Did everyone notice that it’s October!? DO YOU KNOW WHAT THAT MEANS!?
the tenth month of the year; also known as Preptober, the month when writers begin to freak out about their writing projects for the National Novel Writing Month.
I’ve heard from many of you who are doing Nanowrimo this year so……… I will be doing more writing-related blog posts to get us hyped up about Nanowrimo! Even if you won’t be doing Nanowrimo (but want to write), I hope these posts will be helpful for you as well. Without further ado, let’s get started with today’s topic: How to write when we are super busy!
Life can get pretty busy. More likely than not, we go to school or have a full-time job. We might have rent to pay, chores to do, families to feed, dogs to walk, and/or children to raise. We probably even have a blog to update, Goodreads reading goals to meet, and promising book and movie releases to keep on top of!
And oh, by the way, we also want to write a book.
But how in the world do we make time to write when we have a gazillion other things to do in a day?! We barely have time to BREATHE!
A full disclaimer here: I can’t say that I am a super successful writer- I am not a professional or published (yet!!!) and I just do it for fun. I’m also not a super successful blogger or even a super successful dog owner. However, over the years I’ve learned a few things here and there about getting everything done and making time for what I love to do: I just finished my second novel this year, I keep this blog updated on a regular basis and my two dogs are still alive (last time I checked.) Yes! It’s possible!
So today, I want to share with you guys some of the tips and tricks I keep in mind when I am writing. Everyone works differently! What works for me might not work for you, but hopefully you will be able to take away one or two things that are helpful!
1. Take inventory of your time
How much free time do we have on a regular weekday? How about on a weekend? Factor in necessary activities such as chores, extracurriculars, family time, and social events. Then factor in how much time you want to spend on your “must-do” hobbies. (For me, exercise and blogging are super important so they get priority.) Then, you get the amount of time you have to write.
Here’s the break-down of my regular weekday:
No worries, you don’t have to do a spreadsheet! (I just make a graph for the purpose of this post, usually it is a mental tally.)
2. Set realistic and specific goals
Given how much time we have on a daily and weekly basis, how much can we expect to write? Take into consideration how quickly you write (for example, number of words in an hour) as well as time required for thinking, plotting and character development.
Based on this, set a realistic goal. This is a point where it is easy to be over-ambitious and give ourselves a goal that is too difficult given the amount of free time we have. When we don’t achieve our goals, it is discouraging and de-motivating. Therefore it is important to be honest with ourselves here and consider what we are really able to accomplish.
Be specific with our goals. How many words or minutes of writing this month? How many per weekday? Per weekend day? Which time of the day or days of the week do you plan to write?
3. Make a commitment.
Now that we have a goal, we have to stick to it. And sometimes that is the most difficult part! I believe making a commitment comes in two parts:
Make a commitment to ourselves. Yes, tell yourself that you are going to do this. Not, “maybe I’ll do this,” or “hopefully I’ll get this done,” but “I AM GOING TO F*&%*# DO THIS, NO MATTER WHAT.” Words have power!!
Make a commitment to other people. Tell everyone else what you are going to do. This can mean joining Nanowrimo or Camp Nano. This can mean telling your family and friends. This can mean making an announcement on your blog or social media. By making a statement to other people, it makes us want to stick to them.
4. Do not waste time.
Are there time-wasters in our lives? Things that we do that don’t really mean much but we do them anyway? Well, it’s time to reduce our consumption of these things or get rid of them completely.*
Pssst……. For me, these things are TV and social media. I find that they don’t bring meaning to me, I don’t particularly enjoy them anyway, and they take up a lot of time, so out the window they go. (On the other hand, maybe you have a few shows you love and/or you want to keep up-to-date with social media, then by all means keep these activities. My point here is to find efficiencies in our time by eliminating activities that are not meaningful.)
*That being said, I think some amount of time-wasting is actually productive and healthy for our busy brains. Therefore remember to kick back once in a while and relax with an activity that you enjoy.
5. Make time for writing.
You know what they say… when we don’t have time, we MAKE the time. Is there a way to optimize our time? Maybe this means writing during your commute or during your lunch break.
If you are tight on achieving your writing goal and you REALLY want to get it done, consider making sacrifices. Are there regular activities that you can sacrifice?*
*NOTE: I believe in a healthy balance of work/school vs hobby vs socializing vs sleep. Please be very careful in selecting what to skip. Good grades are important and we want to keep that paycheque! We all need sleep and a good dose of social interaction to keep our minds and bodies healthy and happy.
6. Keep track of how we’re doing.
This holds us accountable! It is easy to miss a day of writing and shrug it off, but having to punch in “0 words” or “0 minutes” at the end of the day makes it a teeny bit harder.
This can be as simple as a list or a spreadsheet. I use a (very simple) Excel spreadsheet to track the number of words I write per day and how it stacks up to my goal:
For those of you who are doing Nanowrimo, using the word tracker also works. During non-Nanowrimo months, there is also a nifty “Goal Tracker” option on the Nanowrimo website which allows you to set a goal for yourself and keep track of your daily word count: (Thanks to Sieran for this tip!)
7. Surround yourself with other people who write!
You know what they say, we are the average of the people closest to us. If we surround ourselves with people who love writing or simply people who are interested and supportive in what we do, then it will be a constant reminder for us to keep writing. (Pssst the online community counts too!!)
8. And last but not least… forgive yourself for the bad days.
There are going to be days when we don’t get any writing done. There are going to be those zero-word days, zero-word weeks, even zero-word months (or in my case, 10 zero-word years.) And we want to beat ourselves up for it and there is that little voice in the back of our head that tells us that we’re not destined to be a writer.
Do not listen to that little voice! IT LIES.
The thing is, life happens. It’s okay. Just get back on the wagon again, your pen and paper (or laptop) are waiting for you.