If you’re a full-time writer, you may have so much time on your hands that you have a hard time finding enough stories to write to fill it.
I do not have that problem.
Stories swirl around in my head on spin cycle. They leak out in conversations, get themselves written down on napkins and bits of paper and note files on my mac and iphone and ipad. I have so many stories to tell, and so little time to tell them. You see, I’m a full-time writer with part-time time.
Now I’m not complaining, exactly. I have a wonderful husband, and we run a business together that keeps us fed, clothed, and reasonably entertained. But it would be nice to have a little more writing time. When you work full-time or more (I probably work 80 hours a week), it can be a challenge to find time to sit down at the keyboard to write, and to do so at a time when your brain is ready and engaged for writing. So you have to make the most of the time you have.
Here are my tips for all you writers out there with full-time jobs:
1) Pick a Time and Stick To It
As a part-time writer, it’s hugely important to have structure in your writing time. For me, that’s 12-1:30 every day. Sure, things happen, and sometimes I can’t make my daily writing appointment. But having a time to sit down to write (and making it a priority) can really help.
2) Cut Yourself Off From the World
When I write, I put on my headphones and listen to music with the volume cranked up so the outside world doesn’t intervene. But you can also retreat into the bedroom with your laptop. Or go outside or to the coffee shop. Whatever works for you. I also recommend closing Facebook and all other social media for the duration. I use a program called Isolator that blacks out all other apps on my mac while I write.
3) Be Organized About Your Story
When you are a part-time writer, time is not your friend. I know it’s not easy to plan a story in advance – many of us are pantsers at heart. But it can be really helpful when your writing time is on a diet. And remember, you don’t have to write a massive, detailed outline. It can be as simple as a series of sentences saying where you plan for the story to go – I use a great app called Scapple for this – basically a big notepad where I can jot down notes, move them around, link them and color-code them. And your plan can change as the story evolves. But having a roadmap helps you hit the ground running when you have time to write.
4) Use Your Other Devices
You often end up with random bits of potential writing time throughout the day – for me, it’s when I’m waiting in line at the post office, or watching the 30 minutes of pre-movie content at the theater. If you have a smart phone or tablet, you can often sketch out a quick scene in these moments, especially when you are going full-bore on a new story. I use Pages, because it works well across Apple devices and gives me access to all my work anywhere I am. But there are many other similar tools. And you can also knock out a scene in an email that you then send to yourself. Be creative!
5) Work on Several Projects at Once
As writers, our brains often go into Writer’s Slow Down when there’s something not quite right about a scene or story we are working on. But if you have limited writing time, this can really set you back. When I get stuck on one story, I switch gears and move to another, which usually frees up my writing brain, and gives my subconscious some time to work out the issues on the original story.
6) Let Yourself Have Occasional Downtime
We all push ourselves as writers, but every now and then, your brain needs to relax. Take a couple days off here and there from your writing. I know it sounds counter-intuitive, but sometimes our brains need a little space to work things out for our stories.
I hope that helps – it gets me through my teeny, tiny little writing days, and lets me finish a surprising amount of work. 🙂