Making time to write can be tough: we all lead busy lives. But, with some honest self-reflection and dedication, it is possible to make time to write. Below, I present to you a case-study (spoiler: it’s me).
I’ve loved to write for as long as I can remember. However, over time, I picked it up many times, only to let it drop after weeks or months. No finished book. Not even a completed first draft. Then after even more months, I would start writing again — from scratch because I didn’t like what I wrote before. This would repeat itself in an endless cycle. As soon as life got too busy, I stopped writing.
Does this sound familiar to you?
Why can’t you make time?
So what changed? How do I motivate myself to write almost every day of the week, and where do I find the time?
First, I think it’s essential to think about why you can’t make time. Have you ever felt like you wanted to write, but didn’t? Think back: what were your excuses not to write? While these excuses seem valid (believe me, I know), they’re often not. It comes down to one word: Resistance.
If you’re not familiar with the concept of Resistance, I highly recommend Stephen Pressfield’s War of Art. It is there that I first read about Resistance, and it really resonated with me.
When something is important to you, like writing, your mind will come up with excuses to stop you. Why? Because it can sense it’s important, which means it gives you stress and anxiety. Your mind is trying to protect you from future harm. It likes to take the path of the least resistance.
Resistance will come, and it will try to see you fail. All we can really do to counter it is to be prepared and try to recognize it for what it is. This means, whenever you feel you don’t want to write, evaluate your thoughts: Why don’t you want to write? Do you feel overwhelmed? Do you think you’re not going to succeed? That you’re a terrible writer? You’re too tired, you have a million other chores, or there’s a cool new Netflix show everyone’s talking about? (Netflix is so tempting sometimes! Or always)
Be honest with yourself: is this true, or is it resistance? Nine out of ten times, it will be resistance. It will always be resistance when you start doubting your abilities. And even if you’re not as good as you’d want, the only way to get better is by, you guessed it, write.
So now that we know what mental blocks we have for writing, it’s time to take action!
Prioritize to make time for writing
Like many, I also have a full-time job that occupies my day. Some of you might also have children. So, it often feels like there’s just not enough hours in the day. Yet, again, you need to be brutally honest here.
So, step two: write down your daily activities and how many hours you spend on them. Do you watch Netflix for a few hours before going to bed? (I did!) Do you spend hours preparing meals?
Look at the list of activities and see what you can cut. This might mean no more Netflix (or a lot less in any case), meal prep in the weekend, or order a meal box (I save so much time on groceries and thinking about dinner this way!).
Now, after you’ve done that, how much time have you freed up? Even if it’s just one extra hour, it’s already one hour extra you have to write. So great!
How to know when to write
Now that you have freed up some time to write, it’s important to plan when you’re going to write. This requires some trial and error. Perhaps you already know what time of day is your most productive writing time. But, if you don’t, this is where you try it out.
Step three: you can wake up earlier and write before work or before getting the kids ready. If you’re like me and not a morning person at all, you might try some options in the evening. For instance, I tried writing straight after I got home from work, late in the evening, but eventually settled on writing after dinner.
Make time for writing and stick to it
When you’ve found the time that feels right to you, then that’s the time you now need to block. Everyone around you needs to know that this is the time you write, and no one should disturb you.
So, how can you make sure that you’ll stick with the routine? Here comes step four: you need to write every single day. Only then will it become a habit.
Naturally, it will occur that you’re sick, or really too tired to do anything, or you have another appointment. That’s all fine. To a certain extend. If you are at home, still pick up your laptop or notebook and write. Even if it’s just 5 minutes or 5 words. You will have written something, and that’s all that matters. You’ve reinforced the habit.
If you’re not at home because you’re at a friends’ party, or somewhere else, then try and write at a different time for that day.
The only way you will stick to writing is by reinforcing the habit of it. I’ve been doing it for a year now, and it works! You have to commit, and it takes some discipline to write even when all you want to do is watch Netflix (I’m pretty Netflix obsessed, aren’t I?). But the longer you hold on to it, the easier it gets to stick with it. Your mind knows what to expect, and it gets in a certain mindset that allows you to write. So it does get easier over time. Truly.
Now, if you have any other questions, suggestions, or comments, please feel free to let me know!
Stephen Pressfield’s the War of Art
Tim Grahl’s Running Down a Dream