Finding, or making, time to write, is an ongoing problem for nearly every writer. Since writing is not a salaried position, most make their living by holding other jobs to supplement their income, and may have a family to look after as well. Time-saving tools can be extremely useful to the professional novelist. An online grammar check, for example, can save the writer time with the meticulous job of proofreading, and provides a second layer of assurance that the manuscript is as polished as it can be before it is submitted to an editor.
Procrastination is the number one myth that holds writers back. When a writer declares that he or she is “procrastinating”, what’s really happening is a decision. Everyone makes choices every single day. The choice to get up at a particular time. The choice to listen to the radio while drinking coffee in the morning, or read the news. The choice to watch a particular television program or another. Each choice comes at a price; an investment of time and effort. The choices made will dictate the progress achieved.
The first step in carving writing time out of a seemingly impossible schedule is to simply track all activities for a few days or even a week. This can be done by jotting down a simple list in a notebook, or by creating an up-to-the-minute schedule, complete with actual times, filled in as the day wears on, depending on the writer’s temperament and preference. The form of the time-log is less important than the information gleaned from the exercise. Time spent perusing social media, for example, may be more productively spent writing. A regular bedtime could be pushed back by half an hour, or the writer might consider getting out of bed earlier, in order to acquire quiet time in which to concentrate. Each writing schedule is as unique as the individual creating it, and should remain a flexible work in progress, changing to meet the needs of the writer.
Once a schedule is roughed out, and time slots are clearly available, schedule writing time. Specifically planned times, during which the phone and doorbell will remain unanswered, social media and other internet distractions turned off or ignored, and the literal or figurative door to the writing room closed against intruders. Writing time must be guarded as carefully as any important commitment. The writer who demands respect for his or her writing time, will be taken seriously. It may be necessary to demand respect adamantly and repeatedly, in order to be heard. Be ruthless, and protect the borders of the newly-created block of time.
Writers will often find that the instant they sit down to the keyboard or with a pad and pencil, distracting thoughts encroach. Did the electric bill get paid? What about those dust bunnies lurking under the living room sofa, and Aunt Martha is coming by next week, The antique silver vase she sent last Christmas should be polished before her visit…
Preparation is necessary to fend off these distraction weeds before they can take root and shatter the concrete of concentration. Put bills on an auto-pay system, or dedicate a specific day once a month for household paperwork. Recruit the family to handle routine chores. Decide which chores must be completed promptly, and which can be neglected for a time without a significant drop in the comfort of the home life. A little dust makes a house a home, and a simplified routine allows time and room for creativity.
Finally, it’s important to recognize the need for down-time. The creative personality is not an endless source of constantly-flowing ideas. It’s not possible to turn inspiration on and off at will, like a tap. In order to coax creativity forth, it’s necessary to allow time and focus for recharging. Walking, spending time with loved ones, reading good books, even watching movies, can all be valuable activities for the writer. House and yard work may provide time for reflection and the resolution of plot points. Physical exercise lifts the spirits and provides a burst of energy. Allow for rest, in order to replenish creativity, and come back to the page refreshed and prepared to write.
Nikolas discovered his love for the written word in Elementary School, where he started spending his afternoons sprawled across the living room floor devouring one Marc Brown childrens’ novel after the other and writing short stories about daring pirate adventures. After acquiring some experience in various marketing, business development, and hiring roles at internet startups in a few different countries, he decided to re-unite his professional life with his childhood passions by joining Grammarly’s marketing team in San Francisco. He has the pleasure of being tasked with talking to writers, bloggers, teachers, and others about how they use Grammarly’s online proofreading application to improve their writing. His free time is spent biking, travelling, and reading.