Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Time to Write

“Time is grit.”

That’s how author Leigh Newman recently answered a question that writers often get asked: How do you find time to write?

Grit. It’s one of the best answers I’ve heard. But if you’re looking for more, here are seven keys to making the most of whatever time you have to write, whether it’s ten minutes or ten hours a day:

  • Know yourself: When David Vann’s working on a book, he writes every morning, seven days a week. Leigh Newman gets up at 4 a.m. Others do their best work at midnight. Figure out when and how you do your best work. Arrange your other obligations around whatever time you can spare.
  • Be present: This isn’t just butt in the chair – it’s senses to the world. Figure out what most helps you feel present – a walk, a few yoga poses, meditation, a single deep breath. Half an hour, two minutes, ten seconds – it’s not the amount of time so much as the grounding itself that matters.
  • Revel in language: Language is your instrument, your palette, your stage. Read a poem. Sing. Share a quote. It takes precious little time to embrace words.
  • Study your craft: Read from your aspirational writers. Challenge yourself with a book on writing well in your genre.
  • The 80/20 rule: Whether you’ve got ten minutes or ten hours, aim for 80 percent of your time actually writing, and 20 percent on everything else - the things mentioned here, plus other stuff like networking and promotion.
  • Set limits: Identify your personal time-suckers, the ones you have control over, things like surfing the internet, social media, checking sales figures. Box these in tightly. Not only do they rob time from your passion - they also activate parts of your brain that aren’t conducive to creativity.
  • Order your operations: After a little “be present” grounding, I start my writing sessions by copying words, lines, and phrases from poetry. Then I read in a genre I’m not writing at the moment, with a timer set so I don’t linger. Then I write, and write, and write. 
Don’t like routines? Discover what works for you and make it happen. That’s the grit.

You don’t have to write every day or every week or even every month. Sometimes a writer’s best move is to wait. But if you tell yourself you’ll write when you have time, or when you feel inspired, you’ll likely be waiting a long, long time.