Writers have always struggled to write. As far as I know, it has been that way since the dawn of stories. Even when that first caveman picked up the piece of charcoal to scratch his tale on the wall of his home, he thought, “Do I really have time for this? I have a life. My family needs me to keep them safe from sabretooth tigers, after all. Maybe I’ll do it tomorrow.”
This brings us to an equally old question that I will attempt to answer.
How do you find time to write?
First of all, I want to tell you why I am qualified to talk about this. Please do not see this as bragging. I cannot take all the credit, but I can say this; I have written and written and not stopped.
How much have I written?
In the last 12 month, I have written approximately 220k words spread between two completed novels. I have done this while attending my freshman year of college as a pre-med student, while working 8 hours each week, while being a part of 5 separate on-campus organizations, while maintaining relationships, and while living in the dorms.
Again, I say this not to brag, but to show you that I may have a thing or two to say that could benefit you as you move forward in your writing career.
So, back to the question; how do you find time to write?
Let me start by saying this is two questions in one. Truthfully, this is what the question comes down to.
- How do I become obsessed with writing?
- How do I push other things out of my life?
Tip #1: If you don’t like it, don’t write it
Finally, something you wanted to hear! I am here to tell you not to write those scenes you’re avoiding, not to worry about that slow part of the plot, and not to do anything you don’t want to.
Half of you just thought, “Okay, I’m listening now,” while the other half thought, “well, you’re wrong and stupid. Sometimes you have to do things you don’t want in life.”
Well, yes, of course you have to do things in life that you don’t like, but that’s why we write, isn’t it? To create a world we love and enjoy, to escape life and provide an escape for others? If you’re writing is so stressful and you constantly procrastinate to avoid it, you’re doing it wrong. You can’t be obsessed with something you find painstaking.
So what do you do when you find yourself avoiding a WIP or just writing in general?
Change it up.
No plot outline is too rigid to bend, no character is to defined to change, and no scene is too important to twist.
These changes can be major if you just don’t like your story in general, they can be minor if a character seems flat, and they can be something in between if you just can’t make yourself write a scene. I have a short list of ideas below for how you can change it up to bring your interest back and renew your obsession.
- If a scene is just slow, throw in a new character, a crazy one that draws your interest and the reader’s.
- If a character bores you, add a secret, a defect, or a gift.
- If your plot is dragging, consider omitting a slower scene, adding a faster paced one, or just changing directions completely.
- If you just don’t feel the need to continue the story, reconsider your characters. As the author, I always think of myself as the person to rescue my main character from the trouble he’s in. If I don’t care about him, I’m not going to want to write and get him to safety. If I do, the writing comes quickly.
The point is this: to be obsessed, you have to want to write, need to write. If you find yourself in a different place change it up.
Tip #2: Keep Your Motives in Check
Why are you writing?
I really hope you know the answer to that by now. Despite what you have heard, there is no reason that is better than the other. Some motives have more pitfalls than others, and all yield different results, but your motive is hard to change. Instead of saying “you want to be famous? Well you suck and will never be successful”, I’m going to jump right in and simply give the dangers of each motive so you can watch out for them.
- Fame and fortune
- Don’t get discouraged. This motive relies on results to keep the writer going. As most know, writing is an occupation that entails unending patience. Keep going, don’t rely on immediate fame or fortune.
- Don’t write what you think people want to read. With this motive, it is easy to think, “Well these people are famous, I’ll write what they write”. No. Doesn’t work. Write your own thing, and make sure it interests you.
- Writing for “yourself”
- Write something that actually has a plot. I’ve heard a lot of people use this reason, that they need to escape. Then they go out and just write some stuff with undeveloped characters and a tangled plot. Eventually, they get distracted and abandon their project. Don’t do that. You can write “for yourself” and still have a good plot that keeps your Consider planning a little.
- Let other people read it. The temptation with this motivation is to keep your book to yourself forever and never ever let someone’s dirty, critical fingers touch it until you’re long dead. Don’t do that. You need feedback to get better. People have to read it to give you feedback. That’s just how it works.
- Writing for others
- Make sure you enjoy what you’re writing. This is my personal motive. I want people to have a world to which they can escape and have an adventure. My struggle starting out was writing something I thought other people would enjoy while neglecting what I enjoy writing. This is not a good thing! Instead, write something you enjoy, and others will like it too!
- Ignore some feedback. With this motive, your opinion of what people think of your writing matters a lot, so when people give tough feedback, it can be hard to swallow. Search the feedback for truth, and change what you can. If you feel like they’re wrong and your book is fine the way it is, take a deep breath and move on. Not everyone will like your story.
Here’s the part that you were avoiding; giving other things up to make time to write.
Well, if you did all the previous steps, you should want to write. A lot. After all, you’re obsessed now. You need write, or you’ll go crazy!
This makes things easier. Suddenly, things become less important when they are in the way of your writing. For me, I went from watching 1-2 hours of Netflix each day and browsing Facebook nonstop to maybe an hour or two a week of those two combined. I stopped wasting time on YouTube, stopped scrolling endlessly on social media, and stopped wasting time procrastinating.
Hopefully, your unquenchable desire to write will help you make time to write, but if not, here are some quick tips to find time for your writing.
- Write first: Yes, it is that simple. Before you spend time doing anything else that isn’t essential (like eating, working/studying), WRITE! After you’ve written some, then you can turn on New Girl and watch Jesse embarrass herself.
- Take breaks to write: We all have things we have to do. I mentioned some above. Well, sometimes those sap all our energy, and by the end of the day, we don’t have the energy to write. To avoid this, write between essential activities. It can even help you work harder and faster in other areas of your life!
- Make sacrifices: Here it is, the one no one wants to read. Well that’s a bummer. Anything worthwhile requires sacrifice, and writing is no exception. If you want to write, want to get better, want to be successful, you’re going to have to cut the crap and just stop being lazy. Stop calling Pinterest “inspiration” and Netflix “story ideas” and call them what they are: roadblocks for your writing. Make the sacrifices, do the work, and things will go your way
You have to make a decision at some point. What roll will writing play in your life? The choice is yours.
Will writing remain your hobby?
Will writing become your job?
Will writing be your obsession?
Caleb Robinson, signing off.