Last week I spoke as part of
The Naked Challenge: Creative Mastery Global Summit on mastering creativity for writers, musicians, filmmakers and others. My talk gave tips on how to make the time to write, not find; proving that even in a busy life, there is time for doing what you love.
10 TIPS TO GET YOU WRITING (or whatever you enjoy doing)
SCHEDULE THE TIME. Put it in your calendar. When you have a dentist appointment, you go, yes? The same with writing. Treat it as an appointment… to write. Just as you’re committed to your teeth, be committed to your writing.
BE MORE ORGANIZED IN YOUR EVERYDAY LIFE. Our stuff is a big culprit in the time-suck of our days. We spend time cleaning stuff, putting stuff away and working to pay for stuff. Get rid of stuff that’s taking up valuable time. The stuff left over is the stuff you want and need and should have a place so you can find it quickly.
DON’T WASTE TIME. Checking Facebook and watching YouTube videos of cats eats up valuable time. Take control and use it wisely. Have a lunch break? Write. Have a long train commute? Edit. Or wake up one hour earlier and write. Writing takes concentration, as opposed to checking Twitter. If you’re making the commitment to write, give it your all.
CREATE A ROUTINE. Studies show a new habit takes 21 days to become routine. Put in your schedule book: “Day 1, Day 2, Day 3…Day 21.” Do it every day, even if only for 15 minutes. Get used to the daily event, even the chair, until you begin to look forward to that time. And if you think, “I’ll just skip today,” don’t. Do you skip brushing your teeth? Even if you just reread something you wrote the day before or jot down ideas, get in the seat. The rest will come. We are starting a new habit and that’s not easy. But nothing worth it is.
COMPLETE LITTLE TO DO’S. Before your scheduled time, spend 15 to 30 minutes completing easy tasks like making the bed or replying to emails. Tackling these small tasks first removes the distraction that inevitably pop up of “I need to do this” when you sit down to write. It’s also an incentive toward the larger goal: writing.
ELIMINATE DIVERSIONS. Shut. Off. Your. Phone. Ringers and notifications can take you away from your writing. It’s easy to get distracted, but remember you’ve got a scheduled appointment. Stick to it.
HAVE A DESIGNATED WRITING AREA. Whether the living room, an office or Starbucks, try to get the same seat if possible to help get you into the proper mindset. Also, have writing supplies ready to go, including drinks and snacks. Don’t let thirst or hunger stop your process. Another suggestions, wear a writing cap or fuzzy slippers. I used to wear an old cowboy hat (don’t laugh) and it felt like I was getting into character. Whatever works for you.
WARM UP. When you play basketball, you stretch first, right? Same with writing. Open a new document or take a blank piece of paper, think of a topic, maybe a childhood memory, and write for a few minutes. If you want to keep going, then by all means. You might toss it when you’re done or it may lead to a chapter idea. Either way, it helps “warm up” your subconscious thoughts, settles you down and gets you in the writing mind.
BREAK IT DOWN. Just like a marathon is made up of steps, books are made up of chapters, chapters are made up of sentences, and sentences are written word by word. Breaking it down makes any task less daunting and more attainable. Little accomplishments net greater results by keeping you coming back again. Here are some ways to break it down:
GIVE YOURSELF A DEADLINE. Deadlines are great motivators. Think of each deadline as your editor telling you what to do. If your editor said, “Chapter One is due Friday.” Guess what? You’d have Chapter One done by Friday.
TIME’S UP! Set a timer for an hour (or however long you want) and when it goes off, stop, you’re done. This removes the pressure of thinking you need to sit there all day. It also gives you structure. You get a lot more writing done in one hour than NOT writing for one hour. Oftentimes, after the timer goes off, you’re in the groove and sit for another hour.
DON’T STOP AND SMELL THE ROSES. When you’re writing don’t worry about spelling or grammar, just let the words flow. Even if you think you’re going off on a tangent or it’s not making sense, don’t hold yourself back. Editing can be tomorrow’s goal.
HEAR ALL ABOUT IT! Tell people you’re writing a book. It adds pressure and accountability. Even better, ask a friend to read your work. This gives you incentive to get something written, since you’ve asked for their critique.
REWARD YOURSELF. Rewards add incentive. Tell yourself, “When I finish my writing time today I will go for a walk, get an ice cream, watch an episode of “Ray Donovan.” Whatever it takes. Of course, writing itself is a reward…
SAY “BUH-BYE” TO EXCUSES. Why do they always say, “Give a project to a busy person”? Because having a lot to do makes you spend your time more wisely. Saying, “I don’t have time” is just an excuse. Finding ways to carve out time is key. So what if the laundry doesn’t get done today, you know it’s going to eventually get done. Or maybe throw the laundry in and use the wash time as your writing time.
Sometimes you need to sacrifice something else for what you really want, but I promise, when you’re looking at your finished book, nothing will feel as good. Not even having clean laundry.