“I'd love to write a book but I just don't have the time.” This is the excuse I hear most from authors. It is such a common concern that I almost get tired of hearing it. The same is often said about reading, which is just as important as writing if you're going to be an author.
Now I'm not saying that this isn't a legitimate concern for writers — especially those just starting out. But without finding time to write, the dream of quitting your day job for a full-time writing job will remain just that: a dream.
In my experience you make the time for the things that are most important to you. You might legitimately not have time to write, but that's only because you've prioritized the things you are spending your time on instead, some of which may be super important! Things like family, the things that pay the bills, and mental health time.
But if you truly want to become a writer, especially a full-time writer, you've got to make time.
Luckily, there are many great tips on how to
find make time to write. Read on to find out how you can have the time to write your masterpiece.
- Different tactics to find time to write
- Schedules and tracking
- Hidden times to write
Table of contents
- 1. Forget About The “Perfect” Time
- 2. Make a Schedule and Stick To It
- 3. Trade Down Time for Writing Time
- 4. Dictate While on the Move
- 5. Track Your Progress
- 6. Reward Yourself
- 7. Stop in the Middle
- 8. Keep it Sacred
- 9. Make Sure Writing Time is Actually Spent Writing
- 10. Use an Outline
- Finding Time To Write: FAQs
1. Forget About The “Perfect” Time
Many aspiring writers think that writing requires serendipity. People otherwise dismissive of flights of superstitious fancy find themselves waiting for the planets to align and for the “feeling” to be right before they sit down and write a sentence.
This idea that you have to wait for the time to be perfect or to feel inspired is one that stops great books from being written. Forget about the “perfect” time. There's no such thing. Finding time to write is work. Writing itself is work. And waiting for the right time will cause the years to pass as your half-finished manuscript molders on your hard drive or in your desk drawer.
Don’t wait for writing time to fall in your lap. Work to create that time, even if it’s only one day a week. It’s a start.
Here's a great quote that sums this up:
“Amateurs write when they are inspired. Professionals are inspired when they write.”-Michael Hyatt
2. Make a Schedule and Stick To It
Once you realize that there's no “perfect” time to write, it's much easier to create a schedule and stick to it. Without a writing schedule, procrastination creeps in and puts creativity in a headlock. After all, you schedule all the other important events in your life, so why should writing be any different?
It's important to strike a balance of realistic expectations and a no-excuses attitude. Take a look at your current schedule and find out how much time you can carve out to write.
If you're just getting started, expecting to sit down and write for an hour or two may not be the most realistic plan. Instead, use these tips to determine the right goal for you:
- Start with a 30 or 45-minute writing session.
- Determine a word count goal — say 500 words to start off with — or whatever you think you can accomplish in the time allotted.
- Try to keep your writing sessions around the same time every day.
- If your schedule is hectic, you may have to schedule your writing practice at different times every day of the week. That's fine — whatever works for you.
3. Trade Down Time for Writing Time
If you've taken a hard look at your busy schedule and still don't see how you can squeeze in a writing session, something needs to change. Writing often takes sacrifice — meaning you need to trade some down time for writing time.
This could mean writing on your lunch break or before you go to work in the morning. More likely, the time you need to set aside for writing will be found in your entertainment time. Instead of watching that show, sit down to write for half an hour. Instead of scrolling social media, put the phone down and work on your writing project.
We all have certain habits that aren't necessarily good for our creativity. The trick is to turn those bad habits into good ones. Here's another quote to help you remember this tip:
“The difference between an amateur and a professional is in their habits. An amateur has amateur habits. A professional has professional habits. We can never free ourselves from habit. But we can replace bad habits with good ones.”
4. Dictate While on the Move
Creative writing doesn't have to be done at a computer. Some writers find that they do some of their best thinking while in the car or on the train to and from work. They find that dictation is a great way to get ideas down and develop their writing skills.
There are plenty of ways you can dictate your story or your nonfiction book. You can use simple voice recording apps, or you can use speech-to-text tools like Dragon or Speechnotes. Google Docs, Windows 10, and Mac computers also have dictation features you can use.
5. Track Your Progress
Tracking the progress on your writing journey is incredibly important. Writing a book, an essay, or even a short story can take a while. And without tracking your progress, it's easy to get discouraged. The end may seem so far away, especially if you're struggling to get your words down.
But the simple act of tracking your progress — recording your word count goals — can help you stay on schedule and create time for writing.
As you watch your word count climb and you mark off your goals on a spreadsheet or calendar, it's clear that you're making progress, which is a great way to keep you working toward your ultimate writing goal, whatever that is for you.
Goal tracker in Atticus.io
There are two types of word count goals: project-based goals and daily habit goals. Which one you use will depend on what works best for you, but I recommend a mixture of both. Daily habits will eventually make the process of writing much easier, but having those project-based goals as well can be super helpful. You can see an example of a project-based tracker in the image about from Atticus.
6. Reward Yourself
Finding time to write consistently is all about creating a writing habit. And in order to turn it into a habit, you need to reward yourself for meeting your writing goals. Let's face it: writing is hard work, and you deserve to treat yourself when you get that work done.
So decide on little rewards for daily goals and bigger rewards for long-term goals. Maybe you can give yourself 30 minutes on Twitter for hitting your word count goals. Or if you're not a social media person, you can watch an episode of your favorite show or buy yourself a fancy coffee.
When you finish your book, perhaps you can buy yourself something nice you've been wanting for a while, or take a little vacation.
This type of positive reinforcement can help you go from “finding” time to write to living the writing life by making it a part of your normal schedule!
7. Stop in the Middle
At some point during the writing process, every writer hits that part of the story where their creativity seems to be firing on all cylinders. The words come easily and the writing is fun, exciting, and doesn't seem like work at all. When this happens, it's hard to stop writing and easy to start up again during the next session.
Luckily, you can make this happen more often by stopping your writing session in the middle of a scene instead of finishing the scene or the chapter. This leaves an open loop in your mind, which will serve as inspiration when it comes time to sit down for your next session.
This little hack is a great way to help ensure you stay consistent with your writing habit. It's also a good way to ward off writer's block.
8. Keep it Sacred
Another way to find writing time is by keeping the time and the space sacred. There are several ways to do this:
- Have a dedicated space where you do your creative writing. It shouldn't be used for anything else but writing, if at all possible.
- It should also be a place with a door that you can close and, preferably, lock.
- It should be comfortable and decorated with things that bring you inspiration.
- It should be your space, even if it's just a small table in the corner of the room.
This can help you get into the mindset so you can sit down and write on schedule, making the most out of your time.
Even if you're one of those people who likes to write at the coffee shop or in the middle of the kitchen, it's still a good idea to keep the time sacred. Many people do this by listening to music. Others do it by having that delicious cup of coffee at hand. Whatever works for you, stick to it so you can focus and make the most out of your time.
9. Make Sure Writing Time is Actually Spent Writing
Speaking of making the most out of your time, let's talk about distractions. There are about a million ways you can avoid writing during designated writing time. Most of them involve social media, but others involve “research” (cat videos don't count as research), checking email, or getting sucked into a news hole.
This is why writing goals are important — they keep you on track. But not everyone is good at staying focused, even if they do have a daily word count goal to hit. Luckily, there are many tools that can help ensure that your writing session is actually spent writing. These include website and app-blocking tools such as:
10. Use an Outline
We've all felt the pressure of a big writing assignment for school or work that we have no idea how to start. The project looms in our minds, even if it's just a self-imposed assignment like writing a book. When we think about it, the enormity of the project can be overwhelming, which can make us want to procrastinate.
But when you work from an outline, it's much less overwhelming. You know where you're going with the story, or you at least have a vague notion. This can make all the difference in finding time to write. It can also help you make more efficient use of your writing time.
So consider writing an outline before you start writing your story, blog post, or script. No matter how long or short the project, an outline is a great writing tool that can help make you a faster and better writer.
Finding Time To Write: FAQs
What is the Best Time to Write?
The best time to write varies from person to person. Many people (and some studies) suggest that the mornings are when creativity is at its peak and evenings are when the creative mind is sluggish and tired. But for some people, writing in the morning just isn't possible.
So, if you're struggling to find time to write, try out different times of day and see what works for you. In essence, the best time to write is whenever you can. Once you establish a writing habit, you can work on shifting that habit as you see fit.
How Do You Plan to Make Time for Writing?
Planning writing time is like planning anything else. You take a hard look at your schedule and see what will work best for you. You may need to make sacrifices for your writing schedule, cutting back on certain non-essential activities so you can use that time for writing.
The most important part of planning to write is actually sitting down to do it. Make a schedule, write it down, and follow it. Even if you don’t feel like it.
How Much Should You Write a Day?
How much you write a day depends on the time you can devote to writing, how fast you type, and your specific goals. Many new writers aim for 500 words to start their habit off right. However, there's nothing to say that you shouldn't start with 250 words or even 1,000 words.
Your daily word count goal shouldn't be too easy, but it also shouldn't be so hard that it's dispiriting. You can always start small and revise your goals as you become a faster writer.
How Do You Find Time to Write With Kids?
If you're a stay-at-home parent, you can try writing during nap time, after the kids are in bed, or in the morning before the kids are up. If you work and have kids, you could try writing during your lunch break. You can also get together with your partner to work out a schedule for your writing time.
Finding time to write when you have kids can be a little tricky, but it's not impossible. This may mean trading off tasks like making dinner, putting the kids to bed, or getting the kids ready for the day. On the days your partner does these things, you can focus on writing.
Your schedule may seem incredibly busy — and it probably is — but if you’re serious about this whole writing thing, you’ll need to work to find time for little writing sessions. After all, J.K. Rowling was a single mother when she wrote the first Harry Potter book!
Whether you're a freelance writer, a poet, a published author, or an aspiring writer, finding time to write is essential. But, when it comes right down to it, a writing career isn't so much about finding time to write as it is about making time to write. The only person that can keep you on track is you.
By creating a schedule, having a devoted writing space, making goals, rewarding yourself for accomplishing your goals, and making small sacrifices in order to write, you can become a professional writer. Remember the mark of a professional is showing up and doing the work, even when everyday life gets in the way.