This is a question that's being discussed in the Go Teen Writers Facebook group, and it's something that I have regularly asked myself for the last 12 years. In this busy life, how can I find time to write?
Don't trick yourself into waiting
It's easy to fall into a trap of thinking, "I'm too busy now ... but next week." Or next month. Or after you finish that class. Or once you're done with school.
The reality is that most of the time, life will be very full. There have been seasons of my life - like when my husband worked all day, we had no kids, and I wasn't working - when finding time to write was easy. But even as a person who makes a living as a novelist, I fight for every bit of writing time I get.
Establish concrete, manageable goals
Sure we all want to finish our book, but what's something you can do five or six days a week to make that happen? Is it 500 words a day? Or 2,000 words a week? An hour of editing? Define what it is you want to accomplish on a regular basis, and then...
Communicate your goals to the people you live with
Many of you share a bedroom and a computer with siblings, which means you'll need to get creative and think through what's reasonable to request. Can you get up an hour early - even 3 days a week - and write? If you share a room, maybe you can bargain (more on bargaining in a bit) for an hour of privacy in there everyday so you can bring the laptop in there and have some quiet, uninterrupted time.
Can you recruit your parents into helping you? Your parents may not fully understand or support your writing obsession (that's another topic for another day) but if they do, ask them for help. A couple weeks ago when I spoke at the One Year Adventure Novel conference, I told the parents one of the best things they could do to support their aspiring novelists was to guard their writing time.
If my daughter came to me in 10 years and said, "I'm trying to write a book; can I please have the computer from seven to eight every evening so I can accomplish my daily word goal?" I would work hard to make that happen for her. Now, if I discovered that she was spending more time on Facebook (or whatever will be distracting us all in 10 years) than she was with her characters, my devotion to giving her quiet writing time would fade. So if you're asking for writing time, make sure it actually IS writing time.
My husband is a runner. Which means he sometimes needs to find hours on the weekends that he can go run, like, 22 miles. So we bargain with each other. I help him carve out time to go run, and he helps me carve out time for writing. And everybody wins because we're both much happier people when we've had that time.
Is there someone - a sibling, a roommate- who you can bargain with? Is there a way to get what you both want?
Utilize those free 5 or 10 minutes
This is something I didn't get good at until I had babies and it became necessary to survival - I learned to write in little bursts. Free five minutes? Maybe I could do a paragraph. 10 minutes? That could be a whole page if I really buckled down.
It won't feel like you're making a ton of progress, but boy does it add up.
Don't wait for the computer
If you don't have access to your computer 24 hours a day, make use of your non-computer time with a notebook. When I'm playing outside with the kids, I'll often grab a scrap of paper and jot a rough draft of a blog post, backcover copy, or a scene. When I finally get to my computer, I can make better use of my allotted time.
Use a timer
Many days, my timer is critical to me getting things done. She's nothing fancy:
Just an old kitchen timer that was retired when the magnet broke off. If I'm having trouble focusing on my manuscript, I'll tell myself, "I'm going to write for a solid 25 minutes." Then I'll start the timer and go. It keeps me off email, and it often helps me bust through whatever wall I'd hit that keeping me from wanting to write.
When my 25 minutes are up, I'll sometimes give myself a couple minutes to get a drink or fire off a quick email, but then I start the timer again.
Maybe you struggle from TOO much time...
As frustrating as all that "life stuff" is that gets in the way of dedicated writing time, sometimes the structure school/work hours provide forces us to make use of our free time. Sometimes no structure and lots of free time means zero to little productivity. I sometimes observe this in the people around me who claim they want to write a book but don't have the time ... yet I see them playing Farmville in the middle of the afternoon. We all need to kick back, of course, but when we're chasing a big accomplishment like writing a book, we also need to force ourselves to shut down the distractions.
For several years, I didn't work or have kids and my husband was gone from 7:30 to 5:30 Monday-Friday AND getting a Master's degree. This left me with quite a bit of time on my own. We briefly discussed me getting a job but finally decided I would invest my time in writing. And I did. For 3 1/2 years, I treated writing books like a job, and that's why it IS my job now.
If you need help with budgeting your time, I loved this post from Michael Hyatt about creating an ideal week.
What are some ways you've found time to write?