The biggest obstacle I hear is that people can’t find the time to write. There’s always something in the way—whether that be family, chores, work, or just anything else that isn’t your writing. A new friend I’ve been speaking with a few times a week recently asked me how I stay so motived to write every day, how I write multi-thousands of words every day.
Schedule Your Writing Time
My response was simple, even if not particularly original. I write so much every day because for the last few years, I’ve created a schedule around my writing.
My goal was always to have my life center around my goals—my writing—so it made sense for me to create a schedule that highlighted my writing first and foremost. Everything else could come after my writing goals were completed for the day. After all, writers write, right?
It took a while to work out the kinks in my schedule, but something stuck out.
That thing was that certain things really frustrated me, and those things put off my mood for the rest of the day. I used to focus my writing in the afternoon, and if I’d had a particularly draining morning, the writing was more difficult.
That’s why protecting your writing time is of the utmost importance. It’s why you—as a writer—must do everything within your power to carve out a schedule and stick to it.
But don’t stop there. It’s one thing to tell your family that Sundays are for writing—or Tuesday afternoons, or every night between 6 pm and 10 pm—or whatever time works within the parameters of your life. But the next step after setting aside that time specifically for writing is protecting that time for writing.
Protect Your Writing Time
The thing about time is that it’s just another choice in your day. Even if you schedule your writing time into your calendar, you could always choose to do something else.
It’s not like you not writing is going to hurt anyone, right? At least not anyone other than yourself…
And that’s the thing you need to remember. You won’t notice the immediate consequences when you ignore your writing time to watch television or go out with your friends for another fun-filled evening. You’ll notice it the next day when your word count has been stagnant for another week. Or when your project takes decades to finish.
But how can you ignore your friends? The thing is that you don’t. You set reasonable boundaries and put yourself and your needs first before anyone else’s. As long you’re not hurting anyone, that is.
Identify Possible Distractions
The first thing you need to do when creating your writing schedule is to consider what possible distractions might arise. Depending on the day you choose, it could be your favorite television show time, a night out with friends, or an infrequent family dinner night. Whatever distractions you can think of, write them down.
Once you’ve written them down—once you’ve acknowledged them—you can take control of them.
Interruptions are only distractions because we allow them to distract. The best way to ignore interruptions is to cut them off at the source.
Do most people contact you via text or phone? Put your phone on silent. Is it family members or people inside your household that interrupt your time more? Consider leaving. Go to the library or join (or create!) a local meetup to carve more writing time out for yourself.
This step—identifying possible distractions—is all about planning, taking control of your own time, and staking your claim on the time you’ve set aside for writing.
But what if that doesn’t work? What if people still try to weasel their way into your writing time and you’re finding it more and more difficult to get meaningful writing tine into your schedule. What if your progress is slowing because other people want their needs met before your own?
Find Excuses for Those Distractions
When simply saying “no” doesn’t work, the easiest way to get around things is to find an excuse. These are the three main ways I craft excuses to protect my writing time and accomplish more of my goals.
Edit the Truth
It’s become commonplace for me to say that I’m “on deadline”, even though most of those deadlines are my own. But no one else necessarily knows that. They just know I’m writing a book or creating something—they don’t have the insight into my business to put all the pieces together.
That’s why the best thing you can do is create a simple excuse you can use time and time again. Something simple, like saying you’re on deadline, is something you can easily pull out of your back pocket at a moment’s notice.
It’s always important to remember that people aren’t dumb. If they’re close to you at all, they know you’re working on something. But they don’t know the specifics and they don’t always understand the impact their simple request (to hang out with you) has on your writing time. Or your ability to reach your goals.
Redirect Their Advances
If you want to hang out with someone, but the time they’ve offered conflicts with your writing time, suggest another time. It’s not like they only want to hang out with you between 5 pm and 10 pm on Friday. That’s just when they had in mind.
But if that’s your writing time, don’t mislead them. Remember the boundaries we talked about above and redirect.
Instead of nodding your head and agreeing, be honest. Tell them you’re busy, but you can hang out on Saturday afternoon. Or if there’s something specific they wanted to do that could only be done on Friday evening, maybe rearrange your schedule so you can still get your writing time done before going to that event.
At the end of the day, writers write, and writers want to finish their projects so they can move on to another idea. So, they feel accomplished. You can’t feel accomplished if you never sit down to write.
Embrace your ambitions and make writing your top priority. Make it the non-negotiable thing that needs to get finished before you can go out and have fun. Like eating dinner before getting dessert. Enjoy both, but prioritize the healthy eating, the goal completion.
Embrace the Digital Age
Pretty much everything I do is outlined in my calendar. It’s how I get everything done without losing my head. You can put the same concept into practice with one simple question: Oh, did we have something on the calendar?
That one question is how I deflect and subtly remind people that they need to plan with me. I don’t usually just wake up and not have a plan for the day—unless, it’s my day off, of course!
After I ask that question, most people openly admit we don’t have anything scheduled and follow it up with: We should put something in the calendar. After that, I leave the question open.
It’s okay to not always have plans for the weekend. Quite weekends at home are how I write so much. It’s how I get everything done. And getting those things done makes me feel accomplished. That feeling is the serotonin rush I crave.
Going out is fun sometimes, but writing is what drives my soul. It’s why I wake up in the morning and what snapped me into focus a few years ago. Nowadays, people know I typically require at least a week of notice before any sort of event or visit. Things need to be scheduled; nothing can be a surprise.
When it comes to your writing time, you need to figure out what distractions and obstacles stand between you and your goals… But it shouldn’t be something you spend so long thinking about that you never actually sit down to write.
Create a schedule and pinpoint possible distractions. Spend 15 minutes on this activity and get back to writing your book!
This blog post article has been an excerpt from my book How to Become a More Productive Writer.