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This blog was featured on 06/08/2019
How to Make the Most of Your Writing Time
Written by
She Writes
May 2019
Written by
She Writes
May 2019

This guest post was written by Lori Goldstein. Lori Goldstein earned her BA in journalism from Lehigh University and previously worked for technology publications in the “East Coast Silicon Valley” city of Boston, where she currently lives. She’s never met a beach she didn’t love, a book she wouldn’t read, or a strange food she wouldn’t try. She is the author of Screen Queens, which Kirkus calls “a fun and uplifting story that celebrates female friendship and empowerment” and the VOYA-starred young adult contemporary fantasy series Becoming Jinn. You can visit her online at lorigoldsteinbooks.com, @loriagoldstein on Twitter, and on Instagram @lorigoldsteinbooks.

Time Is Not Your Enemy, Unless You Make It One: How to Make the Most of Your Writing Time

Some version of “I’ve always wanted to write, I just don’t have the time” is a common refrain. And yet, most of the writers I know with agents and published books, even some on The New York Times best-seller’s list, have full- or part-time jobs. The majority have families and partners and kids and dogs and all the same things that squeeze everyone for time. Finding time to write relies not on some form of time machine or Hermione Granger magical time turner. There’s no silver bullet. Finding time to write simply means . . . finding time to write. And once you find that time, you want to make the most of it.

At the highest level, making the most of your writing time requires three things:

1. Commitment. You must treat writing like a job whose salary is delayed. This means you respect it. You don’t just “fit it in,” you own it and commit to it. There’s simply no way around it. This is what separates those who have some vague notion of writing and those who need to write and are willing to do what it takes to make it happen.

2. Creativity. Time is not your enemy; it’s your friend, so long as you take advantage of it. How can you do that? By being creative.

Find pockets of time you didn’t know you had. That might be getting up before your day begins. An active writing hashtag on Twitter is #5amwritersclub, where writers get in their words from 5 to 6 am before life gets in the way. Maybe your Friday night movie night becomes a writing night. Maybe you plan 10 minutes before breakfast, use your lunch break three days a week to write, or ensure you write one paragraph before going to bed. Interestingly, the more you practice using even these small windows of time, the more efficient you can become. Lack of time can become a tool and force focus.

One of my favorite tips is to embrace “lost time.” Waiting out soccer practice or time in a doctor’s waiting room or churning away on that treadmill in the gym? Stop browsing Facebook and Twitter and instead use this “downtime” to immerse yourself in your story world. Put your in-progress writing on your phone, Kindle, iPad, or other device. Keep it with you. Use the time when you can’t do anything else to re-read what you’ve written or to review your outline. This way, once you return to your computer, your brain has less ramp-up time. The more time you spend in your story world, the easier it is to dive in and make your writing time more productive

Use technology to help you focus. Apps for your phone and computer like Toodledo for to-do lists and Trello, Evernote, and OneNote for organizing your character notes, plotting, and research will help prevent you from searching for notes you randomly wrote on a napkin or dictated into your phone.

3. Sacrifice. The more time you spend writing, the less time you have for doing something else, be it hobbies, socializing, or family time. This is a fact. Recognize it. Don’t fight it. How do you make this easier? Tell them. Make your family and friends a part of it. If you respect it, they will. (And they can also hold you accountable!)

Once you find that writing time that works best for you, you need to do keep yourself going. The best ways to do this are to trick yourself, motivate yourself, and forgive yourself.

Trick Yourself

The best way to ensure you keep writing is to schedule your writing time. Make it non-negotiable like any other commitment in your life. Trick yourself into believing that is something you cannot skip, same as going to work and picking up your child from school.

Setting goals is a great way to ensure you hold yourself accountable. A daily word count, weekly word count, scene, chapter, outlining goal, anything that you can “check off” as complete will keep you going as well as keep you honest.

A great way to trick yourself into the mindset of writing is to set writing cues. Be your own Pavlov’s dog by developing a routine. Light a candle or incense, turn on the same playlist, sit in the same chair, couch, desk, or coffee shop. This is a sign to your brain that now is writing time.

To help make that work, keep everything you need within reach: headphones, snacks, beverage, pens, paper, outline, research notes, charger, etc. When you get up to get something, it’s a chance to be distracted. Which also means, keep everything you don’t need out of reach. Limit those distractions. Put away your phone and shut off the Internet (if you can’t, Freedom is an inexpensive software option that does it for you).

Motivate Yourself

Set incremental goals and give yourself a reward, be it a pat on the back, a night off, a new pair of boots, a book you’re dying to read. Whatever motivates you.

Enlist a support system, which can serve as both the carrot and the stick. The carrot is camaraderie. Be it online on Twitter, forums like NaNoWriMo, Facebook groups, or in-person with writing friends or at writing centers, writing with others can make it less lonely. No writing friends? Any craft or passion will do. You can write while your friend scrapbooks. Or set a timer for a half hour and sprint against yourself. That works too!

The stick part of a support system gives you much needed accountability. I have a friend who I text with every morning. We share our writing goals for the day and check back in at the end to see how we’ve done. Another friend does this via Google Hangout. She has a writing date with her friends in other parts of the country. They see each other online at their desks, and if someone doesn’t show, the others know it.

Forgive Yourself

Treat writing like a diet. Eat that entire cheesecake one day? Tomorrow’s a new day. Don’t get derailed by missing a day or a goal. If you keep missing that goal, maybe it’s too ambitious and it’s time to revise it. Or maybe you haven’t found enough pockets of time.

Another thing to keep in mind is giving yourself permission to write what you want to write. If you’re stuck on a scene and you want to give up for the day, don’t. Head over to that fight scene or romance scene or whatever it is that you do want to write. Do a writing exercise. Play around with a character profile. So long as you’re writing, it counts!

In the end, it’s always quality not quantity. Having a polished manuscript is more important than having a fast manuscript. If things take longer, that’s okay. Adjust your timeline. But it’s not an excuse to disregard the commitment and dedication required.

If you commit to writing, it will be there for you. Make time your friend, and the pages will come. If you write a page a day, in a year, you’ll have a book. Now get to it!

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