“How do I find time to write?”
Every aspiring writer is asking this question. But every serial writer (those who have written over an extended time) has figured out how to write regularly. Writers find the time to write. It’s pretty simple, but it’s not easy.
Could it be that the difference between those who want to be writers and those who are writers lies in finding the time to write?
Here are a few guiding principles about finding time to write.
You don’t find time to write, you make time. Writing comes to you in a whisper, not a scream. Life is buzzing, screaming and blinking at you, but writing never will. Your words are shy, and they’re waiting for you to pay attention to them.
Think quality, not quantity. We are all tempted to believe writing requires inordinate amounts of time. So instead of writing, we get overwhelmed and never start. It’s about setting aside a few quality hours on a regular basis. Then eliminate distractions ravenously so you and your writing can have an uninterrupted date.
Writing isn’t just through you, it’s for you. Writing affects readers, but it also affects us. As we shape paragraphs, posts, and chapters we find ourselves being shaped. As the divine breeze flows through we feel the favor of the Creator himself.
Writing is stewardship, not ownership. When you write you are stewarding a message. You don’t own it; the Creator is entrusting it to you. If you skip your writing session you might rob someone of hope amidst their drought, light amidst their fog or freedom amidst their bondage. Before you drag yourself to the writing desk think about that person who is waiting for your words.
Let’s get practical. I have figured out the rhythm that works for my life, and I use it every week. It fits my schedule, my family, my commitments and my priorities. Now I shape my week around it.
No method is perfect. There are strengths and weaknesses of each method. Make sure your method works for your life. It will take some work to land on your method, but make sure it’s sustainable and regular.
In his book Deep Work, Cal Newport presents four methods for writing regularly. He refers to them as “depth philosophies”. I expand on them here.
The Monastic Philosophy
This method eliminates anything that gets in the way of writing. Those employing this method are ruthless about escaping commitments and communication so as to remain a discrete monk in a highly connected culture. This radical minimization won’t work for many folks today.
The Bimodal Philosophy
This method is about regularly retreating from a busy life to get blocks of focused writing done. Folks employing this method still have regular commitments, but plan escapes to focus on writing. This is where the idea of the writers’ cabin in the woods comes from. This writer blocks off days, weeks or months each year to retreat from commitments in order to produce a large amount of focused work. The academic world functions this way giving professors sabbatical or study leave to focus their research and writing on one topic or project.
The Rhythmic Philosophy
This method is simple; create every day. Some refer to this as “the chain method”, because you view your writing as a paper chain of writing days fastened together. You keep writing so you don’t break the chain. It requires regularity and discipline but has worked from some of the greatest writers of our time. This treats writing as a craft that takes many hours, many touches and many sessions. There’s strength in repetition. If you keep this up you’ll log a huge number of hours and words each year.
The Journalistic Philosophy
This method allows for writers to shift in and out of writing at a moment’s notice. This works very well for journalists who write for a living by hitting unpredictable deadlines. If you’re a journalist you almost have to function like this in response to current events, new projects, and moving deadlines. For predictable writing projects, this would invite unneeded stress and distract you from other priorities.
Here’s a word of caution; a writing philosophy must turn into a writing method. You’re going to have to choose a method and go for it. You’ll need to tweak it along the way, but start employing a method now. Writing is a craft. You need to log a lot of hours to get a lot of good content out there. You will hone your craft and it will hone you. Writing regularly isn’t a good idea; it’s a necessity. It’s simple, but it’s not easy.
Download the guide I created to help aspiring writers become actual writers called A Busy Bum’s Blueprint; A Process for Taking the Leap.