Tips on Squeezing in Writing Time

Here we go, Day 5 of rediscovering my blogging groove! This one took some thinking. I am by no means a new writer – I’ve been writing stories since I was a kid – but taking writing seriously is new for me. It’s only within the past year or so that I’ve dedicated myself to achieving the dream of becoming a published author and began studying and practicing the craft of writing. I didn’t know how to handle a tip post. I kept telling myself I wasn’t qualified to give tips on writing.

But I realized there was something I’d been actively working on in my own writing life that I could give a few tips on: Squeezing in time to write! Perhaps this post will get to someone who is struggling with finding writing time. Even if I only help one person, I’ll be happy. =)

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Ways to Squeeze in Writing Time During a Busy Day

Making time to write has always been a challenge for me. I have a full time job and a 4-year-old son, and sometimes my dream falls by the wayside. With a little determination though, I’ve figured out how to keep moving forward with my novel, even if it’s only a few paragraphs at a time. Being strapped for spare time that doesn’t involve a toddler climbing on my back and shooting me with Megatron’s gun, even those tiny increments of progress are important to me.

Get up early! ~ I know I’ve mentioned before that I sleep like the dead. Usually that’s because I’m up late the previous night. What I’ve been doing is setting my alarm two hours before I have to be clocked in at work. Sometimes I hear it the first time it goes off, sometimes I don’t. The trick for me is to roll out of bed the first time I hear it. Once my feet hit the ground and I reach a standing position, as long as I don’t glance back at the pillow I’m good. After that, it’s just a matter of shambling to the fridge for a Red Bull.

Doing this has given me anywhere from 15 minutes (on zombie mornings) to 2 hours (on awesome mornings) of extra writing time. What’s really cool is that those morning sessions are sometimes the most creative. I wonder if that’s residual from my dreams the night before?

Work breaks ~ This somewhat depends on your job and how your breaks work, but I figure even if you get no more than a 10 minute break here and there… well, that’s 10 minutes of writing time. Consider this – if you know you only have 10 minutes, you’ll learn to use that time for a hardcore focus boost. Quite possibly with a sandwich in one hand.

I’m lucky enough that I get an entire hour for my lunch break. I give myself about 15 minutes to piss around and make lunch, then guess what? I get 45 minutes of writing time. And yes, with a sandwich in one hand. You’d be surprised how fast you can type with one hand.

Let’s say my morning was somewhere between “zombie” and “awesome,”giving me 1 hour before work. That’s now about an hour and a half of writing time squeezed in.

Daydream. Think. Plan. And take notes! ~ If you’re like me, your story is on your mind all day long. You’re always planning the next step, always tweaking the plot and characters in your head. We all have moments at work when we’re on autopilot, or we’re taking a breather, heading to the bathroom, smoke breaks, etc. These are perfect planning moments. Having some ideas rolling around in your head at any given time can make your next writing session more productive, because you have a goal in mind, even if it’s just a loose idea. It might help to carry around a notebook, or use an iPhone or similar device to keep short notes.

Something people might not realize is that thinking is a major part of the writing process. When we’re sitting there staring off into space with a blank screen in front of us, that doesn’t necessarily mean we’re slacking. This could be the most intense stages of planning going on!

Take advantage of Spongebob. ~ After work, it’s tougher for me to get writing time in. It’s family time then, and I like to hang out with my son and husband. Often though, my son is also winding down about this time and he’ll scurry off to my computer to watch Spongebob on Netflix. A Spongebob episode is about 20 minutes. What does that mean? You got it – 20 minutes of writing time. And if he chooses something longer, like Fireman Sam or Pingu… score! I get 45 minutes.

Now we’re up to approximately 2 hours total for the day.

Of course, this one might mean skipping Hell’s Kitchen when it airs… which makes me a sad panda. But that’s what Hulu is for, right? =)

Stay up late. ~ After my son is in bed, I allow myself some time to veg out. This is the only time of day I get to hang out with my hubby alone, without the kid. I try not to push writing into this time frame – I love to chill out with him and catch up on TV shows or slay hordes of demons.

About 11:00 though, I kick back into “chasing a dream” mode and head out to the living room where it’s nice and quiet this time of night. I stay up until about midnight or 12:30 to write. This is another extremely productive time for me, as there are no distractions. Unless the cats get feisty.

Total possible writing time thus far: About 3 hours.

Allow yourself at least one day that is 100% yours for writing. ~ Although we can fit little bits of writing time in now and then, there is nothing more satisfying to me than a huge, several-hour writing session. We all deserve to have some selfish time. Even if you have family and kids, allot a certain time each week for writing. Period. It helps if it’s the same time each week. Protect this time. Covet this time. Insist on it. And above all – use it wisely.

My super-huge chunk of writing comes on Monday nights. I’m off on Tuesday. After my husband goes to bed on Monday, I sprawl out on the couch with my laptop, reference books, notes, maps, everything. I crack open a Red Bull and write. When I hear the doves the next morning – usually around 4:30 a.m. – I crawl into bed and sleep til noon. I’ve claimed this night as mine, and I protect it! Sometimes I get to do it again on Friday night.

Don’t fight yourself. ~ Now, let’s be realistic. These are all possibilities, but they’re not set in stone. And they shouldn’t be. On a good day, where I’m insanely focused and determined, yes – I can scrape up those 3 hours of writing. But some days, you just can’t. Or just plain don’t wanna. And that’s perfectly fine. Sometimes on my lunch break, I just wanna eat my sandwich with two hands and catch up on my shows. This post was meant to show you how to rethink your day, how to assess your time and see if you can squeeze in 15 minutes here and there.

But be nice to yourself. Don’t get on your own case if you can’t write every spare moment of every day. It’s good to relax sometimes, too. Besides, the story’s always going on inside your head, anyway. ;)

~Beka

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5 thoughts on “Tips on Squeezing in Writing Time

  1. Joe Pineda says:

    I agree. A lot of writers forget that part of their job is also thinking where to take their stories. You don’t have to sit down in front of the computer or your legal pad to write. That can happen at any time during the day.

  2. Virginia says:

    Hey Beka – so glad to see you’re doing this! It really helped me get my blog off the ground, gave me some good ideas on how to shake it up a little. Good luck! :)

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