Thank you to Kayla from Bloggers Collab (@bloggers_collab) on Twitter for helping me choose today’s IWSG topic!
NaNoWriMo is officially upon us. Between November 1st and 30th, over-caffeinated writers from all over the world will be hunched over their keyboards, reeking of sweat, tears, and determination, all engaged in this annual ‘writeathon’ with one single purpose in mind: Reaching fifty thousand words in thirty days.
Seems a bit crazy, doesn’t it? Well, it may surprise many people to learn that it’s actually quite feasible. The fact is, fifty thousand words in thirty days only comes out to 1,667 words per day. Doesn’t that sound much less frightening? I literally reached that word count just drafting up this blog! Yay me!
Achieving NaNo takes precisely two things: Dedication and Time.
Dedication is the easy part. It’s the desire and willingness to do it. The hard part, however, is finding the time, because without it, dedication means nothing. Time, my friends, is likely one of the biggest challenges most writers face in general — yes, even those lucky bastards such as myself who get to do this writing thing on a full-time basis.
People today are busier than they’ve ever been. Between demanding jobs, kids, spouses, dishes, groceries, dinner, Netflix and sleep, who could possibly carve out enough minutes every day to eventually write an entire novel?
You. That’s who.
“M-me?” you splutter, choking on hot coffee. “But how?”
I’m not here to feed you the cliché line that writers don’t find the time; they must make it. One, I know you’ve already heard it, and two, I trust you know this is entirely, one hundred percent true. You are intelligent beings. You know you have to make the time, you just may not know exactly how to do that when you can’t even manage a respectable laundry routine.
So, while you frantically blow-dry the undies you had to sink-wash because you ran out of clean ones — again — I thought it’d be fun to compile a list of great tips and tidbits from some of my favorite authors when asked how they find the time to write.
J.K. Rowling – A.K.A. The Queen – Author of the outstanding Harry Potter series
“Be ruthless about protecting writing days, i.e., do not cave in to endless requests to have “essential” and “long overdue” meetings on those days. The funny thing is that, although writing has been my actual job for several years now, I still seem to have to fight for time in which to do it. Some people do not seem to grasp that I still have to sit down in peace and write the books, apparently believing that they pop up like mushrooms without my connivance. I must therefore guard the time allotted to writing as a Hungarian Horntail guards its firstborn egg.” — J.K. Rowling.
Such a powerful statement when it comes down to it. Not only must you make the time, you must protect it. This advice has been particularly important for me, since both my husband and I work from home. I’ve had to learn to tell friends and family (husband and children included) that I’m not available during certain times. When my bedroom/office door is closed, it means I’m working and that means “pretend I’m not home and my phone is dead”.
Cecelia Ahern, amazing author of tearjerkers P.S. I Love You and Postscript
“I’ve a very structured and disciplined writing routine where I begin a novel in January, I write four days a week from 9 to 6, my book is due May 31st, I edit during the summer, and I publish in the fall. As I write a novel a year, this has been my discipline and though it may sound restrictive and non-creative, it feels the exact opposite. I feel very free, and focused, during the hours I have to create. I write longhand, and then when 6pm rings, I’m ready to leave the adventure in my head and face life.” — Cecelia Ahern
Not everyone has the luxury of working on a novel full-time, but it’s important to note here that a strict writing schedule isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Whatever amount of time you’re able to schedule, do it, be it thirty minutes or three hours a day. Not only does it force you, the writer, to actually sit down and get some work done during this time, it also creates a regular, consistent routine that your family can get used to and learn to work around.
Sophie Kinsella, my imaginary BFF and ever-talented author of the Confessions of a Shopaholic series
Sophie credits finding time to write on being passionate and having a great ability to multitask. Writing isn’t just the physical act of sitting down and typing out words. Dreaming, researching and brainstorming are all part of the process, and incorporating those aspects into your mundane, day-to-day tasks is incredibly helpful. Who says you can’t brainstorm while cooking or folding towels?
John Grisham, beloved author of A Time To Kill and The Racketeer
“My goal, when I started the book, was just to finish it. ‘Cause I’m always starting a new project and never finish….I worked on it for three years. I remember I had to go to court sometimes at 9:00. And I can remember just sitting in court being dead tired ’cause I’d already written for three hours. And it, you know, it’s draining. When you do it a lot it really takes a lot out of you.” — John Grisham
A husband, father, and practicing attorney while writing his first books, Grisham is a great example when it comes to overcoming the demands of daily life while writing. Despite working long, hectic hours in and out of court, he forced himself to plug in a few writing hours each day. It paid off, big time!
Gail Honeyman, incredibly talented author of Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine
“It took me around two years to write it — I had a full-time job, so I was writing before or after work, or on weekends when I could.” — Gail Honeyman
Another great example of a successful author carving out the time before and after work to make writing happen. This could mean sacrificing coffee out with friends for a while, or sticking to simple, ready-made dinners that can be quickly popped into the oven while you write away. Also figuring out the best times for YOU to write is key. Are you more productive in the mornings? Afternoons? Before bed? Take advantage of those particular times of day to write.
Stephen King, infamous nightmare-inducer with his spooky novels It and The Shining
“There are certain things I do if I sit down to write… I have a glass of water or a cup of tea. There’s a certain time I sit down, from 8:00 to 8:30, somewhere within that half hour every morning. I have my vitamin pill and my music, sit in the same seat, and the papers are all arranged in the same places. The cumulative purpose of doing these things the same way every day seems to be a way of saying to the mind, you’re going to be dreaming soon. It’s not any different than a bedtime routine.” — Stephen King
Creating a ritualistic routine before, during and after writing is genius. It trains your brain into being productive when you do sit down to write. It recognizes the simple actions — prepping your tea or coffee, sliding on some slippers, sitting down at your favorite writing spot — and kick-starts that creativity churning around in your mind.
Diana Gabaldon, queen of historical fiction and author of the Outlander series
“The fallacy here is that you must have “a good chunk of time” in which to write. The fact is that “a good chunk of time” (one free of interruption, obligation, or sudden change of circumstance, in which one “sits down” and focuses on the work at hand) does not exist.”
Yes. So much YES. It’s true. Even successful, full-time writers are busy. They get interrupted. They have commitments. They have deadlines, interviews, book reviews and PR flotsam to attend to, not to mention the regular demands of normal daily life. It’s important to understand that you can’t always wait for a three-hour chunk of time to open up in your schedule to get some writing done. If you have twenty minutes to spare here and there, take it. Five minutes, an hour, whatever. Take advantage of what you have.
1) Schedule some time every day to write. By far THE most important key to making time to write. Whatever works best for you, whether it’s morning, over your lunch break, or after dinner, just make sure it’s scheduled, booked, and that you stick to it.
2) Once you’ve scheduled your daily sessions, protect them. Set boundaries with your family to ensure your writing time is respected and uninterrupted. Close your door, put on noise-cancelling earphone, leave the house if you have to. I have. The library and Starbucks both make excellent writing spots. Just saying.
3) Set realistic, attainable, and productive goals. Personally, I prefer word count goals over a set amount of time to write. It’s too easy to waste fifteen minutes staring at a blank screen. When I have a goal to hit a certain number of words per session, then I’m much more likely to get some actual, tangible work done. You can also set page or chapter goals, even give yourself deadlines. Some project management programs can be pretty useful too, like Gantt Charts. A bit nerdy, sure, but effective!
4) Multitask writing is effective when your hands are busy. Take advantage of mundane, day-to-day tasks to brainstorm ideas for your novel or character building. I often imagine my characters in different scenarios while I’m folding laundry, driving to and from errands, cooking, walking the dog, etc. Although the task itself might suck, the quiet time it provides to think up new ideas can be invaluable.
5) Write in small clusters if you have to. Some days you won’t be able to devote a large chunk of time to write, and that’s okay. Just make sure you take advantage of the spare moments you DO have.
6) Routine, routine, routine. Whatever time of day you choose to write, create a routine you can repeat each time to train your brain to cooperate, behave, and be productive.
7) Stretch, eat right, get some fresh air and take care of you. Physical and mental health are important in maintaining focus, stamina, and motivation. The better you feel, the more productive you’ll be while writing. This is just a fact. I write this as I’m eating a cookie. Hypocrisy.
There you have it! Now get off the internet and get to your writing!
Happy NaNoWriMo to those of you who are participating. Feel free to buddy me on the NaNo site at BKirady.
I wrote this post as part of the monthly Insecure Writers Support Group #IWSG Blog Hop. To continue hopping through to other great blogs (and I highly recommend you do) or to join as a fellow writer, click here.