How to find time to write

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There is a difference between finding the time to write, and finding the motivation to write. Or is there?

We all have 24 hours in the day. No more and no less. Look at your average day and quantify how much time you actually spend indulging. Look at your average weekend, your work week, your month, and have a rough idea of how much time you spend relaxing, watching tv, scrolling on your phone, talking on the phone with friends/family, going out to socialize [pre-lockdown obviously…], etc. There is now a focus on how much time we spend endlessly scrolling through feeds without really doing anything productive. And I’m guilty of it too. I often catch myself doing something completely mindlessly and wasting my time doodling around.

You will realize you have lots of time, but you do other things. If you really want to dedicate time to your craft, be it writing, or building a boat, or whatever it may be, you have to compromise and choose to sit down and work on your craft instead of doing something else.

Look into if you can save time by organizing yourself. Don’t go shopping and wander through the aisles looking for inspiration for dinner. Have a plan, have a shopping list, make it your goal to reduce your time. Look at utilizing the time that is basically “lost” in your daily life, like commuting/driving while doing errands. Maybe you can’t write when you’re standing in a crowded train, but you can read. You can read books in your genre, or read educational books on whatever it is you want to learn or improve in. If you’re in a car, there are audible books, podcasts and many more tools to not let that time go to waste.

The answer to both finding the time to write, and finding the motivation to write, is the same (in my opinion). Because the “magic” trick is to simply take the decision to carve that time out of your daily or weekly time and sit down and do it. How do you motivate yourself to write? Sit down and don’t let yourself get distracted and remind yourself what your goal is. Do you want to write a book? Master a new skill? Learn a new language? Then take it one day at a time and work on it little by little. And keep at it.

Setting realistic goals

It can be frustrating to write a book. When I started writing I used to constantly compare myself to the big names and be annoyed I wasn’t writing at their level. Or the plot is just not going in the direction you had anticipated. Or your characters are so annoying and you can’t make them likable in your story, but you need them for the plot development.

First of all, don’t put yourself under so much pressure. You should compare yourself to the great names in your craft, but do it with the outlook to learn from them, understand their way of working and making it your own.

[DO NOT COPY other people’s work and slap your name on it. A copy of something is generally a shitty version of the original one and you deserve to show your own talent. And if you get caught you will forever be a fraud, and possibly have to pay huge indemnities, etc. Don’t do it, it’s not worth it.]

And if this is your first book, then make it the best it can be, but don’t be saddened that it’s not immediately a bestseller. Not only does it take time to sell books, but it also takes practice to be the best in the field.

Don’t pressure yourself to finish your project in a given time frame, especially if you’re self-publishing. Time frames are fluid and you cannot always ‘force’ the imagination out onto a page. To take a famous example, George R.R. Martin hasn’t finished the last two books for his ‘A Song of Fire and Ice’ series and has repeatedly missed deadlines. Try to have a schedule of when you’re working on your book, but don’t arbitrarily decide on June 16th it has to be finished, potentially releasing it with errors or a flimsy conclusion because you didn’t have time to finish it properly. Your name is on that work so make sure it’s the best version it can be.

This brings me to my last point; don’t set high expectations and then be disappointed and hate yourself when you don’t meet them. Don’t pretend you’ll write 20 hours a week when you can realistically only manage 5 hours. Then aim for 6 or 7 hours and be happy even if you only managed 5 hours. There is a difference between motivating yourself to sit down and do the work, and setting yourself up for failure by setting the bar way too high. And note that I said ‘way too high’. It’s healthy to set the bar a bit higher and encourage yourself to improve, but if you set it too high and you’re constantly disappointed you may give up on your craft altogether, which is also not the goal.

Self-publishing: Why should I pay for an editor?

You may think this is unnecessary. I certainly thought so. But if you’re self-publishing (and if you intend to take your writing seriously), you cannot skip the most essential part; your written work! In my opinion, if you’re self-publishing and you want to spend the least amount possible on your launch, then pay for an editor, and do the rest yourself. You are about to click that button and make your work visible to the whole world. Your name will be on this work, even if it’s your pen name. Why not make sure that the script is the best possible version it can be?
Working with my editor has been hugely beneficial.

He saw plot holes that I was sure I had explained, but turned out to only exist in my head. A good editor is just a guide, you’re still the one writing it. And you’re not obliged to agree to all of his proposed changes, but it may give you a healthy perspective on your writing. It’s hard enough to get people to buy/download your book when you’re a nobody, but if on top of that you have gross errors in the manuscript that could have been avoided (they’re vs their), or your main character switches name from Peter to Pete, with plot holes dotted everywhere (Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark, wink wink), the reviews will tank your book before it has even taken off. And your name will be associated with poor writing. And then it will be even harder to sell books. If you’re self-publishing, define the budget you’re willing to spend and prioritize where you want to spend your money.

If you publish on print: Don’t forget to include ISBN/barcode purchase on your list. You don’t always need one, but it helps libraries and bookshops to find your book, so don’t overlook this.

Why you should be grateful for criticism

Finally. The day is here. You’ve been writing for a while and you’re now ready to tell your friends and family that you’re writing. And this is not just a hobby to you. You have a connection with your craft. This means something to you. This is possibly your destiny.

And then your enthusiasm falls on deaf ears. Or worse; people start discouraging you.

Do you know how unlikely it is to make it as a writer nowadays?

You didn’t study creative writing/Literature, what makes you think you can write?

People don’t read books anymore! You’re wasting your time!

It’s disheartening to hear people’s negative comments. But that’s because most people set themselves limits to not disappoint anyone, including themselves. It seems to be some sort of societal norm engraned in all of us; the moment someone wants to do something else, earn money differently, live differently, pursue something out of the ordinary, suddenly we all frown and shake our heads. Daydreamers. They will fall flat on their faces.

I choose to draw strength from those that doubt me. There is no point in trying to convert people that clearly don’t think you can make it. Maybe they don’t want to see you fail, or get your hopes up. I understand that. It’s a survival instinct. Standing out is lonely and difficult. But I would rather fail, than never have taken a shot. Failure is part of the journey. There is no major success, no man or woman that is praised for their accomplishments, that has never failed.

You will always come across people that don’t like what you do, that don’t think you’re talented, or that simply want to break you down because they feel bad about their own lives. But most people also just live within the confines of their boxes. Go to school, get a job, get married, buy a house, have children, retire, die. It can be hard to understand if you’re pursuing something completely out of the ordinary.

I have learned that often when people trample on your dreams, it’s mostly a reflection of their own ambitions and life, and has little to do with you. So when people try to discourage me just for the sake of discouraging me, I don’t listen. I take in constructive criticism, but become deaf to the serial negativists. No one will discourage me from pursuing something that makes me happy. And neither should you. Keep working on your craft and perfect it!