You’re probably a busy person. We all are these days. So much stuff needs to happen in such a short period of time – it’s easy to blink and find that it’s already tomorrow, and all your plans for today have gone bye-bye.
Some experts say you should ‘write every day’. Others say you shouldn’t force it. Still others say you need time to percolate your ideas before writing them down.
All of them are correct. And incorrect. It depends on your interpretation of ‘writing’.
For me, writing is ‘the art of creating something out of words.’
So, even if I am not scribbling things down, I can still be ‘writing’ if I am talking through a plot for the fifty-seventh time with my infinitely patient partner, or profiling my characters in my head, or researching 19th century smuggling along the English coast.
‘But Bree,’ you might say. ‘None of those activities put words on the page.’
To you I say ‘Bollocks. Bollocks, sir.’ ALL of those things help me to put words on the page. I’m a plotter, so I need to know what’s going to happen before I write it. I have pantsed stories before – it’s not a pretty sight.
Also, if I’m going to write historical or technical or anything else I don’t really know about, I have to research it, so I don’t piss readers off. There’s nothing worse than coming across a blatant mistake by an author that five minutes of Googling would have taken care of.
And the percolation, just like the perfect cup of coffee, allows for the ideas to blend and meld into the greatest word cappuccino you have ever tasted.
Still, that doesn’t explain where I find the time to do the ‘writing’. Or the Actual Writing.
I will admit – I have a daily schedule. However, I also have a couple of nasty illnesses that stomp and poop on any schedule I create, all the while laughing in their nasty, nasally voices. I also have some kind of internal horror of schedules – a fear of pigeonholing perhaps that means as soon as I draw up a schedule, I already know I’m going to break it.
So, how do I get anything done?
Simple. I just don’t sweat it.
It’s taken me a long, long time to learn that lesson. And truth be told, I still have to remind myself of it from time to time. But for me, I’ve found the best way to schedule is to not whip myself into following it.
It’s kinda counter intuitive, I know. If I force myself to comply, I have to be dragged, kicking and screaming all the way. If I’m kind to myself, things tend to flow better, the perhaps tiny bit of time I do have is more productive, and I sleep better at night.
How does it work, in practical terms?
I give myself a weekly goal of words I want to get down on paper. I don’t make it a stretch goal, or even anything that I’m going to struggle to achieve.
I do schedule my time. That way, I can look at the schedule and know what I need to accomplish each day. I even put the things in little 20 minute boxes. But all the schedule is there for is to remind me of the things I need to do. Not that ‘at 2:40 I must have my arse in the chair and be writing’.
Of course, if I have my arse in the chair and am writing at 2:40, that’s great, but if at 2:40 I’m watching old I Love Lucy reruns and laughing until the tears run down my cheeks, that’s fine too.
Each day’s schedule has between two and four 20-minute writing sprints. Each day also has a word goal, which goes toward the weeks’ total. I can usually accomplish my daily writing total with less sprints that I schedule, so if I have four scheduled, and I get it done in three, I have a little happy dance and congratulate myself on creating 20 extra minutes of ‘me’ time. (Small goals, people, small goals.)
You may not have the luxury of an hour a day to write. You may be physically incapable. You may have small children, or casual work, or a massive commute. But can you find twenty minutes? I’m constantly surprised at what I can accomplish in twenty minutes.
And remember – I’m not telling you to write for twenty minutes a day. I’m telling you to create writing for twenty minutes a day. Research, brainstorming and talking all count.
Admittedly, you will need to actually write something down eventually. But you don’t need to be cramming your writing into that twenty minutes each day. You might only actually write for five. Or ten. Or only on Tuesday and Friday. Whatever.
So, here’s the low down:
- Set a word goal for the week. Make it small.
- Create writing for twenty minutes a day.
- Write when you are able.
And then, if you don’t reach your word goal? Doesn’t matter. It was so tiny, it’s irrelevant. But if you did? You are just that tiny bit closer to finishing that novel. And if you blitzed that goal out of the water? Awesome work.
OK, so a word in closing. The above works for me. I don’t know your circumstances, situation, time availability, headspace or drive. You need to find what works for you. But if you are struggling to find that, keep checking out what other people are up to. Something will resonate with you eventually, and you WILL find your groove. I promise.