Making Time to Write

Since November of 2015, I’ve written approximately 425,000 words. That breaks down to about 10,366 words a month or close to 340 words per day.

Editing is harder to categorize, but all of those words have also undergone at least some revision, and Cambiare is currently in the final stages of editing.

So why am I getting all braggy?

Because of this additional statistic: I work a full-time job and take care of a child every other weekend. While this isn’t nearly as hectic as someone with a full-time job and children at home 100% of the time, I still have to make an effort to carve out time for writing.

And so can you.

There are some exceptions, of course; some medical conditions can affect the amount of time you can sit in front of a computer or hold a pen, for example. Some people work intense 60+ hour work weeks or very high-stress jobs and need what little time they get for rest and their family, for the sake of their mental health.

But for a good chunk of people who claim they don’t have time, you can make time to write.

The real question no one wants to ask is: how important is that writing time to you? Do you have other hobbies such as playing video games, tinkering with cars, or playing a musical instrument? You might have to make a decision which one you value most. When I decided I wanted to get serious with my writing, I stopped playing video games and drastically cut down the amount of television I watch.

You may decide music or games bring you more fulfillment than writing, and that’s okay.

But for me, I wanted to write. A story had gripped me and wouldn’t let go. I needed to get the words out and share them with the world.

One important note: I did not sacrifice my relationships for this. I made sure that of all the things I cut, time with my husband and my stepdaughter were still given the same priority they always had. I stole the time elsewhere.

But I didn’t begin with cutting out my other hobbies. I started small: with lunch breaks.

Not everyone is lucky enough to have a job that gives you an uninterrupted hour for lunch, but when I looked at my schedule, I realized I had 60 whole minutes every day where I was essentially doing nothing. I started to bring my laptop (at the time, an ancient, barely-functional wreck I bought at a garage sale for $10) to work. Every day, as soon as I clocked out for lunch, I started typing or marking revisions. Now I even bring a PB&J sandwich to eat so I can scarf down my food quickly while I work.

You’d be surprised how much you can get done in a single hour. Now that I’m a few years into this habit, I’ve trained myself to “switch on” my writer brain in about a minute. I write about 1,000 words an hour even while critically thinking about my work. During NaNoWriMo when I’m just word-vomiting, that number is closer to 2,000 words per hour.

I know, I know. Jeez, Avery, stop boasting. But the point is, this wasn’t always the case. Five years ago, I was the one complaining that I couldn’t finish a novel because I just couldn’t make time. When I sat down to write, it took me 20 or 30 minutes just to “get in the zone”. I spent my downtime doing other things.

But I took the advice I’d read and heard from others. Butt in the chair, hands on the keyboard. Regularly. For you, that may be Tuesdays and Fridays for an hour at a time. Or half an hour three days a week. But for me, I made it a Monday-Friday one-hour thing. The key is to make it some sort of habit rather than an “I’ll get to it when I can” thing.

And once I’d settled into the routine of those lunchtime writing sessions, I could get into “writer mode” just as quickly at home. I’ll snag a half-hour between dinner and time spent with my husband watching our favorite TV show to bust out 500 words. I’ll wake up early on Saturday to write for an hour before my husband and the kiddo get out of bed.

I‘m definitely not asking you to sacrifice your mental health for writing. But try this exercise: track your daily schedule for just one week. Log everything you do by hours (or even half-hours if you’re extra excited about homework like me). Find out just how much time you’re spending on things that don’t bring you as much joy or fulfillment as writing.

If you can look at your schedule and realize you spend an hour on Twitter every day plus an hour watching TV shows, you could feasibly cut one of those shows or trim Twitter time in half to work on your novel.

Netflix may not be happy with your new choices, but your story will thank you for it.

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