“Keep a small can of WD-40 on your desk—away from any open flames—to remind yourself that if you don’t write daily, you will get rusty.”
“A writer writes.”
Okay… This adage is a very old and a very easy piece of advice to spout, but how does this really guide us? I suppose the practical message means that in some form or some way, you need to get writing done as much as possible. Stop letting the poor excuses or the multiple obstacles get in the way. Like any other craft, as you practice or perform, you will hone your skills and find it gets easier and better.
But, we only have 24 hours each day to get the millions of distractions to ignore, objections to overcome, questions to surpass, phone calls to return, emails to reply, careers to succeed in, family to care for and finally extract a small window of time out of the day for a writer to write (MAYBE) before we collapse into bed.
I have here a few techniques which I have garnered through experience and research and used to find that elusive window of opportunity.
First, take an inventory of your life – a snapshot of your day and then your week. By understanding just what you want to accomplish, what has to be done each day, what is a common issue, then you will be able to spot trends or patterns that you can take advantage of.
Using me for example: I work the late shift as a sales supervisor (the day job) Sunday through Thursday 11:30 to 8 pm (the “has to be done” part). I know myself – I am not a morning person; more of a night owl. I have a large family and a list of household chores like everyone else. I like to write when it’s quiet and I can focus (my “common issue” part).
My routine is thus: During the week — Wake an hour before work, get ready and then rush off (after fitting in a couple chores, Ha!). Then after work, come home, eat dinner, watch maybe an hour of television with the family, then go walk (the “what you want to accomplish” part — I am putting in a nightly effort at walking to reduce my weight). When I get back, the household has settled down and the family has gone to bed.
Now is MY TIME…
Much like my routine for the week, during the weekend my routine is to spend quality time with my loved ones, get the rest of the chores completed, walk after dinner and then write in the evening. That is really all it takes. Track down what you are doing consistently during the week with work and outside of work. Know when you are the most creative/focused and then make that YOUR TIME.
Second, make this a habit and a part of who you are. Invest in yourself, commit to your career and take to heart the idea that you are a writer.
It has become second-nature to me. Not only are you being more productive, the established time let’s everyone know that this is when you are writing. It’s your signal that you are working. Now, if I haven’t actually written that day, I find myself getting restless and I toss-and-turn in bed.
Third, take advantage of even the little windows of time. Some writers have found success by slipping in writing on lunch breaks at work, writing while waiting for the kids coming out of school, writing after dinner before putting the kids to bed. Even two or three fifteen minute blocks combined in a day can really add up. If you don’t need a long period to accomplish a bit of writing or if you don’t need a startup period to get your creative juices flowing, then this might be the best option for you.
Fourth, remove all internet and phone distractions when you write. It’s super easy to “just check on that post” on Facebook or maybe see what Trump said this time on CNN.com. Also if you leave your email up, you will get notifications that will detour you or pull you right out of your writing mode.
Same goes with having your cell phone next to you. It takes only one notification bleep to derail you. Best way to make good use of the little window you may have is to remove all these possible distractions. I only keep one site open that plays classical music in the background – the music helps me focus.
These four steps have really assisted me in understanding what I needed to do and how to find a time to write, market and/or research each and every night.
Hope this helps you! NOW go write, writer!
Write while the heat is in you. … The writer who postpones the recording of his thoughts uses an iron which has cooled to burn a hole with.”
—Henry David Thoreau