Pep & Prompt #6: How To Maximise Your Writing Time

A brief pep, a brief prompt, then come and chat to us on our community forums for feedback and chat.

A wise person once said something like: “One of the biggest blockages to getting stuff written is when people don’t actually sit down and write stuff, y’know?”

Catchy, huh? And it’s so easy to do. Home from work / kids in bed / washing up done / aah just gonna sit here for ten minutes and look at Facebook before I do any wri… oh shit it’s 11pm and I’ve just been laughing at pictures of doggos for four hours.

We feel you, dude.

At Writers’ HQ we place GREAT IMPORTANCE on scheduling your writing time so that you can avoid the above scenario. Another reason we timetable the shit out of our writing is that People (not you, Other People) often tend to think that writing isn’t a real job. These ‘People’ believe that writing is just something that magically appears from the ether. We know this isn’t true. Writing is hard bloody work and it takes commitment.

Even J. K. Rowling says she has to fight for time to write.

“Be ruthless about protecting writing days, i.e., do not cave in to endless requests to have “essential” and “long overdue” meetings on those days. The funny thing is that, although writing has been my actual job for several years now, I still seem to have to fight for time in which to do it. Some people do not seem to grasp that I still have to sit down in peace and write the books, apparently believing that they pop up like mushrooms without my connivance. I must therefore guard the time allotted to writing as a Hungarian Horntail guards its firstborn egg.”

Hear that? From now on, we will all be Hungarian Horntails and our novels firstborn eggs. Excellent stuff.

Now here’s how you do it.

1. Timetable your fine self

Consider your schedule, consider your life choices, and shoehorn in time to write. Because there’s always time that could be spent writing in amongst the Twitter-scrolling and the mind-numbing commute and the box set bingeing (see point 3 below).

Actually write it down in black and white on your calendar, in your diary, or set a daily reminder on your phone, or download a habit tracking app, whatever.

Ring-fence your writing and give it as much gravitas as any other appointment on your calendar. Don’t make it an option – a that-would-be-nice-but-I-just-don’t-have-time-today extracurricular activity. Make it a definite article on your to-do list that cannot be ignored.

Set down in words when and what you’re gonna do, eg: 20 minutes every Tuesday afternoon, or 500 words on the train to work, or draft one short story idea per week.

And give yourself a gold star every time you clock up some writing time. Draw a great big X on your calendar for every day you make new words with your brain. Make it visual, make it tangible, and make it part of your weekly routine.

Look at us practising what we preach – here’s Sarah’s current calendar of Xes!

2. Hold yourself accountable

My guys. It’s so easy not to write. It’s so easy to blame your job or your lack of time or your circumstances or your cat who keeps standing on your keyboard and sticking their arse in your face, but the only thing that’s really stopping you from writing is YOU.

Hold. 👏 Yourself. 👏 Accountable. 👏

Set yourself a deadline to finish that novel draft.

Set your sights on a competition or submission deadline and promise to submit before the cut off date.

Set a writing target for the week, or month, or year. Track your progress on a spreadsheet or an app (we like Pacemaker and 750words). Keep ticking off those writing sessions on your calendar or in your diary. Put a quid in a money jar each time you write and spend it on a fancy new notebook or a writing retreat when you hit your target.

And for the love of all that’s shiny keep it realistic. Make it doable. Make sure you can reach your targets easily and you’ll be more likely to keep the momentum going.

3. Make every minute count

If you’re not writing because you think you need an entire day to make any progress – pal, do we have news for you. Even a mere ten minutes writing is time well spent. Even TWO minutes can be productive. You just have to reframe your attitude to productivity. Par example:

2 minutes: Grab a notebook during the ad break in your favourite show and jot down a to-do list of all the edits/new scenes/story ideas you’ve got flapping around your head. Scrawl snippets of overheard dialogue on the back of a napkin while you’re on your lunch break. Blindly type out a literary epiphany on your phone at 2am. Every. Minute. Counts.

5 minutes: Got five mins in between meetings or while you’re sitting in the car waiting for your kids to come out of school? Time for a quick brainstorm about your novel, or some character development, or read that research article you’ve had bookmarked for weeks.

10 minutes: Only got 10 minutes and afraid you’re just gonna spend the whole time staring at the blank page? Try the Moaning Method and braindump a load of crap out of your head to make room for the creative shit. Then when you have a longer chunk of time, you’ll be raring to go.

20 minutes: Set a timer, turn your text to white, or cover your screen with a tea towel and FREEWRITE without looking, without using the backspace button, without worrying about structure or spelling or coherence. Write as much as you can in 20 minutes and Do. Not. Stop.

40 minutes: Lovely, lovely writing time, HELLO. Time for some focus and planning. Use the What’s The Point? exercise to zone in on what the fark you’re writing, draw up an outline of your next scene, or your next story, and get to work. Ideally, split your writing time into two little chunks of 15-20 minutes with a mini brain break in between to stay frosty.

1 hour: Hooboy you lucky little trucker. Let’s use this precious time wisely. Turn off the WiFi, hang a do-not-disturb sign on the door, set a writing target, buckle down, and hit that word count. Give yourself a tangible (and achievable) goal for your session (eg: finish this chapter / write 500 words / edit two scenes) and commit. Once again, use the Pomodoro technique and work in short bursts to keep yourself from flagging.

Make writing time. Treasure your writing time. MAXIMISE your writing time. And spend whatever’s left in our community writing forums so even your procrastination time is well-used.

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