Saturday, August 6, 2016

If It's Important To You, You'll Find Time For It

One of the questions I get asked a lot is how I find time to write books with my schedule, especially during the school year. Sometimes I wonder that myself. I teach Advanced Placement English, a class that is time intensive, for the teacher and students. There is a lot of reading and often more writing for the students in that one school year than they've done in their entire career up to that point, which means that I have a lot of reading too. I will often come home from work to an inbox filled with emails from my kids seeking portfolio approval. Many nights, I'll read several dozen papers. And that's on top of lesson preparation for the following day. And often on top of other school activities (I do my best to get to at least one or two of each of my students' activities throughout the year) or non-church activities (I'm help lead a small group at my church and I'm also starting a writers circle at my local library. I also write for an online magazine called ClutchMOV and spend time every day maintaining my online author presence.).

And yet I have time to write books. How? I have the same amount of time each day as everyone else. It's as simple as this: it's important to me, so I find time to do it. Here are some ways I do that.

East, The Sun, Sunrise, Landscape, In The Morning1. I get up early. On days that I have school, I'm up by 5:30am, which gives me a couple hours to, among other things, write. Knowing myself as I do, the morning is my most creative time anyway. The vast majority of every book I've written so far has been between 5:30am and 2pm. After that, my brain just doesn't work that way. I'm good for other stuff, but not writing.

2. I protect my Saturday mornings as much as I possibly can. It's not possible all the time, but Saturdays are when I get the greatest chunk of my writing done. I even go so far as to put it on my calendar so that when someone asks if I can do something, I can honestly tell them I'm booked.

Superbike, Motorsport, Fast, Speed, Red, Track, Race3. I realized I don't have to write 5000 words at a time. There are many days that I only get a few hundred words written because I only have a half-hour to work. Sometimes that has to be okay.

4. I've made a project of getting faster. When I first started writing books, I spent a lot of time staring at the screen trying to come up with the exact right word or phrase. But I've been quite intentional about forcing myself to push on, writing at as quick a pace as I can, worrying about perfection in a later draft. But if I don't get that first draft down on the page, the second and third and fourth drafts will never come. As a result, if I can string together three or four hours on a Saturday morning, I can get several thousand words written. And if I write 5000 words a week, I can get a 75,000 word rough draft completed in about 20 weeks.

Jail, Prison, Police, Crime, Law, Arrest, Criminal5. I don't feel guilty. This doesn't sound like a tip for getting work done, but it really is. Feeling guilty when I didn't write for a few days or even a week led me to feel hopeless, which caused me to write even less. But when I learned to let go of that guilt, it freed me to pick up where I left off without any baggage, even if it's been 8 or ten days since I did anything on my current work-in-progress. The reality is that there are times when I really do just want to take some time off and have fun. And that's okay. And there are other times when other writing projects or school work just have to take priority because they're time sensitive. And that's okay too.

So there you go. I hope you find these tips useful, whether you are trying to write a novel or learn to play the tin whistle (something else I've started doing), or whatever it is that you say you want to do but never seem to find the time. If it's really important, you'll find the time to do it.


  1. I'm not a writer , but, a reader. I'm about 1/3 into your first book. I like the story line so far. Your main characters are interesting and good personalities. I must say the beginning really grabbed me.

    1. I'm glad to hear that--I hope you like it well enough to read the rest. Let me know what you think when you're finished, please!