Here are five suggestions.
1. Figure out what’s really important to you. This might seem trite, but seriously – when was the last time you sat down in total quiet, free of technology and life distractions, and thought about what’s most important to you? Be honest with yourself. Is writing at the top of the priority list, or do your family and job come first? Do you write to be published? To earn money? As a hobby? Or do you just want to get that story out of your head so you can focus on another interest?
More importantly, are you pursuing your own dream, or someone else’s?
Everyone writes for different reasons. Figuring out what drives you to write, and identifying your desired end result, will help you to prioritize activities in your life so you can get your writing work done.
2. Once you’ve established your priorities, create a writing schedule that suits your lifestyle. If you’re not a morning person, getting up to write at 4:00 a.m. probably isn’t going to work for you. Likewise, if you need more than a few minutes to let your brain decompress before you hit the keyboard, trying to cram writing into a 15-minute break at work may not be practical, either.
Experiment with different ways to squeeze writing into your daily life, and see what works and what doesn’t.
3. Unplug. That’s right – step away from the cell phone, the Internet, the TV, and the video games. Turn it all off. You don’t need to be connected to the world every minute of the day. Really.
As your mind quiets, free of the constant bombardment of texts and breaking news and advertising and meaningless drivel, you’ll begin to hear that inner voice. The one that unexpectedly pops into your head with the perfect scene ending, or a word you couldn’t think of the day before.
The little voice that told you to start writing in the first place.
4. Do something else. Go for a hike or a run. Knit, crochet, or do needlework. Sign up for an art or music class. Play games with your dog, cat, or horse. Finish a crossword. Try a new recipe.
Any activity that actively engages your mind (watching TV is not on that list) and gets it working in a different direction is healthy for you and your writing. Make time to do “something else” every day.
5. Be kind to yourself. It’s easy to be self-critical when you see others around you meeting their 50,000 word NaNo goal, or getting their books published. We all know the super-writers among us: those who seem to churn out book after book while flawlessly juggling work, school, kids, and multiple volunteer gigs. “Why can’t I be more like That Writer?” we wonder.
You have to be realistic. Every one of us has a different life situation, different challenges, different talents, even different levels of physical and mental energy. We all do the best we can with what we have. It’s a hard lesson to learn sometimes, but we can’t all be That Writer. We can, however, still be successful writers.
Set goals, establish priorities, and do your best. If you can’t write every day, write whenever possible. When life derails your writing train, don’t beat yourself up about it. Get back to your project as soon as you can. And remember, you must do the work before you can be successful. Don’t compare yourself to That Writer, but if you do, remember that he or she undoubtedly faces the same setbacks, failures, and personal challenges that we all do. But he or she has also done the work.
Once your life starts coming into balance, it will actually be easier to find the time to write. The writing itself will come easier. And who knows? You just might rediscover the passion for writing that you’ve been missing. When you do, it will show in your writing.