3 simple tips for finding the time to write

Forget about crafting a novel — sometimes it’s difficult finding the time to write even 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.

RELATED: Simple advice for aspiring writers

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.

Life’s crazy.

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.

46 Comments

  1. Good advice. Old Ernest was right on the money, but always leave your writing ready to write the next paragraph. That way you can sit down, write it, and that almost always gets the old engine running.

    The hardest thing I ever tried to do was write around shift work. You don’t have a schedule, so what you end up having to do is find that common ground where you aren’t working, and make that part of your writing day.

    For me, it was almost always Noon. Day shift, I’d have knocked off for lunch, and I’d spend it writing. The other shifts, I wouldn’t be working, so it worked out.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Great blog post, Ed. One thing I find helpful is to keep a clipboard in my car and a pen on me at all times. I live for red lights where I can jot down the ideas I have between them. Walking the dog is always a deliberate brainstorming session for me. And you nailed it when you mentioned being organized. I’m not always near a computer and am slow at typing on my phone (hence my clipboard.)

      With literally thousands of pieces of paper lining boxes, I went out and bought 4 big filing cabinets to organize them. The best will eventually make their way onto my computer in an organized fashion and into novels and games.

      We need to write down our ideas before we forget them and be organized and always on the look out for what is story-worthy. My best ideas tend to come when my mind is relaxed and I don’t tether myself to anything. I just imagine – those walks are my most useful tool. And of course quite walks are good for the mind and my dog likes ’em too!

      Thanks for following my blog, btw. Have a great week!

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  2. I’m on the fence about emptying the writing well. Sometimes, it feels good to get it all on paper and then sit back and think, reflectively, having the whole thing written up to a certain point. And other times, having a solid “lead in” scene can be most helpful, so I think it really depends on where in the story you are and whether you need to reflect on the piece as a whole or are still in the “plugging away writing” phase.

    And I’ve nominated you for a mystery blog award. https://andrealundgren.com/2017/06/23/first-mystery-blogger-award/
    Enjoy!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve never thought about leaving something, so that you are motivated by your ideas to start again the next day. Thinking about it now (for me at least) this seems obviously pure genius – going to start this from today – I really loved this post, very interesting food for thought! Thank you! 🙂

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  4. What great advice leave a little thought behind, I will defintely try that..walking for me clears my mind and then my thoughts wander and I always have a pen and little notebook in my bag for those moments when I need to get something down before it goes or I go onto the next thought and can’t remember the previous one…my age is against me at times…lol..Thank you for the follow…Do you enjoy cooking?

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      1. Same. I want to love Evernote but haven’t committed. I’ve heard of lots but I usually don’t stick to one for a super long time. I don’t know why, either. 🤷🏻‍♀️

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  5. Excellent post, Ed! Thanks for visiting my blog! I agree with you – taking notes is super-important. With a baby and an older child I would have got no writing done if I didn’t stop to note down stuff occasionally!

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  6. Hi Ed, I am from Michigan as well. Thanks for your follow. I don’t see any like links for your page. I found these tips to be quite useful. Nice to meet you. I am from Eastpointe. There are several other Michigan writers that I am friends with on her. I hope to read more of your writing.

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      1. Where are you from if you don’t mind me asking? I am from Eastpointe, formerly East Detroit.
        I have several other followers that are from Michigan.

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      2. Another Michigander, always on the lookout for neighbor writers. Found Ed across the street; who knew? And some nice young folk in the Flint area NaNo group. Feels needle-and-haystackish much of the time, though.

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      3. Sorry for taking so long to respond. Been there many times. I had a cleaning job there many years ago. Used to go to the flea market there. Lots of good places to eat.

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  7. Hi Ed. Thanks for your suggestions and congratulations on your writing life. Forget about making money (I tell my family and friends constantly). Writers write because we need to. The best piece of advice I have come across comes from Eudora Welty: “Write about what you don’t know about what you know about.” Once I got past scratching my head over the statement, I clearly saw her point – set your story in the known and explore the unknown. As to how to keep the well full of ideas, I keep a steno pad with me and jot down character ideas, statements others say, observations on my surroundings, whatever comes to mind. I’ve only got one memoir under my belt (sort of an Glass Castle experience with a bank robber) and am ready to query a second manuscript. I’m finding that writing that one letter is more difficult than the 73,000 words in my story. Meanwhile I’m tackling a third novel. Enjoy upper Michigan in the summer. It’s bloody hot down here in the south.

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  8. It’s very important for writers to have connection with other writers to pick up little ideas that will spark our creativity. Researching something you are passionate about is a great place to begin.

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