Monday, November 21, 2016

9 Ideas To Make Room In Your Life For Writing

Stephanie Morrill is the creator of and the author of several young adult novels, including the historical mystery, The Lost Girl of Astor Street, which releases in February 2017. Despite loving cloche hats and drop-waist dresses, Stephanie would have been a terrible flapper because she can’t do the Charleston and looks awful with bobbed hair. She and her near-constant ponytail live in Kansas City with her husband and three kids. You can connect with her on FacebookTwitterPinterest, Instagram, and sign up for monthly updates on her authorwebsite.

Last Thursday, I sent out an issue of Go Teen Writers Notes about a few things I've done to make room in my life for writing. I encouraged recipients to hit reply with tactics they've adopted, and it was so fun seeing all the responses come in.

Here are the four I mentioned in the newsletter:

1. I use every minute of my writing time. What I mean is, if I have an hour to write, I'm getting better at using my entire hour. If I hit a milestone (like finishing a chapter or passing a word count goal) around minute 55, my past tendency has been to think, "Well, I'll just stop here. I'm practically out of time anyway." I'm getting better about writing up until the moment I have to shut down for the day. Maybe that's only an extra 100 words or so, but that adds up!

2. I think through my next scene while I'm away from my computer. Sometimes this is easy to do because the story has its claws in me. But other times, I have to make choices about not engaging in an audio book or listening to a podcast so that I'm providing myself the quiet space I need for thinking.

3. I let the other people in my life know that I require time to write. When I'm in a season of writing a lot—whether it's NaNo, a publisher's deadline, or a personal goal—it impacts the people around me. Especially the people who live under my roof. I'm getting a lot better at working with my husband to get writing time I need. When I lived with my parents, they were also great about giving me the time and space for writing, when I was good about expressing my need for it.

4. During writing time, I work on my story first and do all my other writerly things after. I have lots of things on my to-do list all the time. It's easy for me to let writing time get squeezed out by writing-related things (like responding to emails from writers, writing blog posts, marketing stuff, etc.) But I've found if I prioritize writing time, those other things still seem to get done. I talked some about that at the start of the year in my post, How To Make Effective Goals When Facing The Unknown.

And then here are the others that were submitted:

Make use of your lunch hour or free period:

Many writers are taking their study hall or lunch time and using it for writing.

Julian Daventry said, "I make time for my writing by sometimes not eating during my lunch break at work - gives me extra time to get some words in.  Or I multitask! I try to fit in typing in odd places - watching my younger siblings, or when in the non-drivers seat of a car."

Kaitee Hart said, "I took study hall this year, so I often use that time to write or think of something to write, or read through other books for inspiration."

And Taisha said, "Right now school is really overwhelming so one thing I found out to be helpful is to work on my NaNoWriMo novel in the bus! I have a Google docs document available offline and I'll just type my story then! Makes the ride flies by quite fast too."

Prioritize it late at night or early in the morning:

Another trend I noticed in responses was how many writers make writing the first thing they do, or the last thing they do.

  • "I write during spare moments at school and then at night before I go to bed, when my brain feels most awake and I have free time." - Katelyn Allred
  • "I write in bed (by hand) till I fall asleep. The hard part is transferring the written story to the computer. But while doing so I get to edit the story and polish at the same time so it works well for me." -Maryam Abdulla
  • "I have a certain time every night that is used for writing.  I've been writing before bed almost every night for the past 3 or 4 years, so it's now become a habit.  Things don't feel right if I don't write a bit before hitting the pillow!" - Julian Daventry
  • "I get up early. I do almost all my writing before work, between the time of 6-7am. I do some writing sometimes during the day, if I both have time and feel like it. And in the evening I ALWAYS journal, even if it's just something small, before I go to bed." - Keturah Lamb

Jessica Staricka sent me an amazing and inspiring email about why she's chosen to get up early:

I wanted to contribute how I make time for my writing because I've made some new habits in the last few months that I know have changed my writing life, and my life in general, forever. 
I'm a junior in college now, and this semester I have no classes until 1pm. I was sick of doing all of my homework all evening and then getting so burned out I just didn't feel like writing. Thanks to my 1pm classes, I decided I would get up an hour earlier each day of classes and do my writing first thing. I reported this to my academic adviser and told him, "...but I'm not getting up at 5am to write before work. That's just not happening." 
He said quietly, "Well, I do." 
My fate was sealed! After that, I had no excuse not to get up at dawn, too. That's when my resolution really began: every single day, no matter how early it is, no matter what important function is going on later that day, no matter how much homework I have, I get up and write for a carefully timed hour first. 
Since I started, I haven't missed a day. I'm at 65 days as I type this email!
Isn't that amazing??

Don't wait for long stretches of time:

Marja wrote to me about writing in 10 minute sessions: "This is something I learned from the book Write Your Novel In 10 Minutes A Day by Katharine Grubb. I set my timer for 10 minutes and write like a madman. 10 minutes of writing every day is better than the one hour I never find - and never write.

And Sarah said, "I usually try to squeeze in a little bit of writing every day, or most days. Even writing a little bit between school and extra-circular activities can go a long way."

Don't wait for your computer:

Go old school with a notebook and pen like Marja suggested, or use your phone!

  • My notebook goes where I go, so I can write wherever I want. It is also faster, just opening my notebook and going. A a computer is asking for my 2-year old to leave her toys, wanting to type as well. (Marja)
  • I write before and after dance, in the car (mainly on my phone) and basically whenever I find time. (Gabriella S.)

Get ruthless about your priorities:

If we want to do big things like write novels, we have to make cuts elsewhere in our life. Megan Croyle said that she  prioritizes using the rocks and sand method, which I talked about in this post. Marja said she cut distractions like Facebook and other apps on her phone that were pulling her away from writing.

Have you done something on this list that's made a big impact on your writing? Or do you have something to add to the list?


  1. I used to write on my lunch break in HS, a notebook and pencil. I don't do this anymore because now lunch break is when I read books I have to review and anything I write with pencil never ends up making it to my laptop. But back in HS, working that way was the difference between never being a writer and realizing that I love it.

  2. Before I had a lap top I used to write all my words by hand, too, then type them onto some word doc ok me cell phone. A lot of work, but made for better edited stories 😀😀

  3. I used to try to write in a notebook during my commute, but then I found this amazing piece of technology called an Alphasmart. Think portable typewriter that allows you transfer your files onto a computer. It completely revolutionized my word count. Totally recommend getting one for those of you who want to write in the car but hate transferring it over through typing.