Making Time for Writing

We’re all busy, it’s pretty much a fact of life. Our to-do lists expand to fill the available time, and no matter how many jobs we tick off there are always tasks jostling to take their place. I feel like I never have enough time for everything I want to do, and I’ve got next to nothing in the way of commitments apart from a full-time job and a partner who would quite like to spend time with me at least once in a while. I don’t have pets to look after (much as I’d love to), I don’t have kids, and yet I still feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day.

Between exercising, keeping the flat stocked with food, cooking and eating the food, keeping things tidy, reading, making time to see the people I love, working on my editing commitments and working full time, I do struggle to make time for writing. But never fear! I have come up with a few ways to work writing in, even when it feels like a struggle. If, like me, your time is essentially your own even when there are a million things to do, you might be able to make use of some of these ideas as well!

Changing up the sleep schedule

I do not recommend giving up an hour of sleep for writing as a long-term strategy, unless you know you’re currently getting more than you need. I’m sure it works for some people, but when I’m not getting enough sleep my mood suffers, my productivity plummets and it definitely causes more problems than it solves. However, what I do recommend looking at is whether there’s some room for manoeuvre within your current sleep schedule.

If you know you’re most productive at night, take a look at whether you can get up a little later in exchange for 20-40 minutes of dedicated writing time before you go to bed. Alternatively, if you’re best first thing, see if you can move things around so you’re going to bed a little earlier for a bit of morning writing time. And maybe there are other ways to win yourself a bit of writing time! Do you currently spend an hour after getting into bed just scrolling through your phone, without actually going to sleep? Or the same in the morning after waking up? You could use that time to write instead.

A toy bear sits in front of a laptop in a dark room, illuminated by the glow from the screen.
Here’s someone who’s clearly figured out they work best late at night. We can’t all be morning people!

Make it the first thing you do

Not necessarily the first thing you do in the day, although if that’s what works for you then go for it, but the first thing you do after something you do every day anyway. This one is great for if you want to make a habit of writing every day, because forming new habits works best when you tie it to a trigger. You could decide your trigger will be brushing your teeth, getting back from work or eating your evening meal. Make sure your writing set-up is ready to go, whatever that entails, for whenever you perform the trigger activity, and then as soon as you’ve finished it make sure you sit down to get some writing done. Don’t forget to reward yourself as well—reward is another key part of habit formation! Whether it’s a moment of revelling in words well written, a fancy tea or coffee or a podcast you’ll only listen to after writing, having something to reward  yourself after doing some writing when you set out to will make it all the more likely you’ll do it again the next day.

After you force yourself to do this for a while it will start to become habit, meaning you won’t have to spend so much time thinking about where to fit writing into your schedule. It’ll just be automatic. Ideal!

Let go of the idea of Perfect

Both in terms of your writing, and the conditions under which you’re doing it. Is grabbing fifteen minutes to write over your lunch break ideal? Probably not. Is it better than not writing at all? Definitely. There are probably all sorts of awkward snippets of time throughout your day where you could scribble down an idea, a couple of sentences, a scrap of dialogue.

It’s easy to tell yourself you’ll get some writing done when you’ve got a solid hour, but if you look at your schedule realistically, how often do you have a clear hour to sit down and do nothing but write? If you’re able to set aside that kind of time on a regular basis then that’s fantastic, and I’m very jealous, and I’d like you to please share your secrets. For most people though that simply isn’t realistic, and the route to getting more writing done involves accepting that and making the best of the time you do have.

Who says it always has to be ‘writing’?

Sometimes thinking about writing is as useful as writing itself. Not, obviously, if that’s all your doing. Then it’s just procrastinating. But if you’ve got a work in progress, there can be real value in thinking about it even when you can’t physically get any words down.

This might take the form of your commute to work, especially if your mode of transport doesn’t allow for writing, time spent doing the washing up or putting clothes away, or while you’re showering. Ideally, you’ll want to have some way to make a note of any particularly great ideas so you don’t forget them later, when you are able to write; something like a voice memo or note on your phone, for example. But even if you literally have no way to record your thoughts, just the act of deliberately making time for creative thinking is a way to stay in touch with your writing, no matter how busy you are.

The important thing is to make time

And the key word there is ‘make’, because it requires conscious effort. I’d love to know more about where you fit writing into your life. Do you write every day and, if so, always at the same time? Do you have a writing routine or do you fit it in as and when you can? Share any tips in the comments, I’d love to gather some more ideas!

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