So, you’ve got that Great American novel inside of you, just itching to get out … or that how-to book that will change the lives of millions … or that screenplay that would be perfect for Hollywood. Now all you need is the time to commit your words to paper. But where, how do you find it?
Let me give you a hint: It’s right in front of you!
Seriously. Time isn’t some mysterious, elusive creature. She’s a heck of a lot more accessible than you think. And here are 10 easy ways to find—and use—her:
1) Think small. You don’t need huge chunks of time in which to write. Few writers can sit or think for that long a stretch anyway. Look instead for smaller units. You’ll be much more successful in your search … and more productive.
2) Get off of autopilot. We waste lots of time each day doing stuff by rote: reading the morning paper, watching TV, eating lunch with co-workers, sleeping in on weekends. Break your routine and you free up valuable writing time.
3) Hit the ground running. Why waste precious time at your desk trying to decide what to write? Make that decision the night before or in the morning shower. Develop a clear-cut strategy, play with a lovely line or two … get your creative juices flowing ahead of time, and then follow where they lead.
4) Create a no-fly zone. A no-fly zone is territory over which enemy aircraft are not allowed to fly. Writers need to establish no-fly zones as well, if they are to keep negative thoughts at bay. Negative thoughts sap energy and thereby waste time. So stand up for yourself and your work. Block out negative thoughts that encroach on your precious writing time.
5) Work up, over, and around others. Rather than convert the masses to your writing schedule, work around theirs. Watch “traffic patterns” at home and the office to determine when you’d be least likely to be interrupted. Is it early in the morning? Late at night? During lunch? Claim this time as your own.
6) Become a peak performer. Whether you know it or not, you have certain times of day when you’re sharpest, hungriest, crankiest, etc. You also have times when you’re most creative. The key is to tap into these peak creative periods—even if it means revamping your schedule or radically altering your notion of time.
7) Become a matchmaker. Writing, ultimately, is a series of tasks (e.g., thinking, reading, filing, typing, not to mention writing itself). Some tasks can be dispensed with in moments; others may take hours. The greater your ability to match given tasks to your available time slots, the greater your ability to move a project across the finish line.
8) Become a smart farmer. Smart farmers know there’s a time to plant and to reap—and so do smart writers. That’s why many work on more than one project simultaneously. It’s a great way to avoid writer’s block and to ready several projects for market. An here’s an added benefit: You’ll have little or no downtime.
9) Say hello to good-byes. Not all projects are created equal. Some are great in theory but awful in practice. Purge these from your system. You’ll not only regain your creative spark but reclaim the precious time you’ve been wasting walking in circles and bumping into walls.
10) Write, even when you’re not writing. If you think writing is about getting words on a page, think again. Writing only partly involves taking a pen in your hand or making your fingers dance across a keyboard. Good writing, ultimately, is about good living. Living takes time and is worth every moment. It’s the stuff of life, the stuff of our books, stories, articles, poems. So embrace it, use it. Make time for it.