I was 12-years-old when I decided I was going to be a writer. Once that decision was made, I wrote constantly. I scribbled lines of (truly terrible) poetry on scraps of paper and filled journals with short stories. I was going to be a writer and if my writing professors and Ernest Hemingway were to be believed, the best way to be a writer was to write every day. So I did. And it was good. It was satisfying just to put pen to paper, even if I was the only one who would ever read the words.
But then real life starts. And real life is busy. Who has the time and motivation to write for themselves when there’s the cooking and cleaning, the kids and the myriad of other tasks and relationships that fill up the free time in our days? Writing for yourself is especially hard if you spend all day writing or editing for a living. I miss it though. I have all sorts of ideas and I think about it all of the time, but actually sitting down and writing something completely for my own enjoyment doesn’t come easy.
So in an effort to motivate myself, and hopefully some of you out there, I’ve been gathering tips on the best way to find the time and motivation to write for yourself.
It’s not enough (as I have discovered) to set vague proclamations about spending a few hours a week writing. Set a time and put it on the books. First thing in the morning works for a lot of people, though if you have a kid who wakes up well before the sun comes up, as I do, evenings may be better. The actual time is unimportant, just set it. Tell your family and friends that you’ll be unavailable during this time. Add it to your calendar. And start small. Try 20 minutes twice a week and then build up from there.
It should be clean and easy to access. Because of my admitted laziness at the end of a long day, struggling to find a writing utensil or a convenient place to plug in my laptop might be enough to put me off of sitting down to write, so keep your writing space well stocked and have things ready ahead of time.
Some days are great for clear, productive writing, finishing that chapter in your novel or setting a specific word count goal. Others are meant for meandering musings on that weird smell coming from your car or thoughts on which is better, creamy or chunky peanut butter (chunky all the way.) Just get something down. The good stuff will come once you get going.
Because the Internet exists in all of its procrastinating glory, I find that writing with pen and paper is best for me. I can always type things up later if I think they’re good enough to actually do something with, but for daily writing, keeping Facebook, blogs and videos of frolicking baby animals away is best.
A small group of like-minded writers work shopping their pieces on a weekly or monthly basis might be enough motivation to get something down on paper, if only to avoid the embarrassment of admitting that you spent the past week binge-watching every episode of Saved By The Bell on Netflix instead of writing.
Finding time in an otherwise busy schedule isn’t going to be easy, but chances are, you’re already spending at least half an hour a few times a week doing something you can give up if it means you’ll find more satisfaction with yourself and your life. Maybe you spend less time browsing the Internet or you sacrifice happy hour drinks every once in a while. If that doesn’t work, try making deals with yourself, like you don’t have to clean the bathroom this week if you spend the time writing instead.
I haven’t put all of these tips into place yet for myself, but I’d love to hear what works for you and what doesn’t work. When do you write for yourself and where? What’s your secret to finding the time and energy to write purely for the joy of writing?