9 ways to squeeze more writing into your day
Writing takes up a lot of time, our most precious commodity. If you’re struggling to fit your creative work into your busy schedule, here are some ways to get more writing time into your day…
I was always someone who got up late and stayed up late. But having children put me through a painful sleep training programme, and even now they are getting older I still tend to wake naturally at 5.30am. So I’ve got into the habit of getting up when I wake, and stealing an hour’s writing time (give or take) while the rest of house sleeps. It might sound tough, but it’s surprising how quickly the routine sets in, and I’ve come to love these early-morning times.
Ideas rarely come punctually, and some of the best ones often come to us at unexpected and inconvenient times — in the shower, in bed, on the bus to work. The trick is to make sure you have some way of capturing these fleeting but often vital thoughts, such as a notebook by the bed. I often record random thoughts in my phone too as I go about my day too.
On the commute to work
There are lots of ways you can boost your writing on the way to work. Reading is the best way to get better at writing, of course. You could also read books that are an inspiration for your current project, or useful background research. If you’re driving, podcasts and audiobooks about productivity and writing technique can be invaluable too.
In the supermarket queue
Even when you have just a few minutes of dead time, say waiting in line at a food outlet or sitting in the hairdresser’s, you can be working on your writing career. Check your social feeds and grow your network, add value to social conversations by sharing useful content, and keep up to date on comments on your guest posts.
If you work involves waiting or travelling, there may be opportunities to jot down notes or do some reading. Make good use of your lunch hour too — if it doesn’t feel like enough time to start writing something, you could always review a printout of a recent scene or chapter you’ve written. Also, keep an ear out for things your coworkers say: you may get some good ideas for dialogue or plotting.
When you’re looking after children, there are sometimes little pockets of time that you can put to creative use. A friend of mine wrote big chunks of a novel on his phone, while looking after his baby in the middle of the night! With older children, you may have a chance to do a little creative daydreaming while they’re in the soft play or on the playground or in the pool. Think about a tricky plot point you can’t quite work out, or play a scene in your head that you’re planning to write later.
Even when you’re out socialising, there are ways you can still be thinking about your writing. Listen out for dialogue and stories that might provide valuable material. Talk to people about experiences and expertise that might come in handy too. I once met someone at a party who turned out to be a police officer; I learned all sorts of useful things that I put into a story I was writing at the time.
Depending on your schedule and your sleeping pattern, evenings may be the best time for you to get some writing done. Try to do the writing before the TV goes on, while you’re fresher. Set yourself a modest target — say 500 words or one scene per session — and if possible finish in the middle of something; that way it’ll be easier to get started the next night. Little and often is better than burning down the candle — if you stay up really late too frequently, you won’t give yourself a chance to relax and it’ll be harder to keep up the momentum over time.
For many aspiring writers, the weekend is the main time to get some work done. But again, don’t put too much pressure on yourself to get too much work squeezed in: a schedule that’s too punishing will quickly fall over, and you need time to relax and step away from the writing process too. Momentum matters more than writing binges: better to write 1000 words a weekend for 12 months (48,000 words) and establish a really strong routine in the process, than do two weekends of 5000 words each, after which you give up exhausted!
Dan Brotzel (@brotzel_fiction) is author of a collection of short stories, Hotel du Jack, and co-author of a new comic novel about an eccentric writers’ group, Kitten on a Fatberg (Unbound). For 10% off your order, quote KITTEN10
This article first appeared on Almost an Author