This week’s blog is going to be focused on something that I struggle with on a daily basis. That subject is how do you find time to write when you’re working full-time.
I work full-time at a communications company, and I have to travel everyday about an hour both ways. Thanks to a lovely work-life balance, though, I get one extra day off a fortnight, but what that means is that I work longer hours every day to ensure that extra day off. Because it’s a service industry role, my rosters are infrequent, at best. I may work 7am to 3:40pm one week, and then the next I could be working 9:30am to 6:10pm. So planning my life can be quite difficult.
I also have what I like to call “competing interests.” Aside from being a writer, I love to read, watch movies, play video games, and watch TV shows. In fact, I have a total of 6 programs I watch weekly, at the moment. That’s about to change to 7. I binge watch series I need to do a catch-up on, and I watch a 3-4 nightly cooking contest program as well. The biggest of all of my challenges is I also want to be fit. I have been fit before, and I liked the way it felt. I had a few injuries over the past two years, so my fitness has all but left me. It’s very important that I work out at least 30 minutes a day (I pretty much fail at this at the moment). Last, but certainly not least, I have a hubby, a stepson that stays here 7 days a week, and 3 pets (2 cats and a dog). Each of them are competing for time in my life, as well, whether it’s cooking dinner or spending time with them, etc, and since we’re all trying to be healthy, I have an entire day focused on preparing food for the week for the family. Sundays used to be a lazy day – not anymore!
This is just me, and I’m sure this is an issue for many people trying to make their dream a reality. Where do you find the time to write amongst all this?
After doing extensive research for this subject, I found I had enough information that could be used across two blogs. So today’s half is based around Making Time to Write.
It’s not exactly rocket science here. If you want something, you have to go out and get it for yourself. There’s this funny thing about your world. It is your own making. If you truly want to write, and one day write full-time (as many of us do), you have to make some sacrifices. Did you know it took JK Rowling five years to even build her world for Harry Potter? That was before she started writing a single page to the first book. That is a long-term commitment. Writing a book is a lot of planning and researching. It takes more than just an idea to get it on paper.
So how do you make time to write? It depends on your circumstances, so some of these options will not be tailored for your lifestyle. I haven’t figured out the best method for me yet, but even if I had, I wouldn’t ever pressure others to follow suit. Choose what best suits you and go with it.
Make A Schedule
This seems like the perfect solution for the left-brain people, but it has its place in those of us that are right-brained as well. There is a certain level of satisfaction when you plan your life and are able to succeed at sticking to the plan, but the fact is this rarely occurs. Making something organic is important, as the last thing you want to do is add to the stress that you are already under with work and family and general living in this world.
Author Natasha Lester uses a Monthly Planner in conjunction with a To Do List to organize her projects. For someone like her, this is a really important aspect of her process. The list ensures she remembers that she has something coming up, and as she fills out her monthly calendar, she strikes out the To Do items that she is able to do. The Monthly Planner works well, as it is only a promise that the work will be done on a given day, not a specific time or even how much time it takes. Nothing feels better than crossing out an item on a To Do List either.
Another option is something more right-brained. Reminders are just as good as a schedule. Post-It Notes © in prominent places around your house, office or even car will be a constant reminder that you need to take the time to write today. Microsoft Outlook © has options for setting up daily task reminders, so this is a great option as well. Also most smartphones also have reminder applications on them. I use one called Life Reminders for just about everything else in my life (monthly treatment for the animals, taking meds, the release of a game I want, etc etc), and I find it to be perfect for these kinds of tasks. It sits on my notification bar until I click “Done,” so it drives me crazy. The key is to not ignore these reminders, though. The day they annoy you is the day you probably should find another system.
Set a Time – Daily Edition
So you’ve created your organic schedule now. You have your To Do List or Post It Notes © planted in highly visible places. Now what? Well, it’s time to set a time of the day that you’re going to designate for writing. This may take some time and some tweaking. If you want to write every day, you will have to negotiate which of these are the best for your lifestyle.
The first option is the most obvious one. Wake up an hour early every morning and do your writing then. Have a fresh pot of coffee ready so your brain can start functioning (if that’s your thing) and set up your notepad or computer (or typewriter, you lucky person you!) and get to writing. This works well for those that are time-poor throughout the day and evenings.
The second option is stay up late. After the kids are in bed and you are getting ready to relax, spend that time instead writing your short story or creating the setting to your urban fantasy. The wonderful thing about this option is there is no real time limit, so if you get in the moment, there’s no pesky clock telling you it’s time to head to work.
During the day is the third option, and this can be done in a few ways. Every day there is some level of travel involved. For some, like myself, that travel is in the form of a public transport to and from work. During this time, instead of spending the whole time reading Facebook or browsing through Pinterest boards, do some writing. I have an iPad with a Bluetooth keyboard that makes me feel important and fancy as I commute, but if you don’t have this, even a notepad and pen works well. In fact, the research I did for this article was done on the iPad but the notes I made were on a notepad. If you don’t ride a train or bus to work every day, you might do your commute in your own car. If this is the case, there are options out there for your smartphone. There are applications that turn your speech into text. They may not be perfect all of the time, but they can ensure your ideas are down as you think of them. Another option during the day is to eat at your desk while you work so that when your lunch break rolls around, you can spend the whole time writing. When your shift is over, you could also just go to a café or bar and spend 30min to an hour just writing – away from the distractions that you face at home. The same could be said about the beginning of the day, as well. Instead of getting up and writing straight away, head to work and stop at a café before you start work.
Set a Time – The Weekly Newspaper
So you can’t exactly give up a whole thirty minutes to an hour a day to your craft, that doesn’t mean you can’t still plan and set a time to do some writing. There are still a couple of options available that work just as well as getting up early and writing at your local Starbucks beside the hipsters with their soy chai lattes.
Part of the biggest problems faced by every writer is there are still certain things that have to be done no matter what. Everyone has household chores. For many it’s cooking and cleaning and taking care of the kids and putting the animals to bed, among other things. These smaller things (who am I kidding? Laundry is never a small task – it never ends…) take up a big chunk of your time. So if you have a significant other or a housemate or parents, perhaps it’s time to make some compromises. Two nights a week, they can do your chores. Believe it or not, most of the time your loved ones want to see you succeed in your hope to become a writer. If it means a few sacrifices to ensure that you get somewhere, they are generally happy to do it. If for any reason this is going to cause a confrontation, it’s probably not the plan for you. Or you can hire a housekeeper to come clean your house once a week. This may be an option for those of you that actually make money from your writing. 🙂
Then there are those small moments at the edge of your life that seem to add up throughout the week. Sitting in the car waiting to pick up the kids? – Do some writing/dictating. Waiting for a movie to start? – do some writing. Kids sports practice or games? – write away! It’s what Toni Morrison calls writing at the edges of the day. Just make sure wherever you go, you have pen and paper. Then instead of opening your phone up when you get bored waiting, pull out your notepad and do some writing.
I learned a lot of really cool ideas doing my research for this article. It’s my first one of this kind of nature, and I’m very rusty. It took me 5 hours to research, 2 hours to plan and 3 hours to write, and I’m positive I will find mistakes. But a promise is a promise. Here is my first Thursday blog article. If you have any other suggestions of ways to find time to write, I’d love to hear them! Next week, Part 2 of How to Find Time to Write When You Work Full-Time (which focuses less on the time aspect and more on the writing part)! Here is a list of all of the websites used for this week’s article: Natasha Lester Writer’s Digest Stephen Leary Writers Unboxed The Morning News Goins Writer Women’s Agenda The Creative Penn