Saturday, May 30, 2015

If Only I Had Time to Write!

Every person who’s ever had a story idea in her head has had that thought, at least once. For some, it’s much harder to carve out writing time than for others. The single mom with two kids, for example, has more things eating up her 24 hours than, say, a retiree. But there are still ways to make time for writing.

Rather than tell you what you’re doing wrong, let me use myself as an example. I’ve had a total of 11 books traditionally published since my first one in 2007. I’ve learned a lot during that time, but one thing I will probably always struggle with is procrastination. I’m the Queen of Putting it Off. And one of the best ways to do that is to bemoan the lack of time for writing. Just trying to write this blog post, there were lots of reasons I couldn’t sit down and do it. Here are my top three.

I used to watch a lot more TV than I do now. One of the things that has helped me cut down on TV time is not having cable. I use several streaming services to watch current TV shows, which means I’m more intentional in my choices. I can’t channel surf, so gone are the days of flipping through stations with the remote, hoping to find something good, and then going through a second time in case I missed something. Still, between Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon, there’s a lot to draw my interest. TV needs to be something I reward myself with. After I finish writing a chapter, I can watch an episode of that show I’m crazy about. Otherwise, I’ll spend all day enjoying the creative efforts of others, rather than expressing my own.

Social Media
For me, this is a bigger time sucker than television. One of the reasons professional writers spend so much time on social media sites is because we’re told it’s good for marketing. It helps create a platform, expand our fan base, build name recognition and the like. However, if you’re not social, if all you do is plug your books, people quickly lose interest. It’s a fine line to walk. I’m a big Facebook user. The posts that get the most responses for me are the ones with pictures, usually of my dog or the amazing agave blooming in my front yard. It’s fun to interact with family and friends, and some readers, too. It’s also easy to go off on rabbit trails, looking at other posts, commenting on memes, taking quizzes to find out which cookie best describes my personality, and before I know it, an hour has gone by. That’s time I could have spent writing my novel.

My other social media addiction is Pinterest. I use the excuse that it gives me inspiration for future stories, and it does. One of my boards is named “Imagine” and the pictures there fuel my creativity. But I can literally spend hours on that site. I have so many recipes pinned now, I could prepare a year of meals. And I can never complete all the craft projects I’ve pinned. One day, I just might build that cinder block fire pit. First, though, I really need to write!

I know. We’re writers, and writers need to read! That’s totally true. Reading, especially things outside our genres, expands our minds, helps us think of things in different ways, and introduces us to new ways of saying something. But I can get lost in a good book. One chapter turns into two, hours pass, and I haven’t written anything. It’s another situation where I have to be intentional. I will read only so much. Or, I will write 1000 words on my own novel before I fire up the Kindle.

Here’s a Bonus Tip
Something I’ve discovered truly helps me get writing done is to make my work space portable. I have a laptop that I use most of the time. At this moment, I’m sitting in a recliner in the living room, typing away. I also have a desktop PC. In order to seamlessly go between the two, I use Dropbox. All my writing is saved in the Dropbox folder. When I save it on one computer, it updates the cloud folder, so the current version of my file is always available. And if I’m away from home and need to look at one of my documents, I can sign into Dropbox from any computer and access my files. It’s changed the way I work in a very positive way.

Bottom Line
Nobody really has enough time to do everything they want to do. But if you want to write, you’ll find ways to do it. Try this: Set a timer for 5 minutes. Write down everything you do in a day that’s negotiable. All the things you can put off for later, or spend less time doing. When that timer goes off, I’ll bet you’ll have a considerable list. Now you have a place to start. Go forward, and plan your attack.

Make time to write!

*  *  *

Jennifer AlLee was born in Hollywood, California, and grew up above a mortuary one block away from the famous intersection of Hollywood & Vine. Now she lives in the grace-filled city of Las Vegas, which just goes to prove she’s been blessed with a unique life. When she’s not busy spinning tales, she enjoys playing games with friends, attending live theater and movies, and singing at the top of her lungs to whatever happens to be playing on Pandora. Although she’s thrilled to be living out her lifelong dream of being a novelist, she considers raising her son to be her greatest creative accomplishment. You can visit her on Facebook, Pinterest, or her website.


Ane Mulligan said...

Welcome to Novel Rocket, Jen! We're delighted to have you join the team. I find it amazing how much time most of us really do have. We can find it all over if we're serious about writing. It's quite easy to find the serious writers amongst those complaining about no time. I look at Robin Caroll, Cara Putman, and Cynthia Ruchti as examples of that. They're serving ACFW, and in Robin's and Cara's case, raising children at the same time. I know single mothers who work full time and still write. It's all a matter of how serious they are about it.

Niki Turner said...

Jen! I started reading this, got halfway through, read the mention of the agave plant and went, "It's JEN!!!" How fun. And excellent advice. It comes down to discipline, which is one of those words we don't like.
One thing that has helped me, since I work full-time at home, is switching to a standing desk setup for my regular job. Then, at the end of the day, I don't feel guilty at all for grabbing my laptop and plopping into the recliner. It makes writing time something of a treat!

Carrie Lynn Lewis said...


A great post. Using time wisely is a huge bugaboo for most people.

I'm currently reading Procrastinate on Purpose by Rory Vaden. It's not specifically a book for writers, but writers can definitely benefit from it. I sure am.

One of the most surprising ways he suggests to make better use of time is to stop thinking about all the time we're wasting and just do something with it. What a novel idea (pun intended). I can't tell you how many minutes a day I sit thinking I should be doing something or bemoaning the fact that I didn't do something. If those minutes had gone into writing, it wouldn't take very many days before they'd add up to a significant chunk of time.

Something I do that I found on my own is use an online timer to make sure I spend only a predetermined amount of time on any one task. For example, I give myself an hour each day to read and comment on blogs. When the timer runs out, I quit.

Unless, of course, I'm in the middle of an important thought and close to finishing!

Thanks for the tips, too. They are much appreciated.