Over the years, I’ve worked with students from the age of 6 all the way up to 92. The number one complaint I hear from adult students, and sometimes teens, is that they have a burning desire to write, but simply can’t find the time to site down and complete a book or even a short story. The number one thing I share with them is that I managed to write several novels while going to school part-time, writing as a professional journalist part-time, promoting authors and raising two small children. On top of that, I did a ton of volunteer work back then. I’ve since learned to say no and only take on the volunteer work that I am well-qualified for and feel I can help others through, but back then I didn’t know how to say no.
How Did I Do It?
You’re probably wondering how I was able to complete several novels during those years. It wasn’t a fast process and it wasn’t an easy process, but if you have the desire to write and to put your work out there for others to see, I promise that you can do it, too.
You don’t have to sit down and complete a novel in one week. Although I admire those who participate in NaNoMoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), it isn’t a realistic endeavor for some people. Instead, find those little moments during the day that are wasted or where you can multi-task.
- Waiting in a drive-through
- At the doctor’s office
- While the kids nap
- While food cooks
- When riding in the car
- Five minutes in the bathroom (sometimes, this is your only escape from small children, but it won’t last long, so write fast.)
Keep notepads and pens stashed in these locations. You also will want to carry a few index cards and a pen on your person at all times to take advantage of these stolen moments. You never know when you might have a spare three minutes to write that next paragraph.
Remember It Isn’t a Race
The other thing that helps me to this day, when I often have hectic article deadlines and a promotional schedule for my clients, is to remember that I am not running a race with my writing but am telling a story that is dear to my heart. While I don’t have time to write four books a year, I do have time to write one really good book.
You do not have to write as fast as anyone else. You do not have to write the same genre, the same style, the same length of book. Write your story. Don’t worry about what other authors are doing. If you feel even the slightest twinge of jealousy, and we all do because it is human nature, push it away. Wish them well, congratulate them effusively, lift a prayer of thanks for them and move on with your own work. Jealousy is a waste of time and energy. You are special. There is no one on this earth like you or who has had your exact same experiences. Therefore, there is no one else who can tell your story the way you can. Focus on that and what you personally have to offer your readers.
What is your distraction? For some people it is television. I am blessed that I have always worked best with noise in the background. In some strange way, it settles my mind, which races in overdrive at all times, and allows me to focus better on my work. However, I have found that the majority of the population prefers quiet when working. Figure out which works best for you and embrace it. You may need to make a quiet spot in your home to escape to and write. Be creative with this. As I mentioned earlier, if you have small children, this may be five or ten minutes in the bathroom. Simply leave the kids in capable hands (husband, grandparent) and excuse yourself for a few minutes, until that little hand pokes under the door or the knock comes telling you that your time is up.
For other people, cell phones are a huge distraction. If you get so many calls that you spend an hour a day on the telephone, then you need to limit those. Why not chat for 30 minutes and spend the other 30 writing? Having trouble getting off the phone with a chatty Cathy? Come up with an excuse beforehand and hang up. Better yet, there are apps that will schedule a call so you can truthfully tell them you are getting another call and have to go.
The biggest component as to whether you will ever finish your story or not is whether you are determined to do so. If you really want to write, you’ll use these tips and others you pick up along the way and you will find the time. When you do, come back here and let us know about your successes.