down and read the other writing. Because I knew I needed to submit writing every week, it motivated me to schedule time to write or write during my lunch break at work (if I had one).
This year, I completed two in-person classes about thirty minutes away from my house, which means I spend an hour driving to and from class on the weekends. Because I don’t live in the city, I chose to take my most recent class from 11 – 1 PM on Saturdays. The structure of this class gave me time to write, as well as discuss my writing and the writing of others, which truly makes you a better writer and motivates you to continue writing consistently.
If you can’t afford to take classes or find a place nearby, NaNoWriMo.org is an excellent way to keep yourself accountable and build a network with other writers who could possible serve as readers for you and give you feedback.
Find Your Tribe
I’m fortunate to have a small network of other writers that I have built over the years. Three of my closest friends write creatively, and we often share work with one another for feedback before sending it off for publication. It’s important to have a tribe of people that are your motivators; people who constantly ask you what you are working on or writing about and want to unpack your project with you. This can easily be someone who does not write, but that loves to read or just likes to talk to you. It’s also important to find readers, which you can discover a variety of ways. Again, the internet is your friend, so on-line writing groups or websites like NaNoWriMo are great for building your tribe. Social media is another fantastic way to find readers. Search Twitter and Instagram using hashtags. Facebook has tons of groups like The Binders, Writers Helping Writers and Fiction Writers Global that are easy to join. Be sure to give what you get as well; if someone offers to read for you, you should be open to reading for them as well.
Finally, always try to Write Every Damn Day!
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