How to find the time to write - My four step process
Nothing, and I mean nothing, annoys me more than people who tell me, “Oh, I have a book in me, but I just don’t have the time to write it like you did.”
Unless you’re retired with absolutely no responsibilities, who has the time to write a one hundred thousand word book, edit it, pitch it and market it? Nobody, that’s who!
Every single published author I know wrote their first book in and around their already full lives.
When I wrote Love at First Flight I was:
- Working as a consulting physiotherapist.
- Owner/Manager of three health care centres.
- Book- keeping for our business.
- And a mum to two young children.
If I could do it, anyone can do it. You just need to an idea for a cracking story and then find ways to save time, make a solid commitment to write it, stick to a schedule and make some sacrifices to allow for writing time.
Until late last year, I wrote only at night, because I always made writing the last priority and I would often stay up till 2 am, getting only a few hours sleep a night. I realised, as my health went rapidly downhill, this had to change and I’ve totally overhauled my daily routine so that writing is now a structured and non-negotiable part of my day.
My mantra is that I don’t “try” to make time to write, I just do it. For me it’s a bit like exercise, I don’t get excited about it beforehand, but I make myself do it anyway because I know I’ll be satisfied when it’s done and it makes me feel good afterwards.
So here are my tips for you!
EIGHT TIME SAVING TIPS:
First of all, especially for you mums reading this (because I know a large proportion of my readership are working mums) here are my five best time saving strategies so that I have enough hours in the day to get to write.
1.Forget about having a clean house.
Of all the authors I know, I think we would all agree that writing a novel and having a spotlessly clean home are two things that simply cannot co-exist. I know this is financially impossible for many, and I do feel incredibly fortunate and indulged that I have a house cleaner. My cleaner comes once a fortnight so I only do really small bits and pieces of housework between her visits. And when I say small, what I actually mean is nothing. So for about ten days out of every fortnight my house isn’t clean any more! But even before I had a cleaner, I was still writing and at that time I had an understanding with my husband that we would live in squalor. We cleaned together once a fortnight on the weekend and I didn’t touch the housework between times. Cleaning and cooking are the most time-consuming parts of running a home – cooking I’ll deal with next, but if you don’t clean, your children don’t starve, so I put cooking ahead of cleaning in priorities!
2. Cook in bulk and freeze.
I do this every week. I cook up at least one or two large meals and freeze portions so my freezer is always full of a variety of home cooked meals which gives me one or two nights a week off cooking, freeing up heaps of time.
3. Wake up early.
I wake up an hour earlier than the kids every day so that I’ve showered and prepared breakfast and their school meals by the time they wake up. Then once I have them up and about, that’s my time for sending and responding to emails and being on my author social media platforms interacting with other authors, bloggers and readers. Then I ignore emails and social media while I write. Those things are huge time suckers, I learned that the hard way. Trust me on this, and turn off your Wi-Fi when you write.
4. Have a daily planner and stick to it.
It doesn’t sound like much fun to live your life according to a timetable, but it really does help you stay on top of things. My day is scheduled to within an inch of my life!
5. Turn off the TV.
Limit TV time in the evenings, don’t have it on all night. It’s great to wind down with TV, but cut back to one or two shows not seven in a row if you want time and energy to write the next day.
6. Do your grocery shopping online.
This saves you hours every week of traipsing to the shops. Twice a week on the way home from work I duck in to the shops for a five minute stint to top up but the bulk of my shopping is done in one half an hour online session on the weekend. I can highly recommend Aussie Farmers for online shopping and home delivery, by doing this you support local business as well as our hard working farmers and the food is always fresh and of excellent quality.
7. Ironing is optional!
Only iron what absolutely, positively must be ironed! Want to finish your novel? Put those sheets straight back on the bed without ironing them first! (I honestly can’t believe people actually do iron sheets and tablecloths and even underwear. Sheesh - why, why, why would you ever do that???)
8. Take all social media apps off your phone.
Grit your teeth and do it. Trust me. You’ll magically have more time in your day.
MAKE A COMMITMENT TO WRITE
Now that you have some time saving tips, here are some tips for the committing to write part.
1. Goal Setting.
Set reasonable goals and stick to them. Don’t “try” to stick to them. (As you can see I have real issues with the word “try”).
By reasonable goals, what I mean is set yourself a daily and weekly target. Don’t set a yearly target such as ‘This year I will write my book.’ That’s too general a goal! Break it down into a weekly goal and then a daily goal and make it specific. Something like ‘This week I will commit to writing 2000 words. Which means I need to write five hundred words four days this week.’
2. Set aside writing time.
Decide which days are your writing days and stick to them. Also decide when in the day is your best time for writing and decide exactly how long you will spend writing. E.g. ‘I will write Monday through to Thursday every week and will spend one hour writing each time.’ It’s a good idea to not commit to writing every single day because as the well-known phrase goes, shit happens! So allow for unexpected things to crop up and have a few days up your sleeve spare. If your laundry floods on Thursday or you have a killer migraine, you still have Friday, Saturday and Sunday to make up for that lost writing time.
3. Lock yourself away.
When it’s writing time, nothing else matters. Close the doors, silent your phone, tell those kids there will be hell to pay if they dare interrupt you and then just zone in on your writing.
WRITE YOURSELF A DAILY PLANNER
So here’s my schedule for a work day and a non-work day. I don’t write on weekends – that’s my time to get on top of any jobs I didn’t get around to in the week and more importantly, it’s my time with my family. Obviously what works for me may not work for you, but here is how I fit writing into my week to give you an idea of how it can be done.
6 am – 7 am – wake up, think about how tired I am, shower, prepare breakfast, pack school lunches.
7 am– 8.30 am – Wake children, tidy the house, write and respond to emails, social media catch up, school drop off.
8.30 am – 4 pm – get ready for work, go to work and on the way home do a quick stop at the shops for top-up groceries and then do the school pick up.
4 pm – 7 pm – prepare afternoon tea for kids, help with homework, prepare dinner and school lunches for the next day. Taxi service for kids’ afternoon sports.
7 pm – 8 pm – family dinner and cleaning up the kitchen.
8 pm – 8.30 pm – walk the dog.
8.30- 9.30 pm – WRITE!
9.30 – 10 pm – I don’t know where this half hour goes every day but it totally disappears, mostly I think I just nag kids to get ready for bed.
10 – 11 pm – Watch TV with hubs. (At the moment we watch Friday Night Lights on Netflix – addicted!)
11- 11.30 pm – read in bed, think about how tired I am.
11.30 – lights out.
Non work day:
I know I’m lucky to work part – time and have it way easier than those who work full – time which gives me more time to write and also to cook more and go to appointments etc.
6 am – 8.30 am same as a work day.
8.30 am – 10 am – exercise on stationary bike in front of a TV show. (At the moment it’s Nashville – love it, love it!) and have a quick rinse off shower.
10 am – 12 pm – WRITE!!
12 pm – 12.30 pm – have lunch and self-loathe over terrible writing!
12.30 pm – 2.30 pm – cook a bulk evening meal to freeze and bake something easy to freeze for school lunch boxes, tidy kitchen.
2.30 pm – 3.15 pm – book-keeping for the business.
3.15 – 8.30 pm – school pick up then the same as a work day.
8.30- 9.30 – Work on my website/blog/newsletter/respond to interview questions – basically all the writing I need to do that isn’t the current novel I’m working on.
9.30 – 11.30 pm – Same as a work day.
You’ll notice I don’t have any ironing in there or washing or changing sheets and what not. I leave as much as I can for the weekend and my husband helps me heaps during the week too.
Once a week on a non-work day, we get takeaway (usually a Friday) and I don’t cook that day which gives me time to do things like go to appointments, shop for things like birthday presents, or meet a friend for lunch on the odd occasion.
MAKE SOME SACRIFICES.
Now for the sacrifice something part. I socialise very little. It’s something I had to limit in order to keep on top of my job and my writing and balance it all with family time and being a mum. My friends (the good ones) have accepted this and when we do get together, it’s extra special but I certainly don’t do a weekly coffee morning like I used to when the kids were small and I was a stay-at-home mum.
I’m very much a woman who values her friendships immensely and gets energy from being around other women. My friends are like sisters to me and I miss them but if I did lots of socialising and saw my friends as much as I would like to (which would be every week) then I wouldn’t have written a novel, it’s that simple. Recently I had a break between editing book one and going back to writing book two and in that time I saw as many of my friends as I could and it was wonderful! Then it was time to go underground again into my writing cave and once book two is written, I’ll emerge once more and my beautiful understanding friends and I will pick up where we left off.
You can’t have it all, nobody does. So what will you let go to fit in time for writing? Choose something you do now that takes time, and donate that time to writing instead. It doesn’t have to be sacrificing time with friends, you can choose anything that suits you better.
So to recap here are my four steps to find the time to write:
- Save time wherever you can with time saving strategies.
- Make a commitment to write and stick to it.
- Schedule writing time into a daily planner.
- Be prepared to make some sacrifices.
I hope you found my tips useful and that my daily plan has given you some ideas for how to set a plan in motion for yourself so you can get that best seller written and flying off the shelves!