Your life is crazy. It’s hard to find time to write. We’ve all been there.
True time management requires a number of skills, and a thorough knowledge of the self. You have to understand your own weaknesses when it comes to wasting time, what slows you down when facing the blank page, and how to be flexible within your own routines.
But beyond all that, sometimes you just need permission to break the rules. When life gets really crazy, writing often gets pushed to the back burner, and before you know it, you’ve lost momentum on your story.
So much for all that hard work.
If you’re spinning your wheels right now when it comes to your writing time, I give you permission to try these seven crazy ways to squeeze another 30 minutes out of your day to write.
Go ahead. Be brave!
1. Steal Your Writing Time from the Boss
I used to work for a corporation. They often wasted my time with rambling meetings, useless tasks (like weekly reports to the boss who’s office was only three steps from mine and who knew darn well what I was working on), and weekends of overtime because the big boss had to micromanage everything.
I worked with some great people, but corporations will be corporations, and many times things are done as inefficiently as possible. After about two years of working there, I decided to steal some of my time back. I was a hard worker. I was promoted from associate copywriter to managing editor in under three years, so I wasn’t slacking. But I was tired of feeling like my hard work was benefiting everyone but me.
So I started writing first thing in the morning. I was at my computer, typing away, so no one knew any different. I kept the headphones in for a good 30 minutes and instead of working on a project, I worked on my novel. (Usually I went in early and got started before everyone else arrived.) No one was the wiser, and honestly, I felt like I jumpstarted my creative brain with the story work so that I was even more efficient once I switched over to company work.
Plus, I felt more empowered in general, because I was devoting some of my creative energy to my own projects.
If you have a desk job, try it. Don’t sabotage your career, but don’t feel guilty about giving some of your time back to yourself when you need it. Think long term here. Where do you want to be in five years? If that’s with your book in your hands, it’s time to fit the writing in.
2. Go Parking
I get some of my best work done in the car. Drive somewhere. Pull out the laptop. Write. No one bothers you. You can play music if you want to, or go with the complete silence.
There are a lot of ways this works. You can do it while out on an errand. Just extend your time by 30 minutes. You can do it on the way to work or on the way home. You can do it on your lunch hour. Do it while your kids are at soccer practice. Get used to taking your laptop with you wherever you go.
Remember when you used to sneak off with your girlfriend or boyfriend as a teenager? Remember how the car was your sanctuary together? Get that feeling back, only this time share the space with your characters. If you have to explain where you were when you get back…well, you were working, right? Or running errands. Or stuck in traffic. Or picking strawberries.
3. Get Rid of the Clocks
Put them all away for a weekend, and go with your gut on what to do when. Studies show that this boosts creativity.
I talked about this extensively in a previous post (Why You Should Hide Your Clock to be More Creative), but here’s a quick summary for you. Researchers put participants through several experiments. In each one, they had half of the group organize their activities by the clock, and the other half by a to-do list (list of tasks).
The activities included going holiday shopping, performing yoga poses, and planning a project. During the yoga session, for example, half the participants were told to hold a pose for a certain period of time, and clocks were prominent in the room. The other half were told to perform the series of poses, but were given no timeframe, and clocks were not present.
Overall, the results showed a key finding for people who work in creative industries: relying on the clock made people less creative, and less happy.
So put the clocks away. Obviously you can’t do this forever, but it can help you find 30 minutes on a weekend that you didn’t know were there.
4. Play Hooky
Maybe you skip out on that party or get-together you were going to attend, call in sick to work, or skip out for an afternoon because of that nasty headache you have. Forget your plans to get groceries, meet your friends for a cocktail, or cancel and reschedule that dentist appointment.
Obviously you can’t do this all the time, but when your life is going crazy and you’re writing is suffering, you can go out on a limb a little bit. Reclaim that writing time. It’s important not only for your project, but for your own internal motivation and momentum. Getting back into writing on just one day is sometimes all you need to get back into the habit.
So skip out. Cancel. Make your apologies. You can’t be there. Something came up.
5. Talk It Out
We have several ways to record our voices these days. You can use an old-fashioned voice recorder, an app on your smartphone, or the voice function on your computer. That means whatever you’re doing, you can talk and record at the same time.
If you’re life is crazy and you’re not getting your writing in, it’s time to take advantage of your speaking voice. I’ll be the first one to tell you that I think best through my fingers, but I can also say that with practice, you can learn to use your voice more and more to push your stories forward.
When I travel, for instance, I’ve really gotten into the habit of making myself focus on whatever story I’m working on at the moment. It’s a little harder to concentrate when I’m driving and I don’t have a blank page in front of me, but I’ve found it’s just like anything else—the more you do it, the easier it becomes.
Today, I can take an eight-hour drive and spend the whole time working through a plot issue in my novel, or laying the groundwork for the next several chapters, or playing out the climax in my head like a movie. Sometimes I jot down notes when I stop for gas, but most of the time I use the handy app on my phone to record my thoughts.
Then, when I get back to the computer, I can write it all down in half the time. Best of all, the practice just keeps the story fresh in my head, which is often half the battle.
6. Get Ticked
Are you a busy mom with a family who has been, well, less than helpful lately? Are you a working man or woman who’s fed up with all the overtime you’ve been putting in this month? Are you a grandparent who’s been babysitting the grandkids just a few too many hours the last few weeks?
Often when our lives go crazy and we don’t have time to write, it’s because we’re caving in a bit too much to everyone else’s wants and desires. Your boss wants the project done ahead of time. Your family wants dinner on the table by 7:30. Your grown-up kids love the free babysitting.
Whatever your situation, sometimes you have to say, “enough is enough.” Reclaim your own time. Tell the boss sorry, you just can’t stay over this week. Tell your family they’ll have to fend for themselves for a few nights, and oh by the way, it’s time for other members to pitch in with the cleaning. And your grown kids? They can hire a babysitter now and then.
We are often afraid to show our irritation, for fear of conflict and letting other people down. But if you’re not writing, you’re letting yourself down, and that’s not fair either. Speak up. Get irritated if you need to. Ruffle a few feathers. Leave on time and go home and write.
7. Program Yourself
This one takes a little belief in the “woo-woo” of the subconscious mind.
All you have to do is tell yourself this right before you go to sleep: “I’m proud of myself for writing for 30 minutes tomorrow.”
Repeat that statement about 10 times before you nod off. See yourself writing. Imagine your fingers on the keyboard and how it will feel to enjoy that writing time. Then trust yourself that you’re a man or woman of your word. You promised yourself you’d find that half hour, so you will. Make your word law. You said you’d do it.
The good thing about this technique is that it takes advantage of two things:
- The suggestibility of your mind when you’re tired,
- the power of the subconscious.
In his book Hidden Power: How to Unleash the Power of Your Subconscious Mind, author James K. Van Fleet states that fatigue increases your subconscious’ minds susceptibility to suggestions:
“But when you’re tired and worn out, your conscious mind drops its watchful guard.” You can use this to your advantage by making suggestions to yourself at that time (rather than watching late-night infomercials that convince you to buy, for example.)
The great inventor Thomas Edison was quoted as saying, “Never go to sleep without a request to your subconscious.”
Once you make this suggestion, your brain will go to work overnight to figure out how to make it happen. Try to trust the process. If it doesn’t work the first time, try it again, and try to visualize the result as clearly as possible.
Don’t forget—when you feel that little intuitive nudge the next day to write, don’t ignore it! That’s your subconscious trying to do what you told it to do. Give yourself permission to stop doing whatever you’re doing (that’s probably not as important) and go write.
How do you squeeze 30 minutes of writing time out of your crazy day?