It is impossible to find time to write. As with any meaningful activity, you must make time. If I live in a passive or reactive mode, my time will always be filled with the needs of other people or my own base desires. It is only when I choose to proactively assert myself that I can get anything done.
I choose to write from the time I put my son to bed until I go to bed. This gives me 1.5 to 3 hours every evening to think and write. I will occasionally have meetings or other social engagements that take up that time, but I can generally count on being in my study at least 3 nights a week. I’ve found that 2 to 3 hours is about my max for really intense and focused concentration.
I’m also finding that I must steward my attention better if I’m going to be a productive writer. Time is meaningless without attention. I’ve saved myself a lot of distraction by not having the internet in my home, but I’m also finding that I need to be better about protecting my attention during the day. I recently watched a TED Talk by Dr. Cal Newport called Quit Social Media and have been inspired to guard my attention more carefully.
I also find that writing is more appealing when I know what I’m going to write about. Sitting down at my desk with a blank piece of paper and an internal void is a recipe for disaster. So whether it is the Snowflake method or Self Publishing School’s Mind Map –> Organize –> Write method, I always try to know what I’m going to write about and what I want to say about it. This isn’t always the case. In fact, sometimes I plan out one writing session and end up writing about something totally unrelated, but I don’t mind. The plan is there for next time.
Discipline is the seed bed of inspiration. I don’t always feel like writing, but once I start I can almost always get excited about it. If I’m still not excited after 20 minutes of writing then I give myself permission to quit. I grabbed this idea from my weightlifting career. Sometimes your body feels tired and is lying. Sometimes your body feels tired and really does need rest. But the only way to know for sure is to show up and start working. Some of my greatest workouts were the ones I wanted to skip because of feeling “tired.” Sometimes “tired” is just a fear of greatness, a self-defense mechanism designed to keep us in line with the status quo. Showing up and doing the work is the cure.
For the aspiring writers out there, here are my takeaways:
- Make time to write. You will never find it.
- Creative work is best done in 2-3 hour chunks. It can’t be cobbled together in spare moments.
- Discipline is critical to your success. Make writing a habit.
- No matter how you feel, show up and do the work.
- Know what you are going to write about in advance.
- Guard your attention zealously.
- Writing and editing are two very different experiences and shouldn’t be combined.