I'm feeling a little overwhelmed with my to-do list right now, so I thought we'd take a break from posts on plotting and go back to a more basic question -- how does one even find the time to write? In the following, the first part of an article originally published in Children's Writer, busy authors share their tips.
Writing In No Time
So many things demand our time—job, spouse, children, volunteer work, housework. It’s tempting to say, I’ll write during vacation, or when the kids are back in school, or when the kids leave home, or when I retire ….
Yet if you want to be a writer, you must find time to write.
Becoming a writer requires commitment. If you don’t take your work seriously, your family and friends certainly won’t either. Let them know how important writing is to you. Insist that writing time is your time, and you must not be disturbed. Carve out a few hours each week. Then close the door and ignore your phone and e-mail, or take your laptop to the library.
Finding even a few hours may seem hopeless when you have young children. Louise Spiegler, author of The Amethyst Road, says, “It is impossible for me to write with my kids awake and active. I either tried to get both kids to nap at the same time or I spent my non-existent savings on two hours of babysitting.”
Try trading babysitting with other writing parents. Or start a play group/writers group: the kids play, the parents write or critique.
Molly Blaisdell, author of Rembrandt and the Boy Who Drew Dogs: A story about Rembrandt van Rijn, and mother of 4, found another creative way to keep her kids busy. “I kept all the special toys in my office. When I wanted to work on a scene, I’d pull down that box and say, ‘This is quiet time for special toys.’ It would always be good for about half an hour and sometime would go for two hours.”
Involve older children in your writing activities. Brainstorm story ideas together. Have them draw pictures for your manuscripts. You’ll get more done, and they’ll learn to respect your work. Plus, your time together is research. Claudia Harrington likes driving the carpool for her daughter in middle school, because “the ride home is great for eavesdropping.”
No Use for a Muse
When your writing time is limited, you can’t afford to waste a moment. After having a baby, Michele Corriel, author of Weird Rocks says, “I still managed to get up before my daughter and cram in even half an hour. The problem with a shorter amount of time is you really have to ‘switch’ it on.”
Successful writers agree: no waiting for the right mood. Spiegler says, “As soon as the kids were asleep or safely dropped off, I would sit down and start working—no waiting for inspiration.”
The most productive writers work anywhere and everywhere. Jean Daigenau says, “I take advantage of the few minutes of downtime I have at school or home—while I’m eating lunch or supervising the homework group at our after-school latchkey program or soaking in the bathtub.”
If you can’t do serious writing in five-minute bursts, use the time in other ways. Daigenau suggests, “Get it written on the computer and then use those few minutes here and there to revise.”
Christine Liu Perkins, author of upcoming The Tombs of Mawangdui comments, “When I’m constantly being interrupted, chauffeuring, or sitting in waiting rooms, I brainstorm and prewrite. Wherever I am, I focus on a specific problem for that short session. What points do I want to include in this article? What happens next in the story?”
Check back next week for more time management tips, including how to compromise when finding writing time just seems impossible.