Finding Time to Write

One of the more frustrating aspects of being a writer is finding time to write.

If you are working towards publication, or your first book is in production and you are working on book number two (the latter being the happy position in which I find myself at the moment), then you know how important it is not to allow too much time to elapse between writing sessions.

But published authors are not the only writers, obviously. They are not the only writers who need to write. There are many writers who are not focused on publication who feel just as much urgency to sit and write as any other writer out there. They are poets and journal-keepers, they are the writers of family stories who keep family history safe for generations to come. They are those who write on any number of subjects in any number of genres, and they find it difficult sometimes to find the time to get all that great stuff on paper.

Here are a few problems we all face as writers in finding the time to write, and my thoughts on how we might manage the conflicts between the world which presses in around us (insisting on our attention), and the haven of the writing nook.

  • Poor Prioritizing: We all know that in order to have a relaxed, productive, and ultimately satisfactory writing session, we cannot be distracted by the odor of the overflowing garbage pail in the kitchen, the whining dog we have yet to feed, or the child who needs our attention. We must get certain things settled before launching into hours of uninterrupted writing time, because, contrary to popular theory, your Muse does not come before your children, your hungry dog, or the sanitary conditions of your home! Handle the needs of those important people in your life first (and don’t rush them through like they are telemarketers!), take care of the dog if it’s your turn today, and get rid of the garbage in the kitchen. Then you can settle down and get in some writing time with a clear conscience.
  • Disorganization: If possible, keep your computer in one room, designated as your writing room. It should be a room as free from distractions as possible (no TV, little or no “foot traffic,” etc). Keep all your reference books nearby, and all your multi-colored pens/pencils and notebooks handy. Designate these items as YOURS. This is not selfish as long as you see that everyone else has THEIRS. There are certain tools a writer needs, and needs close, while she is working; allowing the children to borrow your dictionary because they’ve lost their own only leads to you running around the house like a chicken with her head cut off searching for your dictionary when you need it. You’ll be getting up time and time again to go find the thesaurus Johnny left upstairs, and the notebook with your character sketches in it that little Jenny snagged as a drawing pad last Sunday. Also, once you find the room you want as your writing-place, don’t keep packing up and moving elsewhere throughout the month in an effort to change the scenery–this will only lead to YOU leaving your writing necessaries all over the house. Again: find your place and get your mind used to writing in that place; label your things so they aren’t used and then misplaced by the general population. Just those two actions on your part will cut down on many hours of search and rescue missions! 🙂
  • Distractions: Unless there is someone in your house other than you who pretty much always answers the telephone, you must screen your calls. The telephone is one of the biggest time wasters out there. When you are stuck on how to end a chapter, the ringing phone can be like the Siren’s call! Resist her, I beg you, or you will never get any writing done at all! Writers don’t get paid for wasting time–so don’t waste it! If your spouse or children call you during the day, they get priority. Everybody else can wait till after dinner.
  • Internet: this could be listed under “Distractions,” above, but the Internet is so pervasive in our culture, I think it deserves its own heading. When most of us write, we use, not an old Royal typewriter, but a computer. And most of us have our computers hooked up to the Internet. We use online dictionary and thesaurus sites for quick look-ups, and we search the Internet for any variety of information needed in a story on which we’re working. But many writers also sneak peeks throughout the day at email, Face Book, and Twitter accounts, and those “peeks” often distract them for many minutes to hours at a time! Does this sound like you? If the Internet has you hooked, designate a time for surfing or for answering email, preferably at the end of the day, not at the beginning. If possible, disconnect from the Internet (while writing creatively at least) and use the old standbys to support your writing: dictionaries, reference books from the library, tools for writers made of actual paper, in soft or hard cover–the same instruments used successfully for many years by exceptional writers of our past, before the Rise of the Machines.

I wish you productive, distraction-free writing today! 🙂

Jean Foster Akin