Greetings from Jackie M. Johnson!
What do Olympic athletes and contestants on reality music competition shows have in common?
They both practice their craft intensely. Knowing that swimmers, runners and artists who sing their hearts out practice for hours each day, humbles me; it gives me pause to think about my own dedication to the writing craft.
Over the years I’ve written books, articles, blog posts, marketing collateral and other material. Like those athletes and artists, I’ve have to make hard choices.
When I am writing a book, I judiciously guard my time. If I didn’t remove distractions and focus, I wouldn’t meet my deadlines. But, it helps to keep in mind that it’s only for a “season.”
Whether you write professionally or on a freelance basis (either full-time or part-time)—or, you’re a writer wanna-be—it is essential to choose to make time for your writing. Easier said than done, right? Life happens. I get it. Despite our best intentions, we get busy with family, friends, church activities, sports, hobbies, work, travel and more.
How do you find time to write even when life is full? Here are some ideas to consider:
Schedule time to write. Yes, you may have heard this before. But, don’t freak yourself out. The key here is to start small and build momentum. Whether it’s a block of one hour or ten minutes, put something on the calendar for writing time.Then, just start. And, as you do, you will find yourself writing more and increasing your time working with words.
Some writers I know block out entire writing days or weeks. Others don’t have that luxury. No matter what your life looks like, schedule a few hours a week on your calendar. They could be all at once, or one per day, or whatever works for you.
Here’s the thing. Some people find their efforts stalling, like a car on the freeway, when they attempt to write and edit at the same time. Instead, just write—no matter how good or bad it is—then return to the piece later and edit what you’ve written.
Find “pockets” of time. I am notorious for jotting down ideas on a napkin at a restaurant or on the smallest possible scrap of paper because I don’t want to lose a good idea. Keep pen and paper (or electronic device) in your purse, in your car, near your bed, in your kitchen to capture your thoughts before they fleet away.
Create a writing place. Some writers set up a desk and deem that their “writing place.” Others write on their laptop or other portable device while sitting on the couch or lingering at a coffee shop. Find what works for you so when you get there, it signals, “Time to write.”
Deal with procrastination. Recently, I heard a good phrase that is supposed to help people do something they don’t want to do: Do it anyways. The key to getting things done, in my opinion, is to break the task into smaller pieces. I mean smaller pieces. Go buy a few reams of paper. Turn your PC or MAC on. Sit in the chair. Write something, anything, just to get warmed up. Baby steps can be helpful for people who just need to begin.
Make your writing a priority. If you want to write and you never seem to get around to it, then your writing is a back burner item. It’s an afterthought, and you need to make it a priority. Put it on the front burner of your life, like a pot of soup that’s bubbling over. You need to attend to it now!
Limit your social media. This may be hard for some people, but if you’re going to make your writing a priority—and your life is already full of activity—then cutting down on social media can shave minutes (or hours) from your jam-packed schedule and free up time to do what you say you want to do: write. Set a timer (like the one on your kitchen stove or smartphone) for a set number of minutes. Engage in your social media, and then stop. Don’t keep checking your phone, tablet, laptop or desktop or other device. It’s time to focus.
Create a prayer team for your writing life. We need the power of God to work in us and through us to be efficient and effective, even when life pulls us in myriad directions. A number of writers I know have created a prayer team for their writing life—or for a specific project (like while you are writing a book). I do this too.
Ask a few friends if they would be willing to pray for you and your projects on a daily or weekly basis. Send email to update them on your progress and your prayer needs. You may want to ask for specific prayer items (such as time, energy, creative ideas, and for God to order your steps) or keep it general; it’s up to you.
Before the busy fall starts, decide when you will write. Set appointments with yourself. Make it a priority.
It all adds up to this: If you want to write and you’re too busy, then you’re too busy. Something’s got to give. You’ve got to want it. Add to your passion for writing the other steps of planning, prayer and perseverance.
It’s about choices. Choose wisely, and watch your writing life come alive!
Jackie M. Johnson is an author, freelance writer and book publishing consultant. Visit her blog, A New Day Cafe, or website for more information.