It happens a lot. I listen to a friend’s story-an an interesting recollection, a story about some miracle, or a tale about some bizarre coincidence-and say, “Wow! Go home right now and write that story down.”
My non-writer friends usually roll their eyes at my suggestion and reply, “Oh, I can’t write.” And then I roll my eyes and shoot their statement down. “Yes, you can! It’s a skill that anyone can develop with a little time, practice, and help.” And then the storyteller delivers the second excuse: “I simply don’t have time.” “Sure you do,” I reply, and then I itemize easy ways to find time to write. Many aspiring writers feel that they must find large chunks of time to develop their writing, but in reality, most writers work in short bursts-thirty minutes here, forty-five minutes there, etc. Short sessions can add up to big projects. Think you don’t have time to work on that novel? You do. Here are a few suggestions that really work:
IDENTIFY IDLE TIME AND WRITE-Write while you get your car serviced. Write on the bus on the way to and from work or school. Write in the waiting room at the doctor’s office or while waiting to see your dentist. Write at the airport waiting for your flight, then write some more on the airplane. Write to the DMV. Write on the sidelines of your son’s soccer practice. Write during your lunch break. Write while your kids are getting ready for school or bed. Write while that large pot of pasta boils. Write while you are on hold, waiting to talk to someone. Write when you are a passenger on a long car ride. Write while you wait for your food to be prepared at the restaurant. Can’t fall asleep one night? Pick up your pen and write until you get sleepy. GET UP EARLIER AND WRITE-Get up fifteen or twenty minutes earlier than usual three times each week, make a cup of coffee, isolate yourself in a quiet room in your house, and write. I always encourage aspiring writers to write at the beginning of the day when their thoughts are fresh and before they get bogged down in the daily grind of life. If you wait until the end of the day to write, you are more likely to cancel your writing session because you’re too tired or you have to fold one more load of laundry.
REDUCE THE ACTIVITIES THAT SUCK AWAY YOUR TIME AND WRITE-Turn off your cell phone for twenty minutes during the day and write. Don’t read your Facebook newsfeed five times each day. Write instead. Skip watching one 30-minute sitcom each week and use that time to write. If you are a gaming fanatic, pick one day during the week and don’t play that day. Write instead. DON’T MAKE DINNER ONE NIGHT DURING THE WEEK AND WRITE-It takes a lot of time to go to the grocery store to buy food, prepare a meal, and then wash all of the pots, pans, and dishes associated with dinner. So consider this: One night each week, order a pizza or Chinese food and have it delivered to your door. Eat on paper plates. Use the time saved to write.
WRITE DURING COMMERCIAL BREAKS-For those of us who occasionally watch real-time television, mute the TV during the commercial breaks and write in three-minute bursts. There are over twenty minutes of commercials and marketing content per hour of television programming, so use that time to write something phenomenal. SAVE TIME USING A DVR AND WRITE-Again, for people who watch television, use a DVR to record the news and/or your favorite programs. When you sit down to watch your programs, you will save a lot of time zooming through the commercials-again, over twenty minutes saved per hour of television. Use that extra time to write.
SCHEDULE AN APPOINTMENT WITH YOURSELF AND WRITE-Find a fifteen or twenty-minute opening on your calendar and pencil in a writing date with yourself. Please don’t blow it off. Keep the appointment no matter what. MAKE A DATE WITH A BUDDY AND WRITE-One of the best ways to force yourself to write is to make a date with a writing buddy. Combine your social life with your writing. Meet at a library, a park, or on a front porch somewhere, talk for about fifteen minutes, then write together for thirty minutes. And if you are feeling courageous, ask your friend to read what you’ve written and given you some feedback.