Greetings, writers! If you’re reading FromNothingToNovel, that means you want to write a novel and you want it to be good. To do this you’ll need:
- a vision for success
- time to plan
- time to create
- time to revise
No doubt, talent and ideas seep from your pores. But time is scarce, especially if you juggle a day job, a home life, and even a side hustle. When, exactly, are you supposed to write an entire book? Can you convince the writing gods to bestow on you several hours of uninterrupted writing?
When you do, let me know. Meanwhile, it’s in our best interest to carve time out of our days with a paring knife. We need to assign value to it. Then we need to put barbed wire around it. It’s the only way to get any writing done. Here are five ways you can succeed without overwhelming yourself:
#1 – Quantify your ideal writing time
Sometimes, in the effort to squeeze in more productivity, we forget to set up clear divisions between writing time and, well, everything else.
The first step is to decide exactly how much writing time per week works for you. Take a good, hard look at your work schedule, your social life, your hobbies. When can you write best? The most feasible time-slots include first thing in the morning, last thing at night, and on the weekends. But are there other time-slots that haven’t occurred to you, like while you wait for your casserole to bake or during your lunch break?
Once you decide where to fit your write time, assign it a non-negotiable, not-to-be-interfered-with quantity. For example, thirty-minute subway commutes provide the perfect opportunity to type up a new scene, while a free Saturday means you can write until you drop.
Whatever you decide, the trick is to quantify your writing time, divvy it up on up your schedule, and make it official. That way, it won’t slip through the cracks.
#2 – Become more skillful and efficient at your 9-to-5
Full-time employment is an important obligation. It’s your livelihood; people depend on you; you make valuable contributions to the world; and you probably use a portion of your income to finance your writing life.
But as Tip #1 suggests, we have to keep our jobs and writing life separate, if we hope to succeed at any of our endeavors. Become more skillful and efficient at your 9-to-5 than ever before, so that your #OfficialWritingTime takes up larger and larger quantities of your schedule.
- When you’re at work, be at work. Make yourself available to co-workers. Meet your deadlines well in advance. If a report is due by the end of the business day, finish it before lunch. Spend the afternoon getting a head start on another project.
- Brush up on job-related skills, especially for the tasks that take you the longest to complete.
Bibbidi-bobbidi-boo! The work day is done. No more taking it home with you. No more skimping on #OfficialWritingTime.
#3 – Make your space work for you
When we’re not revising one novel, we’re probably plotting our next. All of these efforts require concentration. The environment where we write is as important as the time we devote to the process. Maybe you like to be tucked away in a home office in dead silence. Or maybe you like to stroll to a nearby coffee shop where you’ll be surrounded by customers and even other writers writin’ on their laptops.
While I can write from just about anywhere, I find that there’s no better space than my fabulous nook in my very own home. There, I can scribble on my chalkboard, play the music I like in the background, swivel in my swivel chair, and make my own coffee, thank you very much.
Wherever you decide to writing, be intentional about making the space work for you. A set of quality earbuds and ergonomic furniture can work miracles, as can dressing in layers! Just sayin’…
#4 – Take meaningful breaks from writing
With writing at the top of our priority lists, we shouldn’t take time away from it for just anything. At the same time, we shouldn’t tether ourselves 24-7 to a desk and miss out on life’s other joys. If we’re going to treat our time as the most precious non-renewable resource, we have to use part of it to rejuvenate.
So, when you take a break, make it matter. Make it mean something. Here are examples:
- Exercise. Our bodies need it. And it’ll make all the difference in your productivity. Running and ballet keep my body strong and my mind centered so I can achieve my goals.
- Cultural stimulation. Look around your city and chances are you’ll find dozens of cultural events at your disposal. Me? I like philosophical discussions with just about anybody and find that exploring different topics emboldens my writing. Going to see live theater renews my commitment to storytelling.
- Relationships. Visit your family. Take your sweetie out for ice cream. Call your college roommate. Remind yourself that every second of human life is a miracle indeed.
Bonus points if you can combine all three!
When opportunities arise to participate meaningfully in life, say “Yes, please!” Other opportunities that are just, “Meh,” such as boring TV shows or happy hour at your least favorite venue, let them pass you by. Conquer your #FearOfMissingOut and keep writing.
#5 – Team up with fellow writers
Many aspects of writing are, for the most part, solitary activities. But humans are social creatures who need to interact with others. One way to align your social life with your writing life (and vice versa) is to make friends with fellow writers. Team up with them for feedback and critique sessions and take meaningful breaks from the rat race.
Join a writers group or start your own. Ask a fellow writer to meet you for a “writing lunch.” If a “writing lunch” sounds ten times more awesome than a business lunch, that’s because it is. You spend the first third of your lunch eating and chatting, another third brainstorming, and the final third debriefing with one another and planning your next writing lunch.
I could talk all day about how the simple acts of sharing food and ideas will change your life, but suffice it to say you need to schedule up a “writing lunch” with someone as soon as possible.
Do you have ideas for squeezing more writing into every single day? Are you thinking about increasing the value of your #OfficialWritingTime and protecting it more fiercely? Share your ideas in the comments!