How can writers find the time to write when they’re in school, working a full-time job, or raising children?
These days, adults are doing a combination of those three life responsibilities.
It’s tough to find quality time for your passion of writing — let alone the pursuit of a writing career. But if you really want to pursue this writing dream, you need to find the time, make the time, and embrace the time to write.
Here we offer five easy tips to finding the special time to yourself that you need to finish that screenplay, novel, or short story.
1. Find the Bookends of Your Schedule
There’s no single answer to the question of, “When should you be writing?” Everybody has their own specific schedules in life. Some work the A shift, B shift, or C shift while others are at the mercy of their children and the hectic schedules that go along with raising them.
But everyone has two bookends to their days — the moments before the foot race begins, and the moments after.
If you work nine-to-five, maybe you can find an extra hour before your commute. If you’re not a morning person and need your sleep, maybe you can drive from the workplace to a coffee shop after your shift.
You can write before the kids wake up or after they fall asleep.
Maybe your schedule has multiple bookends as you jump from school to your job or from your job to parenting.
Whatever your schedule may be, the first place to look for time to write is within the bookends of your daily schedule.
2. Two Days Away from Social Media, Movie, and TV Show Binging
According to Social Media Today, the average person will spend two hours on social media every day.
That’s two hours of writing time each day. If you take just two days off of social media per week, you would be opening up four hours of writing time. That’s a good week’s worth of writing to start.
If you’re not a social media nut like most of the population, you likely partake in streaming channels, movie watching, and TV show binging. If you swap your movie and TV watching with writing, even for just a day or two out of the week, you’re opening up your schedule to so much more creative time.
3. Take Story and Character Notes Throughout the Day
According to Inc.com, research suggests that in an eight-hour day, the average employee is only productive for two hours and 53 minutes. Because we know you work hard, we’ll round that up to three hours per eight-hour shift. The article goes on to stay that according to a study of nearly 2,000 full-time office workers, most people aren’t actually working for most of the time they’re at work.
The most popular unproductive activities listed were:
- Reading news websites — 1 hour, 5 minutes
- Checking social media — 44 minutes
- Discussing non-work-related things with co-workers — 40 minutes
- Searching for new jobs — 26 minutes
- Taking smoke breaks — 23 minutes
- Making calls to partners or friends — 18 minutes
- Making hot drinks — 17 minutes
- Texting or instant messaging — 14 minutes
- Eating snacks — 8 minutes
- Making food in office — 7 minutes
While these numbers likely represent the extremes, imagine what you could do with just twenty minutes of note-taking during your otherwise “productive” work day.
Writing isn’t always about crafting long descriptions accompanied by witty dialogue and characterization. Sometimes it’s about collecting your thoughts.
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And you can collect your thoughts in brief notes on a notepad or within apps on your phone.
- Story beats
- Character traits
- Scene notes
- Chapter notes
In fact, you could outline a whole story act or chapter with brief bullet point lists in a single day at work.
That’s important stuff for your book, screenplay, or short story.
4. Visualizing Is Writing
Writing also isn’t just about putting pen to paper or fingers to keys.
Visualization is a crucial part of the process. How can you possibly communicate and describe a visual through prose without first seeing it in your creative mind’s eye first?
So take comfort in knowing that you don’t have to be scribbling on a piece of paper or frantically typing words onto your laptop to “technically” be writing.
You can just as well be staring out the window lost in thought as you feed the baby, prepare lunch for your middle schoolers, or wait for that work report to print.
That long work commute can be your magic time to dream up your story, your characters, and your narrative. When you work out, go for a walk or run, or go for a bike ride, you can be writing in your head, creating worlds and characters that inhabit those worlds.
Visualizing is writing. When you piece things together, you can jot those notes down on your pad or your phone.
5. Find Short Writing Sessions Each Week
Yes, we’ve all read the endless anecdotes and advice from established and iconic writers. They wake up in the morning, have some breakfast, write for eight hours, and then get a good night’s rest. And they do this every day of the week.
A majority of the time, these stories are complete BS.
Sure, if you’re a successful screenwriter or author selling scripts or books, you may be able to have a wide open day to write. That’s great. But a majority of those trying to become professional writers don’t have that luxury, so they have to find time within their schedules to write.
The first step is taking that weight off of your shoulders. No, you don’t need to write every single day. No, you don’t need to write for eight hours at a time to be productive.
If you take into account the first four tips within this article, you’re well on your way with your story. Now it’s time to take all of that work and let it all out onto the page.
Two hours of writing, fingers to keys, can produce an immense amount of content. If you’ve dropped social media from your schedule for at least two days out of the week — and/or your average movie watching and TV show binging time — you can open up enough time to get a good burst of writing done each week.
Find the bookends of your daily schedule to look for windows of opportunity to write. Take just a couple of days off of social media, movie watching, and TV show binging to open up a surprising amount of time within your schedule. Focus on notetaking throughout your day to prep yourself for writing the prose. Don’t forget that visualization is a significant part of writing. And then find those short writing sessions at least a couple of times a week to get all of that well-conceived and well-earned content down onto the page.
Read ScreenCraft’s 10 Screenwriting Habits of Highly Effective Screenwriters!
Ken Miyamoto has worked in the film industry for nearly two decades, most notably as a studio liaison for Sony Studios and then as a script reader and story analyst for Sony Pictures.
He has many studio meetings under his belt as a produced screenwriter, meeting with the likes of Sony, Dreamworks, Universal, Disney, Warner Brothers, as well as many production and management companies. He has had a previous development deal with Lionsgate, as well as multiple writing assignments, including the produced miniseries Blackout, starring Anne Heche, Sean Patrick Flanery, Billy Zane, James Brolin, Haylie Duff, Brian Bloom, Eric La Salle, and Bruce Boxleitner. Follow Ken on Twitter @KenMovies