Go to any writer’s conference and you’ll see that the number one concern writers have is not how to land a publishing deal or how to get an agent, but rather, it’s how to find the time to write in the first place!
As writers, we all have stories we want to share. Often, these ideas spend years floating around in our heads and we just never take the time to commit them to the page. For some, life gets in the way. Work, hobbies, family, friends, there always seems to be something and someone demanding our attention and eating into our writing time, sometimes replacing it altogether.
So how do you fight back? Here are five tips to help you put your bum in that chair and place your fingers on the keyboard:
Make writing a priority
It’s pretty obvious, but the first thing you have to do is make writing a priority in your life. Schedule time to write. To be a successful writer, you have to write. It’s no good having a brilliant story mouldering away in your head where no one can access it. So clear a space in your schedule, turn off your mobile phone, disconnect your internet access and shut out any other distractions in your life. Then, for whatever period of time you’ve set for yourself, focus only on the book you are writing.
Rinse and repeat
Clearing your schedule sounds all well and good, but Rome wasn’t built in a day and your book won’t be written in just one session either, no matter how many hours you allocate to it. There are no two ways about it, you will have to allocate more time to writing. So inspect your schedule and find those stolen pockets of time where you can regularly squeeze in an hour or two away from the rest of the world.
Quantity over quality
Your first draft will never be perfect. Accept that one basic truth and you’ll increase your productivity tenfold. Give yourself permission to make mistakes, and more importantly, permission to ignore them. At least for the time being. Your goal when writing your first draft is not to have a perfect manuscript. You want a complete manuscript! Later you can then edit and refine all you want.
Don’t sweat the small stuff
Research is perhaps the biggest time waster all writers face. We all want the details to be perfect. Nobody wants to be slammed for inaccuracies or have their work described as implausible, but your first draft is not the time to correct those perceptions. Good writing is about the plot and character development, and these should always be the focus of your work. Instead of getting sidetracked with research, when your writing stalls at a point that requires a little more detail just make a note and move on as if you already know the answers to your questions. Later you can come back and fill in any holes. By performing your research retrospectively, you’ll not only avoid distractions while writing, but you’ll also cut down on your research time by having specific research goals to meet.
Step away from the keyboard
Writer’s block is a contentious issue amongst writers. Some swear it exists, while others scoff and say writer’s block is nothing more than a person not having anything to write about. Personally, I don’t think it matters because no matter which camp you come from, the same strategy exists to deal with the problem. Step away from the keyboard. You still need to commit time to your manuscript, but sometimes taking a break from the pressure of having to put your thoughts and words into cohesive sentences is enough to get the juices flowing again. Take some time to refine your ideas, or to organise your thoughts on paper, or to daydream scenarios. Then, in your next writing session, you’ll hopefully have more to say.
Hopefully, you’ve found these tips helpful. The most important thing to remember is that your audience can only read what you put on the page. Until you have something physical and real to present to the world, your story is nothing more than an idea only you can visualise. So tune out your distractions, and make writing a priority in your life.