Monday, January 15, 2018

How To Create Space And Time For Writing



Stephanie Morrill is the creator of GoTeenWriters.com and the author of several young adult novels, including the historical mystery, The Lost Girl of Astor Street (Blink/HarperCollins). 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 free books on her author website.


How do I make time to write? 

This was one of the most common write-in responses on the Go Teen Writers survey, and none of us were surprised. For nearly all of us, this is the first real test we'll face as a writer.

Sure, you also need an idea and all that jazz, but the story idea will remain just a piece of your imagination unless you somehow find room in your life to write it.



Even though I started writing stories in first grade, I was never very consistent about writing until my junior year of high school when I took a creative writing class. Then writing become homework and carving out the space and time to do it became mandatory.

I think that's what the majority of us want, whether we admit it or not. We want to have to write. But there will be very few timeseven when you become a published authorthat you have to write. No one will check to make sure you are, and no one will prioritize it for you. That has to start with you.

You have to value your writing first.

In Rising Strong, Brené Brown says, "I've learned...if you don't put value on your work, no one is going to do that for you."



As uncomfortable as it can feel at times, WE have to take the first steps in respecting our writing time. So often we want that respect and value to come from the outside, the way it did when our parents taught us to respect volleyball practice, to do homework, or to value attending church. But if you want to be a writer, and if you want people to respect the time you need to create and what you're creating, you will have to lead.

Stop waiting for ideal.

You want to write. You want to take responsibility. But you're so busy.

I know you are. I don't even know what your current season is, but I'm guessing that whether you're in middle school or college or a new parent, you feel too busy for writing consistently. Too busy for creative thinking.

And yes, there are some seasons where I think it's just not wise to push yourself to write. I have a friend who wants to write, but she works full time and has three children who don't like to let her sleep very much. I'm certainly not going to wag my finger at her and tell her, "If only you tried a little harder..." 

But there are other times (and you probably know instinctively if this is you) that the struggle is actually that the time available to you doesn't feel ideal.

My ideal writing happens first thing in the morning with a cup of coffee, a silent office, foggy weather, and empty hours stretching ahead of me. You know how many times I've experienced my ideal in the last 10 years? ZERO.

You have to look for time that's "good enough." Those fifteen minutes before school? Good enough. The twenty minutes in the doctor's waiting room? Good enough. The hour you have during your brother's math club competition? Bring your laptop or notebook, and that's good enough.

We have this perception that real writers get hours to write because it's their job. That's a myth. What I described up above is reality for most real writers.

Jill writes on her phone. She's a real writer.

Shan writes while she waits for her kids in the pick-up line at school. She's a real writer.

I write when my toddler naps. I'm a real writer.

That's what a real writer does. They don't wait for ideal, they just work the writing in around the rest of life.

Start with spacers, not pulling out teeth

I was at the orthodontist with my ten-year-old daughter last week. She has to have a pallet expander, and the first step of that is inserting spacers between her back two teeth. Look how tiny they are!


They're the round things. Four of them can fit on one finger. (And my office lamp needs to be dusted...)

Yet over a few days, having those tiny spacers between her teeth will create just enough space for something bigger. That's what you're looking forjust enough space in your schedule for writing that it can start to bloom into something bigger.

If you're like me, you suffer from wanting to do All The Things right now. I'm especially prone to this in January. But if you're not accustomed to writing regularly, then trying to make yourself write for hours everyday is only going to stress you out and set you up for failure. If you try to do that, writing is likely to feel like pulling teeth.

If you're not accustomed to writing for long periods every day, let yourself off the hook and try to find a "spacer" of space. Ten minutes before school? 100 words a day? Look for a small place to start, something to help you get momentum going.

Chunk Time and Crack Time

Writer Emily P. Freeman talks about chunk time versus crack time sometimes on the podcast HopeWriters. The majority of writers need "chunks" of time, like several uninterrupted hours, to make really good progress. We can get used to working without them, but it's better when we have chunks of time.

But there are also pieces of the writing life, especially as you move into publication, that you can take care of in the "cracks" of your time. I can respond to social media comments in the five minutes I'm waiting for my kids to be released from school. I can plan blog posts while I make dinner. I can design graphics while I watch a baseball game with my husband.

And sometimes I use crack time to prepare for chunk time. To write a blog post takes a chunk of time, but I use cracks of time to think about the post before I even start writing. Then I'm more efficient with my chunk of time.

But sometimes I've guilty of using my chunk time for activities that I can do during crack time. (And then whining later that I didn't get as much writing done as I wanted to...)

Is there anything keeping you from writing today? Are you waiting for permission? For ideal time? Something else? Or do you have the time, but you're choosing something else instead? 

What's something you can do to create a bit more space for writing?

(I'm in Orlando soaking up the Wizarding World of Harry Potter with McKenna, so it may be a few days before I'm able to respond to your comments!)


One last note from community members Naomi Downing and Taylor Bennett:

Are you the only writer in your family? Maybe you’d go so far as to say you’re the only writer in your group of friends.

But… what if there was a place you could go to bounce ideas off of other writers? Somewhere online, so you didn’t have to travel anywhere to participate…

That’s what Inkling Chats are all about! They’re an opportunity for writers, new and experienced, young and old, to come and chat about questions writers all face at some point during their journey.

Inkling Chats will be happening on Twitter at 4PM EST every last Sunday of the month, and they’re hosted by Taylor Bennett, author of Porch Swing Girl, and me—Naomi Downing. You can follow us, @writer_taylor and @Naomihdowning and use #InklingChats to keep up with the conversation. We’d love to have you join us as we offer advice on how to stay inspired, share what draws into a book, and more!









28 comments:

  1. This is...definitely convicting. I try to just write whenever I can (my family doesn't love that, but we can't have everything...) I just wish there were some way we could all have an exact clone. Then the clone could fulfill obligations and the real person could just write all day...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's a perfect idea! I'll see if my big brother can start working on the science of that... as soon as he gets enough time off from college and contractor work and computer programming. ;) I would love for my clone to do school and summer job for me. As long as she can keep my grades up, I'll be happy!

      Delete
    2. I like your new picture, Faith. :) I like the clone thing. I need a clone. XD

      Delete
    3. YES, PLEASE! I too would take a clone. Or an assistant!

      Delete
  2. Thanks for the words of advice. I set my January goal at a half-hour of writing a day- which is achievable, but I think my biggest hurdle is going to be allowing myself to take that half-hour in cracks, not chunks, if necessary.

    ReplyDelete
  3. This is so important for writers! Right now I have more time than most, but I've been in and I'm entering into a period of life where I don't have as much 'ideal' time as I would like. That's when it's time to pull out the chisel and carve out a space of time for writing. Ideal? Maybe not, but we can make it ideal if we want to by making the most of it.

    Thanks for sharing your wisdom!! This is such an important truth for us to learn, not just for writing, but for everything in life.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Sarah! For a while (pre-kids) I had loads of ideal writing time. I treated it like my full time job, and it did amazing things for my growth. Use it wisely!

      Delete
  4. When I was in college, I struggled to find any time to write. I ended up letting my writing go. Now that I've graduated, I regret that I didn't find any time to write at all because now it's been a huge struggle getting back into writing.
    This year, I made a goal of writing 100 words each day in January. So far, I haven't missed a day. Because 100 words is manageable even on busy days--even if it means writing at 11pm. I still don't have "Ideal Time" as you mentioned, but I've gone for that good enough. And because of that, I've written! Thanks for this post, Stephanie! It was an encouragement that writing time is something we have to work toward and not everyone has lots of time to write. I know I've fallen into the trap that real writers write all day every day and have a perfect life. Thanks for being real about how it really is!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. College is such a difficult time to try and write, so be kind to yourself. I'm proud of you for starting back up this year! That's wonderful!

      Delete
  5. This post is just what I need right now! I've been inwardly groaning that I don't have time to write because of my full-time job--and not writing in the cracks I do have because they aren't "ideal." Thanks for the reminder that writing time doesn't *have* to be ideal.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Writing when you work full time is SO hard. What worked for me was finding cracks of time, like you mentioned, and then scheduling larger chunks on days off.

      Delete
  6. I love this. I usually write best when my mind is fresh, so I get up early and after devotions I have a couple hours to write before work.

    I'm still learning to write more, though. I will admit that I rarely push myself to write at night. I will sometimes to afternoons. But at night the only thing I'll do besides sleep is journal ;p

    I love the idea of chunk/ crack time. Every minute counts. I feel as I am continually needing to learn how to put my time to good use. Just as I think I'm getting it I see 100 more ways I can work on it ;)

    Great post!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Writing at night is very tough for me too! I use it mostly for email or social media stuff. If I'm on a deadline or close to the end of a book, I can usually push myself to write at night.

      Delete
  7. The part about Crack time and Chunk time is extremely helpful. I have a hard time with finding time and felt like I needed to set out a specific time everyday to write. But, I think with how my upcoming schedule will be, it will be about writing when I have the time and not in such a uniform way.

    Thanks for this post! It is extremely helpful!!

    ~Ivie
    iviewrites.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's great that you're being strategic, Ivie. I'm impressed!

      Delete
  8. I love this post! I have been trying to write at least every day--at least fifteen minutes. It's been working pretty well:).
    Wizarding World of Harry Potter!!! Have fun! We went there last June for a family vacation, and it was AWESOME!! I geeked out the entire time :):).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, I was in FULL geek mode, Allison. Which is cool there because everyone is. (Except for the casual Universal visitors who just want to breeze through.)

      Delete
  9. Ah, I see now how I could majorly improve my productivity. I am guilty of ignoring crack time, sometimes I just get this foolish notion that I should wait until I've got at least forty-five minutes of uninterrupted time to actually sit down and work, but I'm sure I could get somewhere with even just a few minutes of spare time. After all, the little time would start to add up.

    ReplyDelete
  10. A few minutes at a time is better than nothing. :) And learning how to manage your time is a great skill!

    Browsing Pinterest and piddling on evening chores is a great way to loose writing time... *glares at self* SO STOP IT

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Julian we are ALL guilty of that one! (Though sometimes we really do get inspiration that way!)

      Delete
  11. Thank you! I really needed this. I am very busy, and I tell people and myself that I am too busy to write, but that's not really true. I just spend my extra time reading and watching Star Trek: Voyager (which, by the way, is an amazing show), and say that because of that, I'm too busy. I need to start taking more advantage of the chunks and the cracks in my life. So thank you a lot for this post!

    ~Mila

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mila, I totally get it! I would recommend not cutting those activities entirely but rather just limiting them a tiny bit to give yourself time to write, or using them as rewards for when you've finished writing for the day.

      Delete
    2. That's a good idea. Thanks!

      ~Mila

      Delete
  12. I bought an appointment calendar to get a better idea of where I am spending my time and were I can slip in 15, 30, or more minutes. Actually, what I bought is called a passion planner. It's made to help you keep track of your schedule but also, to help set goals.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can be such a nerd about those planners! Good for you, Alisa. I hope it's helpful.

      Delete

Home