One thing that we as writers with day jobs and families struggle with is finding the time to practice our craft. I’m not going to give a fool-proof strategy that will consistently give you the secret to finding time away from the job, away from the spouse and kids to write a few hundred or even a few thousand words at a time. But what I can tell you is what works for me, and has worked for many others.
I struggle to find the time, mainly because I’m a reporter for a daily newspaper in a highly competitive area between Cincinnati and Dayton. I’m writing all day during the week, and when it’s my turn, occasionally on the weekend. Then I have a wife with a job that has its own stressful aspects and two attention-starved kids.
Bottom line, it’s a constant struggle. I could sugarcoat it, but I can’t. I won’t. Writing is not for the weak-minded or weak-willed.
It is really discouraging when I don’t have the energy, time, desire or every combination of the three to work on any one of my personal writing projects. But here are a few things I do, that more likely than not, will work for you in order to keep the writing muse content and not constantly yelling at you for not putting pen to paper or fingertips to keys.
- “Write” during your commute.
First, unless you’re taking a bus or taxi, or you’re a passenger in a carpool, I’m not suggesting you actually write while commuting to work. But keep your story in your head, and think about the story and what needs to happen next.
When I arrive to work or home, I’ll spend a few minutes using my speech-to-text feature to record my thoughts. I then will email that text to myself so I can copy and paste that information into my work in progress.
Most of us have a smartphone that has this feature, including a memo recorder. But if you are more of a luddite and don’t have a smartphone, have a pad of paper and pen handy in your glove box or center console and jot some points down.
Now this can be somewhat of a mindless activity, but that’s okay. Mindless activities allow minds to wander, and wandering minds are wondering minds.
- Write during your lunch break
Most of us have a half hour lunch break, and some others have the luxury of an hour break. Take that time to have a working lunch. Now as a reporter, I often eat and work at the same time (I know, I’m giving my work free hours), but it can be done. It’s just a matter of you doing it.
And if you can, take a late lunch. Either at the office or if you go to the local fast food restaurant, you will have a quieter environment if you work after the traditional lunch time hour. And fewer distractions equal more opportunity for productivity.
- Ask for time to write
It’s okay to ask for time to write some day during the weekend. But when you do that, unless the spouse and kids leave the house, you’ll want to make sure you leave the house. If your spouse and/or kids know your home – and no matter how much they try to give you the time – you will be disturbed.
Now, you probably won’t get the OK all the time because life does get in the way. But you will get the time if you give your spouse time away from the kids. That will also give you brownie points with the spouse if you offer them “time off” first.
- Delay your TV time
Now, I know television time is sacred in many households, but you will happy that you took time to step away from the television to write. Besides, your show will be on in repeats, and most people have a DVR to either record the show or watch it on demand.
There are exceptions. For me, it’s the NFL and college football.
- Turn off the Internet
There is always some level of truth in writing, so research is important. But get that out of the way before you write, or after your writing session. Because as we all know, like bugs attracted to light at night, the Internet is attracted to wasting your time.
Now this may not be practical all the time, as most of us are addicted to the World Wide Web (after all, you are reading this online).
Oh, and while you’re separating yourself from your internet, turn off the phone, too. I know, that’s like cutting off an appendage, but you need to remove all temptation in order to maintain your focus on your work.
Remember, writing is your passion and–while most will see it as a hobby–you cannot treat it as such because it’s not. Treat it as your second job with no set hours, a job you need to accomplish whenever and however you can.