If you’re like most writers, you struggle to find time to devote to your writing because family, work, and/or school commitments need to come first. Last month, in an effort to see how the pros do it, I queried Writers’ Program instructors and asked them to share the secrets of their success in Part I of Making Time for Your Writing.
Here, I share more tips and tricks from our experts.
What’s your best piece of advice to students who wish to make writing a regular part of their lives but who struggle to find the time?
“Find the time. Improve your time management skills. Give something up. If it’s a struggle, so what? Do it anyway. You can find an hour a day. It’s there, but you have to be creative and stop whining about how busy you are.”
“Make use of any period of time available. In a few spare minutes, you can accomplish something–tighten an exchange of dialogue, block out an action scene, plan a plot development, or find the perfect name for a character.”
“I no longer have a full time job, but when I did, I got up as early as I needed to in order to get the writing done–for a while at 3:30 a.m.”
“Learn to be selfish about your writing time. If you’re serious about your writing then you MUST find adequate time to be solitary–and this will mean refusing invitations, going home early so you can grab that extra hour, telling your loved ones you need to spend the weekend alone, and so on. If you don’t take the time, your work doesn’t happen. Do it and don’t feel guilty about it.”
“Just a little bit. Every day. Even if it’s ten minutes, or twenty. That’s the one and only way to make it stick. Write regularly. Consistency is way more important than quantity.”
“Hang in there. Nobody ever said this was easy, but as Martha Graham said to Agnes DeMille: ‘No artist is pleased…there is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction; a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.’ And, you know, the older I get, the more I believe this is true. Writers are what we are–published or not–therefore writing is what we do, be it daily or every fourth Tuesday of every sixth month. And turning out the pages, ultimately finishing whatever project we have in mind is where the joy in life for people like us really lies.”
Do you write every day, or only when you feel inspired?
“Writing, for me, is a job, so I need to structure it like a job. Deadlines do not wait for inspiration, so if I am working on a non-fiction article assignment, I need to work at a steady pace. If I waited for inspiration, I’d never write anything, I’d just spend my time THINKING about writing.”
“I used to write five days a week. For years. And that’s still my preference because I write much better when I’m in a continuous flow, day after day. During such stretches, part of me seems to be writing even when I’m away from pen or keyboard. But in recent years, other sorts of projects have become part of my work routine, too. So, I tend to write in chunks of time: a month on a writing project, a break to focus on other work, a month writing again. Ideal periods are when I can work on my writing in the mornings and other things in the afternoons week after week after week.”
Any tips for not giving up?
“Be strong about rejection. It happens to all of us (well, most of us!) and I don’t think it will go away. Ever. Have faith in yourself, and don’t judge yourself by the “thanks, but no thanks” pile.”
“Make the decision that you want to be a writer and then figure out how to fit it into your life. I think it really does help to take writing courses–you get deadlines and you take your writing really seriously. It also tends to legitimize the really weird occupation of writing.”
And finally, what’s the best way to stick to your writing goals?
Mae Respicio is the Program Representative in Creative Writing (Onsite).