Writers Talk About Writing
Five Ways to Put More Hours in Your Writing Day
Practice matters. That not-so-profound thought occurred to me while I was standing on the edge of a field recently, basking in the warmth of a glorious autumn afternoon and watching my 14-year-old daughter play soccer.
Okay, let's be honest, I wasn't standing so much as sitting in a lawn chair. I was also contemplating how much more fun it would have been if I'd thought to fill my water bottle, which was opaque, with something made from, say, hops. It's tough being a soccer mom, lipstick or not.
But suddenly, my reverie was interrupted by the activity on the field. I noticed the girls were in trouble.
They clutched their sides. They meandered to the ball when they should have run. They signaled to the coach that they wanted to be switched out of the game. "Wait a minute," I thought. "These girls are unfit." Well, duh. It was an early game in the season and they hadn’t had enough practice.
After the game -- a 1-1 tie because the other team was similarly unfit -- I said to my daughter, "I guess you'll be doing some laps around the track this week." She gave me that I'm-stuck-with a-mother-who-has-three-heads look and said, "Why?"
So, my question for you is: are you wondering why your writing isn't faster and easier? Do you avoid writing for days at a time and then try to churn out a newsletter or major report in 45 minutes? Do you figure that writing is a skill you should be able to turn off and on like a light switch?
Well, the bad news is that writing, not to mention life, isn't like that. You need to practice. And here's where most people will complain about lack of time. But the good news is that you have more time than you think -- if you make writing a priority. Here are five ways to find that time.
(These ideas will also work for professional writers who find themselves beset with too many phone calls and other administrivia.)
1) Get up earlier: Morning is a great time to write -- unless you're a night owl, which means you have my official permission to ignore this idea. If you're okay with mornings, however, you can write with confidence that phones don't usually ring before 7 am. What's more, there's good evidence that your "internal editor" is sleepier at this time of day, making writing easier. Save breakfast and your shower for later -- and avoid email as if it were poison.
2) Stay up later: Night owls, this one's for you. Hate the AM alarm clock? No problem. Just write at night. This will mean turning off the TV, putting down the book and steadfastly ignoring the siren lure of email and Google. Writing at night takes more discipline, but it's definitely doable for the right person. Reward yourself by taking the equivalent time off from 9 to 5, if you can.
3) Use lunchtime: Have you ever noticed that -- unless you're a stockbroker -- you can usually count on lunchtime to be quieter than the rest of the day? The phone stops ringing as your colleagues and clients disappear en masse to the taco joint around the corner. Not you! If you want to write, this is a great time to do it. Just remember: No email or Internet surfing. I recently heard from someone who had used this strategy to write an entire book (for which he found a publisher), just using his lunch hour.
4) Use stolen moments: Too often we get caught up in the all-or-nothing attitude that says "It's not worth doing unless I can do it for at least 60 minutes." Wrong! Every little bit helps. Write while you're waiting for a meeting to start. Write while watching your son's hockey practice. Write while you're waiting for a call to be returned. If all else fails, pop on a set of headphones with the volume turned off, so no one wandering by will disturb you.
5) Write about something that really interests you: Don't feel that your writing practice has to be limited to "work." You can write about a vacation you've taken. You can pen a note to city hall about a political decision that really bugs you. You can scribble notes about a moment that embarrassed you or that exhilarated you. It's all writing and it all counts.
Practice makes perfect, says the tired old maxim. But the truth is, practice makes possible.