by Megan Haskell
As many of you know, I’m a stay-at-home mom with a 5-year-old and a 2-year-old. As you can probably imagine, my time is pretty limited. But in the last five years, I’ve managed to write and publish three full-length novels and a short story, co-author and publish a non-fiction guidebook for writers, write two additional short stories and a novella that will be published this spring (2018), and I’m currently working on the fourth book in my fantasy series. I’ve also written monthly posts for this blog while serving as content editor for OC Writers since August 2016.
To some, that might not seem like much—I have plenty of indie author friends who produce more than that in a single year—but I’ve had a lot of people ask me how I do it.
How do I find the time to write when I’m exhausted from chasing kids, driving all over town, and managing a household?
The answer is two-fold. First, I prioritize every activity in my life. Second, I use every spare minute I can find.
1. Prioritization is Key
To do one thing, you have to say no to another. I covered this in a previous blog post, but to summarize, you have to decide what’s most important to you. What’s your pain level? If you really want to be a writer, you have to find time to write. This means you must place a high priority on writing.
I don’t watch TV Sunday through Thursday nights. I don’t play video games anymore. When my girls are in school for that precious couple of hours in the morning, I put my butt in a chair and write. I don’t do laundry during that time (huge sacrifice, I know) and sometimes the breakfast dishes sit in the sink until lunchtime.
Prioritizing writing above other tasks can be difficult, but it has to be done. You can’t feel guilty about taking time to create. If you want to be a writer, you have to write.
2. Finding Extra Minutes
But big blocks of time aren’t always easy to come by. If you have a full-time day job with a long commute, you might not have two hours back-to-back to sit behind a computer in the morning. If you have a newborn baby, you might be stuck with snippets of time when the little one is sleeping. You have to make the most of the time you have. So here are a few ideas to help you find those extra minutes in your day.
Use Mobile Apps and Sync Across Devices
There are a number of great apps that can help you take your writing mobile. Scrivener (my personal choice for word processing) now has mobile apps for iOS devices, including the iPhone and iPad. Evernote and Bear are both great tools for note-taking and short-form writing. You can even use Google Docs on your devices, which gives you a free word processor without any hassle.
Once you have a way to take your writing away from your computer, you no longer need to have your butt in a chair to get your words on the page.
Quit Facebook, Start Writing
Avoid the time-sinks of social media. Instead, use that time to create, not consume.
Stuck in line at Costco? Whip out your phone and write a few lines or outline a scene. Sitting through your daughter’s Tae Kwon Do class? That’s potentially 45 minutes of mobile writing time. Stuck commuting on a train? That’s golden creativity time, and how I first got started writing!
Wake Up Early
I am not a morning person. Not at all. But in recent months, I’ve discovered that the pain of waking up early is worth it if I can be more productive overall.
I got the idea from The Miracle Morning for Writers, but I’ve modified it a bit to fit my schedule. The reality is, I’m so not a morning person that my brain doesn’t fully turn on until about 7:30 or 8, and my most productive hours are between 9 and noon. BUT I don’t need much brain power to exercise, start a load of laundry, or filter through emails. If I can get all the administrative chores out of the way early, then my productive hours can be reserved for writing, guilt-free and distraction-free (or as close as humanly possible).
Get Creative To Be Creative
Sometimes you have to frame situations in a different light to find the opportunities you’d otherwise miss. For example, when Julia was a newborn and Karen was in preschool, I found time to write by strapping Julia in a baby carrier, standing at the kitchen counter with my computer, and bouncing her to sleep while I typed. Not only did I get words on the page, Julia got a solid nap and I got some exercise in the process. It was multi-tasking at its finest.
Another idea I’ve not done but heard about is to dictate or speak into a voice recorder while driving to work. You simply start recording before pulling out of the driveway and stop when you’ve arrived at the office. If it’s true dictation, with all the punctuation included, you can then feed that recording into a speech to text software like Dragon Dictate, and out pops a rough version of the manuscript. Some authors instead choose to send it off to a typist for professional transcription.
If you’re not able to do a full dictation with included punctuation while driving (too much multitasking, even for me), using a recording to take notes or build outlines can still speed up your writing process. When you next find time to sit down at the computer, you’ll have your thoughts and ideas organized and ready to be typed out on the page.
Productivity Resources for Writers
Here’s a list of further reading in case you’re interested in finding more ways to speed up your writing process and find more time to write. I’ve read most of them cover to cover, and found them helpful in one way or another.
5,000 Words Per Hour, by Chris Fox
Dictate Your Book: How to Write Your Book Better, Faster, and Smarter, by Monica Leonelle
Lifelong Writing Habit: The Secret to Writing Every Day, by Chris Fox
The Miracle Morning for Writers: How to Build a Writing Ritual that Increases Your Impact and Your Income (Before 8am), by Hall Elrod and Steve Scott
Write Better Faster: How to Triple Your Writing Speed and Write More Every Day, by Monica Leonelle
Oh, and there’s also my co-authored guidebook that you might find helpful, currently on a Kindle Countdown deal for just 99c (through January 21, 2018). Co-written with Greta Boris, Aspiring to Author: A Guide for Your Publishing Career will take you through the transition from hobbyist writer to professional author, including ways to set goals, develop a writing habit, and manage your writing life.
Now go on and find the time to write!
How do you find time in your day to write? Share your tips in the comments!
Legend has it, I was born with a book in my hands. Thirty-ish years later, I’m a stay-at-home-mom who prefers a good story over doing the dishes. Only now, I’m building my own fantasy worlds! I’m the Award-Winning author of the Amazon bestselling series, The Sanyare Chronicles, co-author of Aspiring to Author: A Guide for Your Publishing Career, and Program Director of O.C. Writers. You can find me on my website at www.meganhaskell.com, Facebook, and Twitter.
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