One of the biggest problems for aspiring writers is finding the time and motivation to actually sit down and get words on the page.
It’s a universal issue: the desire to write is strong, but sometimes other things get in the way, whether it’s family, responsibilities, socialising or even just a lack of motivation. It’s all too easy to make an excuse and put off your writing time until another day.
But if you’re ever going to become a successful writer, whatever that might mean for you, you need to spend time working on your craft and producing material.
It can be hard to make the commitment initially, but there are a few things you can do to make it easier to carve out time for writing.
Figure out which time of day you’re most creative
Some people work well in the mornings, but personally I find I’m most inspired and ready to write late at night, which can be a bit difficult when it comes to sleep!
If you know there’s a certain time of day that works well for you, arrange your day around it. You might need to get up a little earlier, or move your evening workout to first thing on a morning. Perhaps you need to record that television show you always watch at 9pm or take a longer lunch break.
It might be hard at first to pinpoint your best writing times, but if you start to write regularly, you might find that you naturally gravitate to certain times of day.
Prioritise your writing
This is a biggie. Ultimately, no one is going to prioritise your writing if you don’t. If writing is important to you, don’t put it off and waste your time on other things. Sure some things – like going to work – are unavoidable, but others often just mask your fear of getting started.
We all have responsibilities, but most of us have things we could easily cut down on if we chose to. Be honest, how many hours a week do you spend watching television or mindlessly scrolling through pages on the internet?
I’m guilty of this, but by cutting back and focusing some of that dead time on my writing, I’ve become much more productive. And those other activities will still be there as a reward when you’ve finished your day’s writing.
Create a submissions plan
There are tons of writing competitions out there, whether you’re a poet, short story or novel writer. Some publishing houses even offer new writers the opportunity to submit their work through open submission, usually for a limited period of time.
Do some research into opportunities and use them to motivate you. You can create a calendar with the deadlines for the competitions you want to enter and fit your writing time around them.
If you’re the kind of person who likes to outline your story, or you write in a genre that demands a lot of research, do it before you start writing.
It’s incredibly frustrating to have to break off your writing when you come up against a gap in your knowledge. Perhaps you just don’t know a character’s name, but often the problem will be more complicated. If you’re writing a historical novel and suddenly realise you don’t know what day-to-day life would be like for your protagonist, that’s going to take much longer to fix. Plus you then have to get back into the flow of writing your manuscript.
By getting a chunk of your preparation out of the way first, you’re ready to focus your energy on writing.
Follow a schedule
It doesn’t have to be set in stone, but give yourself a guideline of how often you would like to dedicate time to write. Maybe you can set aside a full day once a week, or perhaps only twenty minutes each day, but it will all help you reach your goal.
The key is to start writing regularly.
Don’t beat yourself up if you miss a day here and there, but you should try and build on your schedule and use it to keep you writing frequently.
After all, the more you write, the more you want to write.
Take part in a writing challenge
The obvious one is NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. Every November, thousands of writers sit down at their computers with the aim of writing 50,000 words that month. I took part in the challenge for the first time last year and it really helped me kick start my novel and get into the habit of writing (almost) every day.
There are other challenges too, some of which involve editing rather than just writing. Writer and popular blogger Jeff Goins ran his own 500 words a day challenge in January. The work you produce during a challenge doesn’t have to be perfect; the goal is to get the words on the page.
Carry a notebook
Notebooks don’t just have to be for ideas. If you get a burst of inspiration at lunchtime, or on the train home, spend a few minutes jotting down a poem or a few paragraphs of prose. You don’t need to write a complete scene or chapter, just write whatever comes to you and add it to your manuscript later.
Finding the time and motivation to write can be hard, but there isn’t some magical shortcut; you have to put the work in.
But don’t be afraid to make writing your priority. If it’s important to you, you can indulge your passion for stories.
And once it’s become a regular part of your routine, you’ll realise how rewarding it is to give your dreams the space and time to flourish.