Friday, April 22, 2011

Finding Moments with the Muse: 6 Ways the Pros Find Time to Write

0610 listThe statistics are in. We work longer and harder now than we ever did before. Two-income households, the difficulty of balancing work and family life, information overload and more all suck time away from our writing. But guess what?  The best-selling pros faced the exact same time crunch as you do now, and here’s how they worked around it.

Write early in the morning
Drag yourself out of bed a half hour early everyday and write.  This will give you three hours and thirty minutes of writing time a week.  Many famous authors have taken this approach.

Anthony Trollope woke up everyday at 5:20am before beginning his full-time job at the post office, and wrote 250 words every 15 minutes.  He regularly produced over 40 pages a week.

After her husband died, Mary Higgins Clark wrote from 5 to 7am, before her 5 children woke up for school.

Write at night
If your energy level is high enough, try staying up a little later each night after everyone else has settled down for the night.  This was the preferred method of Dostoyevsky.

Colleen McCullough worked as a Research Assistant during the day, and wrote two drafts of The Thorn Birds in 3 months, averaging 50 pages a night.

Write during coffee breaks
When your co-workers are taking their coffee or smoke breaks, stay at your desk, or find some place where you can write in a notebook.  If you get two 15-minute breaks a day, use one of them to gain an extra hour and 15 minutes of writing time a week.

John Grisham used this approach while working as a lawyer.  Whenever he had a few minutes, he would write.  He wrote during court recesses, while waiting for client meetings, or whenever he could squeeze it in.

Write when the kids nap
J.K. Rowling often let her baby sleep while she wrote about Harry, Ron Weasley and friends at a local coffee shop.  Try to flex to the baby’s schedule or write a couple of times a week during the kid’s “quiet time.” 

Or do what Anne Tyler, the author of The Accidental Tourist and Breathing Lessons, did and write while your kids are at school. Tyler wrote from 9am to 3:30pm every day.

Go into the office early or leave a little bit later and write
I try to do this a couple of days a week, and it seems to work well. Not that I am any sort of a famous writer or anything, but taking 15 minutes at the beginning of my work day really does help get some writing done.

Use a tape recorder and dictate your work during a commute
Barbara Cartland, one of the most prolific novelists of all time, dictated most of her novels using a tape recorder.  They probably were not dictated during a commute, more than likely they were dictated lounging on an elegant divan, with a couple of foo-foo dogs on her lap… but you get the picture.

Schedule writing office hours during a weekend or day off
I get up early on weekends.  An hour later than when I would normally wake up for an average work day, but when it is still quiet around the house.  Two books: The Weekend Novelist and The Weekend Novelist Writes a Mystery by Robert Ray explore how to write using the weekend hours to produce a novel in one year. 

These ideas, combined with a few unique ones of your own, should help you find at least 3 to 5 hours each week to get that writing project done.  What are some of your tips and tricks for finding time to write?

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