Thursday, July 02, 2015

How Do You Find Time to Write?

According to a recent survey, 81 percent of Americans feel they have a book in them -- and that they should write it.  Another survey puts the statistic of those who want to write a book at 90%

Statistics show that very few of them actually succeed.

 Approximately 80,000 books are published in America each year. 

Clearly, 81 percent of Americans are not writing a book even if they believe they have it in them.  

Intention and action are two different things.

Photo I took at Ernest Hemingway's house in Key West, in his writing room.
The majority of people who say they are going to write a book never will --but for someone who truly has a passion and more importantly – a calling to write, it doesn’t feel like work.  If you really want to write a book – absolutely nothing will stop you.

A lot people ask me when I find the time to write. People see the busy schedule I keep and know that in addition to writing, I have a family, a job/ministry, and  more. And all those people and things are very important to me.  For those who wonder how I do it, here’s the deal…

First, I manage my time well. So many people have asked me, "How do you do it all?" that I finally wrote a book to answer the question. You can get it here. 

Regarding time management and writing, specifically...

I am not a full time writer. So writing has to fit within the framework of the rest of my life. I give up a lot of what people would call “free time” to write books, articles and chapters for books that I am invited to be a contributing writer for.  I don’t have a plethora of down time but what I do have, I sacrifice in order to write.  

A young mom recently asked me if I wrote when my kids were young and if so how I managed it. When my children were babies and they would go down for their naps, I desperately wanted to nap with them. I was so tired. And most people advised, “Nap when the baby naps.” On rare occasions I would do that but most days, I would use their nap time to write. 

When the boys were babies the internet didn’t exist and I didn’t own a computer. We had a typewriter that I kept near the dining room table. As soon as they took a nap, I sat at the dining room table and typed articles to submit for publication. I still remember having to type them over and over to make sure they were error free before I mailed (yes, snail mailed!) them. My first ministry article that was published back when the boys were babies was a piece called, “Surviving the Sunday Morning Crunch,” for Jill Briscoe’s “Just Between Us” magazine for ministry wives.   

Right now my writing times are early in the morning or late at night. I also write on vacations, during the times my family is not doing something together. Last year Larry rented a house on a lake for a week. Each day I set my alarm and woke up several hours earlier than the rest of the family, fixed a cup of coffee, and wrote the first draft of the book I was working on at the time.  Once everyone was awake, I dedicated the rest of my time to spending time together as a family. 

By now you see why many people don't write a book. Who wants to set an alarm on vacation? If you are a writer who doesn't have the luxury of writing full time --  you might not want to, but you probably will. 

My laptop goes with me everywhere, in case I have a span of even 15-30 minutes to write. I write on flights, and layovers. I also have my laptop with me when Larry and I or our family are on a cruise. Normally I’ll go to the ship library or another quiet nook I can find for a bit of writing each day. My goal is at least an hour a day even on a cruise.

 I utilize drive time (when I am not the driver, of course!) on road trips or even a 30 minute drive or more around town. In a short spurt of time I can do an edit on a chapter or write a blog post. 

I am careful to do personal projects completely outside of my job, as I am mindful of intellectual property laws. Whatever I write outside of my work, I want to retain the rights to. The way to ensure that for me is to never work on it during time that is supposed to be dedicated to my job, or use work owned computers for personal writing.

Something I believe is important to note is not just finding time to write, but to study the art of writing. Like anything else in life that is worthwhile, as a writer you are not automatically given readers -- you earn them. One way that happens is by improving the quality of your writing, even if you are a seasoned writer. Never stop learning, because when you're through learning, you're through.

 I spend time each week reading about how to improve as a writer as well as discovering the keys to reaching various writing goals from the experts. (A lot of people ask for my advice on writing and publishing, but I am not an expert.  I refer them to others who are. Some of the experts I follow are Michael Hyatt, Jeff Goins, and Mary DeMuth.  I enjoy reading Hemingway's advice on writing as well. My favorite book of Hemingway's wisdom is Hemingway on Writing by Larry W. Phillips.)

 I hope this very basic advice helps those who are truly called to write projects but don’t know where the time will come from. 

There are no shortcuts.

These tips will not make anyone giddy with excitement.

Sacrifice seldom gets people whipped up.

It's about giving up things we all crave, like extra sleep.

Or bumming around in our pajamas on Saturday, watching Lifetime. 

Like anything else, if you want to do it, you will sacrifice and put yourself in position to learn.

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