Writing and Time

Many people have great ideas for books. But most people never actually write their books. The most common reason people use as their inability to write is time. But it’s not the lack of time that holds people back from writing; it is their idea of time.

“I will write a book when I retire”

How often have we heard that, or even said it ourselves? The truth is that writing is extremely isolating and time-consuming. Beyond just getting words down on paper, we have to revise and polish our work.  The time and effort involved can seem so overwhelming that we might think we can’t do it unless we are retired. I don’t know about you, but my idea of retirement includes traveling, going out with friends, meeting new people, join a knitting club, reading all the books I can never get to, spending time with my family…etc., so the reality is that I will probably have time issues as well after I retire!

First of all, most of us don’t have a lot of free time. Secondly, not having “enough” time is a complete myth. We all have enough time to write a book. It’s not so much about time as it is about discipline, and discipline doesn’t mean chaining yourself to the computer seven nights a week. It means seizing the opportunities when they present themselves. So here are some tips on how to write a book while living your life.

  • Determine how much time you spend doing things that don’t really matter in terms of the big picture? I’m not talking about things you have to do like the dishes, working at your job, or taking care of your children. I mean things like watching TV. At the end of your life would you rather be able to say “I’ve seen every episode of Bones or CSI three times,” or “I wrote and published a book?” Granted, some TV shows are great, but how about when they are in rerun—do you watch them anyway? Or even if you want to watch your TV shows, do you really need to watch the commercials? Every hour of TV has about fifteen minutes of commercials.
  • Writing does not require a disciplined schedule. It doesn’t require the latest, finest computer on the planet. It doesn’t even require a fancy pen. Writing just requires a few minutes of thought here and there, and then later tying those thoughts together. Get a pen or pencil and some paper, or a laptop—whatever is comfortable for you. Go ahead and sit down in front of the TV, and when the commercials comes on - write. I actually do this for real!
  • The point is to break the big things down into small tasks. Rather than chaining yourself to a desk for three hours give yourself three-minute writing spurts. Challenge yourself not to fill several pages, but just a small piece of paper. If you’re using the computer, it’s great if you can turn on the word count so you can watch it increase. Write 100 words. Then 500 or 1,000 words. Each evening, try to break the previous day’s record. Make it into a game and be persistent. If you are consistent, the words and the pages will add up. Do the numbers, 100 words a day equals 700 hundred words a week, and so on. As you get used to writing, and the number of words you put down increase, you will be closer and closer to finishing your first draft. But if you look at the total words your novel should be, compared to how many you actually have at the time, you will be discouraged and stop all together. Enjoy the writing process and see your work grow.
  • Don’t edit yourself while you write. Just focus on putting the story down on paper and completing the number of words you set as your goal for the day. No book was ever written in a day—not one worth reading at least. Patience and determination will get the book done. If your goal is to write 500 words a day and those 500 words are poorly written, at least you got them on paper. You can always fix them later. The main thing is to write them so they can be fixed. Ernest Hemingway said he wrote one good page for every one hundred bad pages. Bad writing is no big deal if you fix it before publishing. Not writing is a big deal.
  • Time exists all around us if we just take advantage of the moments as they come up. I truly believe anyone who puts his or her mind to it can write a book. It just takes discipline—fifteen minutes a day is sufficient. Whether you use them during lunch in your office, when you wake up in the morning, right before you go to sleep, when you are riding the bus or in front of the TV, pick up that pen!