Forget about writing a novel — sometimes it’s difficult finding the time just to scratch out a blog post.
Years ago, when I first started taking this whole “writing” thing seriously, I read online that only five percent of novelists earn a living from their work — and that was before the self-publishing explosion. That’s right: at least 95 percent have a day job (whether we like to admit it or not). So if you’re having a difficult time finding a spare hour here and there to write, you’re not alone.
We live busy lives, and they only seem to be getting busier. So on top of everything else, where in the world can we also find time to do that thing we love?
The key to success writing, just like with anything else in life, is increasing efficiency. Here are a few easy, yet helpful tips for using your writing time wisely.
1. Don’t empty the creative well
This piece of advice comes directly from Ernest Hemingway (I felt like maybe he knew what he was talking about).
“I learned never to empty the well of my writing, but always to stop when there was still something there in the deep part of the well, and let it refill at night from the springs that fed it.” – Ernest Hemingway
One of the most difficult times to write is when, simply put, you don’t have anything to write about. When you are working on an exciting project or a particular part of a manuscript that you can envision perfectly in your mind, don’t continue writing until you’ve left it all on the page. Leave part of that scene to come back and finish. The next time you sit down to start writing again, it will be that much easier to jump back into it.
I can admit, this is a piece of advice that I’ve had a difficult time implementing. When you’re motivated and on a roll, it’s hard to step away. But I can honestly say that when I do use this method, the next time I sit down at my computer I’m right back to writing, rather than staring at a blank screen wondering what comes next.
2. Taking notes is key
If you’re anything like me, you constantly think of ideas that make you want to jot down notes. When they strike, they seem like magic that must be documented before they can flutter away.
My advice is to take as many notes as possible, but make sure you keep them organized for how they can be used. If they are for completely new story ideas, file them away. If they are to be used toward your current project, make sure you understand how they can be applied to your other research and brainstorming and let them help you to jump back into the writing when you have a chance to sit down at your computer.
Saving creative ideas for future projects, rather than finding a way to incorporate them in your immediate project, does not come recommended by me. You may think that it doesn’t work with your storyline, but good ideas need to be used before they disappear forever — because usually when they’re gone, they’re gone for good.
Your next great idea won’t be far behind. If you take your writing seriously, there should be no shortage of ideas for later projects. So save those for the future and take notes now and utilize your ideas as they come.
3. Create a writing schedule
This last piece of advice may seem straightforward, but it’s more difficult to do than most realize. Creating a schedule for writing can be challenging. You have a million things on your calendar, plus you have to take your car into the shop. And your kid is sick. And you have to work late. And you have to clean for the company you have coming over. Yadda yadda yadda.
But there’s always an excuse not to write. Creating a schedule can help you eliminate those excuses and turn them into the reason why you need to write.
When can you realistically find a spare ten minutes, or thirty minutes, or hour? Does it mean waking up a little earlier? Does it mean writing on your lunch break? Maybe just before bed?
Whenever works for your busy schedule, pick a time and commit to it. Once the routine is set, you can focus less on the distractions and more on the words.