When your personal and business life seem to gang up and rob you of your time and energy—while probably harvesting a couple organs while they’re at it—it can be difficult to tell yourself it’s okay to sit down and write. Not only does guilt get in the way, but you’re just too damn tired. Thankfully, it is possible to still get some writing done even when your calendars, celestial or otherwise, aren’t aligned.
Today was a Bad Day. On top of little sleep and getting slammed at work, I also had to tutor and take care of errands, not to mention showering and feeding the menagerie that has parked itself in my house. So much for a blog update today, I thought.
As I sat at a red light, furiously tapping my fingers against the wheel with an ineffective glare, I couldn’t stop thinking that I was wasting a precious two minutes of my time sitting there. I was doing nothing but turning the radio to a different station every time a Katy Perry song came on.
Then, I realized what I was doing: I was starting to write my blog post in my head. This could be an anecdote to put my topic into context. Suddenly, things became a little easier as I outlined the structure. During this brief pause in an otherwise frantic day, I could reflect on writing and how to approach the next task before me.
Jot down your thoughts throughout the day:
I often find that thinking up the opening line for your next scene or bullet-pointing the main ideas of your short story will be more helpful to you than bemoaning the loss of your time. At work, I have a separate notebook at my desk specifically for writing notes in-between tasks. By the time I come home, I will have already taken a giant step into the writing process, and my thoughts are already on their way to being organized. With that step out of the way, all that’s left to do is sit down and attack the keyboard.
“But that’s the hardest part! I don’t have time for hours upon hours of slaving in front of the computer!”
Get excited about the work:
Then do something else. Take a walk and think about that scene, or story, or whatever it is until you feel like you’re ready to tackle it. Get excited about it. Discover something alluring about this writing endeavor that you are so eager to get to, you have to get it down now before it flits out of your head forever.
Is a character about to come across a deep revelation? Is the villain going to kill someone? Are you about to bust out a soul-shattering theme that will make the readers weep? You will be much more able to squeeze in time during your hectic day if you find these nuggets of excitement to look forward to, even if it’s just a love scene or a funny little exchange you thought up during lunch.
Schedule, or strengthen your willpower:
I hear all the time that scheduling a specific part of your day to write is helpful, and maybe this is helpful to some writers, but that’s simply not how I function. My schedule changes on a daily basis. If you’re going to set up a schedule, you must stick to it, or else you’ll wander and become complacent. For more on the effects of this particular event, you might want to peek at my earlier blog post about The Nine Circles of Procrastination.
If you don’t set up a schedule for yourself, then you have to have strong enough willpower to say, “I will write after dinner,” or “I can write before I pick the kids up from school.” Doing this will not only prevent your work from slipping, but it will teach you discipline.
Overall, it’s going to come down to how badly you want to get things on paper. Sometimes life just Rick Roll’s you and you need a week off, and this is acceptable. Take any more time off than necessary, however…well, again, see that post about procrastination. Even if it’s just five minutes of speedwriting to keep your skills sharp, you need to find that time as often as you can. Your writing productivity will be all the better for it.
And yes, I did just Rick Roll you. I am not sorry.