1. Think about what you can give up
Nobody can “find” time to write. Spare time doesn’t exist. You have to make it. Which usually means giving something else up. Sleep, TV, internet browsing, your lunch break, it could be anything. But this is the first thing to consider: is there something that I’m already doing in my life which isn’t really essential, that doesn’t add to my well-being, that isn’t truly important to me.
If you think of something, consider giving it up for a month and using the time for writing instead. At the end of the month, you might find you’re happy to relinquish it for good.
2. Think about when you can fit writing in
Are there any other pockets of time you can use? Last year, my kids’ dancing classes overlapped but weren’t on at exactly the same time. I had half an hour between when one child started and another child finished. Instead of going home, which would have meant having less than 10 minutes of time at home, I took my laptop to dancing and sat in the waiting room and worked for that half an hour. It was amazing how much I got done. Do you have any time like this, waiting time, wasted time, time that you could put to a better use?
3. Create a schedule
you need to schedule your writing time into a calendar of some sort. Book it in, as you would any appointment. You wouldn’t book a friend in for coffee and then not turn up. So why would you do the same for yourself? If it’s on a calendar, it’s more likely to get done. So, what will you use? An electronic calendar, a diary, a wall planner? Decide, go buy it, and fill it in for the next month.
4. Get some writing exercises/prompts
If you sit down for your scheduled writing time and don’t know what to write, don’t have any ideas for a scene, then you can take out a book with writing exercises in it and use one of them to get you started. I often use writing exercises and prompts when I’m just starting out as they can get you to write things you wouldn’t have thought of on your own. What you want to avoid is using your scheduled writing time to think up what scene to write; it’s better just to start writing straight away.
5. Get a new ideas notebook
Ideas can come at any time during the day. You need somewhere to record those ideas, and a master list of ideas that stays on your desk. I have notebooks in my handbag, bedside table, kitchen drawer, car etc. Any time I get an idea for a scene or character, I write it down. Then, at the end of the week, I transfer all the scribbled notes from all the different notebooks into one master notebook on my desk. This is what I look at when I sit down to write; I open it up, choose one of the scribbled ideas, and write a scene around it.
6. Who do you need to talk to to make this happen?
Family, friends, husband, partner, wife? Who needs to understand that you’ve made a commitment to do this and you’d like them to respect and understand that commitment. It’s so much easier to write if you have support. So ask for this support up front. Show them your calendar, show them you’re serious. I bet they’ll be so proud of you for giving it a go.
7. What rewards might work for you?
Rewards are great motivators. If you commit to this for a month and you turn up to most of your scheduled writing appointments, what reward can you promise yourself? New notebook, new book, massage, chocolate, movie, it could be anything. Write it down in the very last box on your calendar at the end of the month and work for it.
8. What are your goals?
I tend to find that if I set goals, I either meet or exceed them. What might your goals be? 200 words per writing session? 1,000 words a week? 50,000 words a year? I think it works best to make weekly or daily goals and also larger yearly goals. That way you know what you have to achieve each time you sit down, and you can also see how you’re chipping away at the larger goal every day. Write your goals into your calendar and go for it!
9. What small wins could you aim for?
Getting short stories, essays, articles and poems published or shortlisted for awards is a great motivator. It reassures you that you have talent and skill and helps you to persevere over the long and sometimes arduous task of writing a novel. So take some time to write the short pieces too. Identify a handful of different publication opportunities or competitions and aim to submit to those. Just when you’re feeling down about your novel, an email that you’ve had an essay accepted for publication will give you a huge boost.
10. Think about a couple of new things you might try this month
Try new things, to stretch yourselves outside of your regular routines. What could you do this month that is something different ? Where could you go that you’ve never been before? It doesn’t need to be far, it could just be walking a different route, visiting a park you’ve never been to, going to see a play. Jot down a couple of ideas, schedule them into your calendar and see if it sparks any new ideas or thoughts. Remember to take your notebook with you!
Look out for this!