Writers write. Writers have to write. Writers can’t help but write. The problem is: finding writing time.
Here are six tips to help you expand your notions of writing, writers, and finding time to write:
Finding Writing Time Tip #1
Don’t cripple yourself by imagining that if you’re not writing, you’re not a writer. If you have a story in your head that won’t let you go, honor it. It came to you because you are the appropriate medium through which it can be told. Already having a story idea counts as writing.
Finding Writing Time Tip #2
Shed the fantasy that writers – real writers – sit at their laptops all day in a dreamy state and write, probably while looking up every now and gazing out over an ocean. Nope. Not even close.
Here’s my secret: fifteen minutes is a valuable amount of writing time.
When I was first writing, I had far more pressures on my time than I do now. I made a virtue out of having only small periods of time in which I could write. I formulated it to myself like this:
“Either I have exceptional powers of concentration and can keep a story-line in my head over extended periods of time of not working on it – or I’m really only able to write in fifteen-minute snatches anyway.”
Finding Writing Time Tip #3
Well intentioned people might say, “Make writing a habit. Promise yourself to write every day.” Ugh. I might as well advise you to start a diet or get regular exercise.
Yes, the act of putting words on a page is a discipline. At some point you have to park your butt, chain your legs to your chair, and not get up until you’ve produced something, anything.
At the same time, the act of putting words on a page is also a discovery. The story in your head is a set of shifting images. You don’t know the whole story – yet. You don’t know your characters well – yet.
Your imagination alone cannot grasp the whole of your story or your characters. You only get to know them through the act of putting words on a page. You can’t know how your characters will interact until you have them interact. You burden yourself unfairly if you think your imagination should work it all out beforehand.
The act of putting words on a page is part discipline and part discovery. Motivate yourself to write to find out what’s going to happen next, not to put a check on your calendar that you wrote today. If you concentrate on discovery, not discipline, you will find that your writing is as entertaining as (and eventually more entertaining than) any other way you spend your time.
Finding Writing Time Tip #4
As a writer, you have inside you a well of imagination that you want to tap. Writing in fifteen-minute snatches is not the quickest way to prime the pump, but it works. Be patient.
Finding Writing Time Tip #5
Start your story anywhere you want, even if it’s a scene you think will be in the middle.
I found it amazingly liberating to learn from cultural anthropologists that tribal people, when telling their myths, do not always tell them from beginning to end and even not necessarily in order. Of course the myths have narrative coherence. However, they don’t have to be told (or in a writer’s case: composed) that way.
Don’t be constrained by your narrative chronology. Treat your story like a myth. I did exactly that in writing Drawn to Love (affiliate). I had all these different scenes, jumbled, which fit together somehow. I eventually made them narratively coherent by choosing a beginning, middle, and end.
Finding Writing Time Tip #6
Always have scraps of paper and a pen on hand. I would say, “Carry a notebook,” but I never do, because I find notebooks intimidating, especially the moleskin ones. They look cool, though.
I often jot stuff down on odd scraps for whatever story I’m working on, and I count that as writing. But, then, I count walking down the street thinking about my story as writing, too.
It’s all writing, which means that I find plenty of time to write.
See also: All My Writing Tips
This post was written by Julie Tetel Andresen