Most aspiring writers, and published ones, actually, have full schedules—without writing. People have jobs, and if not jobs outside the home, then kids or other domestic duties. The truth is, it’s hard to find time to write. It’s even harder when you’re not being paid to do it. Very few people can be like the cliched tortured soul who has time to drink heavily and devote himself to craft. With the myriad responsibilities outside of writing, how does anyone find the time?
Something’s Got to Go
There are only 24 hours in a day, and a third of that is supposed to be spent sleeping. You can’t ignore your health, small children, or the job that actually pays you, so what can you do? Depending on your personal schedule, something’s got to go. Maybe it’s an extra hour of sleep at night. Maybe it means hiring a babysitter to watch your kid for an hour or two. Maybe you get takeout more often. If you’re already super busy, you’ll have to sacrifice something. I can’t tell you what that is, but there’s probably something small you can change. Eat lunch at your desk while you write for half an hour?
Tweaks Add Up
Short of quitting your job or hiring a full-time nanny, it’s unlikely you’re going to be able to really clear your schedule. It’s okay. Small tweaks add up. Try getting up an hour early to write before work. Hire a babysitter for a couple of hours twice a week. Make a deal with your spouse to take the kids out of the house on Saturday morning. Instead of settling into the evening with a glass of wine, sit at your desk instead. Little time slots add up over time. There’s no reason to wait for your schedule to magically clear on its own.
Beware the Long Stretch of Time
Honestly, you’ll likely be far more efficient if you don’t have all day long to write. As a writer, you know how much procrastinating can happen when you’re stuck. All of a sudden, the laundry, grocery shopping—whatever—is much more important than writing. These things are important, but an eight-hour stretch to write can end up being wasted through fear of getting started and the false sense that it’s a ton of time. Many people, myself included, are much more efficient when the clock is ticking.
Work on Your Mindset
It’s hard to sit at your desk and work a project as complicated as a novel when you’re not being paid. It’s normal to feel a mix of emotions. I’ve felt self-indulgent, wasteful, frivolous and as though I needed to somehow justify writing. I still feel that way sometimes. Here’s the way I choose to look at it instead. Writing is no more frivolous than watching TV, and somehow, I find time for that. My husband isn’t going to be discovered by the PGA tour by golfing on the weekends, but it’s still a perfectly acceptable way to spend his time. My son isn’t necessarily going to be an architect because he loves building with Legos, but that’s a legitimate activity for him too.
Writing is your thing. You are a writer. It’s in your mind when you’re not doing it, so why not let it be in your schedule where you can fit it? No one can tell you if or when you’ll be published. But you guarantee that will never happen if you fail to write the first book. Or the next three as you improve your craft. When it comes to finding time to write: find it. Imagine where you will be one year from now if you push yourself to write five hours a week or ten hours. You’ll be a writer.