One of the most common questions asked by writers just starting their journey is, “How on Earth do you find the time to get any writing done?”
To them I say, good question. You let me know when you figure that out.
The truth is, much as we may like the idea of the writer sitting at their desk and toiling away for hours on end until that first draft is complete – probably on an old typewriter with a cigarette in hand, or at least some coffee – for most writers, being able to consistently find those huge chunks of time to just sit and work in solitude is about as likely as me waking up tomorrow to find a herd of alpacas grazing on my backyard lawn.
I’m not saying it’s impossible – there’s bound to be a poorly-fenced alpaca farm around here somewhere – it’s just probably not something we can safely rely on.
For most of us, life is filled to bursting with things. Very important things. And each of these things are constant competing priorities for our time and attention. Some of them just can’t be avoided. Between work and school and family and exercise and self-care and birthdays and visits to the zoo is it any wonder that most of us struggle to find the time to sit down and just write?
I’m going to very blunt with you here, but this is really the best piece of advice I can give:
If you want to be a writer, you will find the time to write.
Don’t get me wrong, I know that is way simpler said than actually done.
Life is beyond hectic right now, for all of us, and I’m not saying that if you don’t find the time to write every single day that you’re not a writer. Things happen; life happens. Even with all the right elements in place, making time to write is a major commitment to pile onto your already-too-long list of things that absolutely must be done.
But that’s just it. Writing has to become one of those essential, must-be-done tasks. All those other things you do instead of writing? Those are the things you’ve decided have to take priority over everything else in your life. And if writing isn’t a priority, then all the planning and dreaming and inspiration in the world won’t get you to write that book.
There are plenty of people out there who want to write a book, and so few of them will end up actually doing it. The idea appears in their head and they never let it out. It dies inside their mind. Their great novel sits and fades away in their brain because they simply never found the time to write.
You know when I find time to write? Between my full-time job, fall classes, cooking dinner, doing laundry, setting up appointments, organizing lunches, and cleaning the disaster zone that is my house, I usually don’t have time to sit down and actually write until about midnight. It actually just turned midnight right now, as I’m typing up this post.
Would I love to write during the days when I have time and energy to spare and not just before I collapse, exhausted, into bed? Without a doubt. (Collapsing into bed is one of my favourite things.) But this is the time that I could find for my writing. This is the space I managed to squeeze into my schedule. And nothing, not even the siren call of my fluffiest pillow, will prevent me from doing my best to fit as much writing as I possibly can into this one, dedicated hour.
Because I am a writer. And I found the time to write.
“I believe myself that a good writer doesn’t really need to be told anything except to keep at it.”— Chinua Achebe
And that’s what you must keep telling yourself. Because you are a writer, you have to write. And because you have to write, you have to schedule in that time to do some writing. There’s just no other way around it. The same way that you have to make time for your job, or your classes, or your friends, you have to make the time to be a writer.
Have to be at work by nine? Wake up an hour earlier and dedicate that hour to writing. Have to commute to school? Bring your notepad on the train and use that time to put out as many words as you can. Want to watch the newest episode of The Mandalorian? I do too! But let’s make that a reward for fitting in an hour of writing after dinner instead.
You don’t have to have an insane word goal, or a word goal at all actually (although if it helps you, you absolutely should), you don’t even have to write anything remotely masterful or even good. The point is to dedicate that time to writing, and making the absolute most of it.
Once you start treating yourself like a writer, a really-real writer, you’ll be surprised just how much time you can find to dedicate to your writing. Make it a priority, an unbreakable commitment just like you would for work or school or anything else, and you’ll find a way to get it done, just like every other necessity on your daily to-do list.
If you want to be a writer, you will find the time to write. That much I can promise you.
(But I will keep my eye out for those alpacas, just in case.)
Happy Writing everyone!