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Slow down! Where do I find the time to do all of this writing?

by Robbi Hess

Getting into the writing habit

Cleaning out the clutter; taking control of your life; managing your time/resources wisely, etc. All the catch phrases for today’s busy person seem to offer solutions that would take longer than the lack of time problem itself.

There are times when I sit down at the end of the day and pat myself on the back for having accomplished as much as I have. There are still other times when I look back at the day and feel like I accomplished nothing with the 24 hours that were allotted me.

But when it comes to writing, I discovered carving out the time for my nonfiction (for which I was getting paid) was easy but being able to selfishly say “I’m going to sit down and write,” on a project where there was no immediate financial reward being reaped was a bit harder.

In the beginning

The day I decided I was going to “become” a fiction writer, I knew I would have to find time. I began in little bursts: five minutes a day was my self imposed fiction-writing budget. A little sticky note tacked to my computer screen and on my journal was a constant reminder that I had to do my five minutes. Once the writing time was completed, I removed the note and set it aside until the next day.

I hear you saying that no one is going to complete War and Peace length writing project in five minute bursts, but disciplining yourself to set aside even that small amount of time on a daily basis will add up to a surprising amount of prose.

Whether it’s a page a day, 500 words a day or five minutes a day, choose a goal and go for it!

Onward and upward

Experts say that it takes 21 days to develop a habit. Keep track of your writing progress for 21 days. I can almost guarantee that after 21 days of writing on a regular basis, your muse will be there tapping you on the shoulder to make certain you are keeping up your end of the bargain–she simply won’t be denied. Writing will become an ingrained part of your daily routine–as necessary as that morning cup of coffee.

Write when the kids are in the tub, write when you are in the tub. Carry a voice activated tape recorder and when the muse strikes just start talking. You can transcribe your thoughts later but for now you will at least know you have devoted your five minutes a day to thinking about your fiction work.

For some people, setting the alarm clock a bit earlier works, some scribble away on their lunch hours, still others fill in the idle time while waiting to hop on the airplane. It doesn’t matter where, how, or when you write, just as long as you are writing consistently.

As time goes by

I promise you that once you have settled on the method of measuring your daily writing habit, you will find yourself sneaking in more time here and there. You will discover more time than you originally thought you had.

Whether you work longhand or compose at a keyboard you should be able to find ways to support your writing habit. Always keep a little notebook with you, invest in a laptop, or a personal digital assistant that has a keyboard or even look into one of the many portable computer/typewriters that are on the market.

Just as you should never miss an opportunity to write down an idea when it strikes you, don’t let the chance to expand on your ideas escape. You will likely find that after a short time of devoting yourself to a daily dose of writing, ideas will flow easier, and you will probably find yourself expanding those five minute, one page a day or 500-word goals to something larger.

This month’s writing prompt: Take five minutes to mentally plan (and write down) when you will write. Make an appointment with yourself and keep it. Get in the habit of writing daily. Once you have decided when, then choose how – will you always have a notebook with you or will you be high-tech and take your keyboard for your writing dates.

© 2002 by Robbi Hess

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