50/50 Post: How Are You Making Time to Write?

Blank Page. Image courtesy of stock.xchng®Since fall of 2009, I’ve been especially focused on keeping my writing a priority and juggling it with freelance copywriting. I’ve tried several options, including:

Carving out one weekday per week to write. This seemed like a great idea, especially being a freelancer. The reality? It was too easy to give up that day for client projects. Or, I’d see that I couldn’t carve out an entire day and throw in the towel for that week. I approached it as all-or-nothing and, well, nothing won.

Taking an in-person workshop. While the workshop had me focused on my writing, but the weekly 500-word exercises weren’t quite what I needed at the time. I was used to online classes that drove students to the completion and polish of chapters, so I was looking to repeat that experience.

Writing 1,000 words per day. The best part about this was that a friend agreed to let me email him my daily word counts. Knowing that someone would read that number was a good motivator. However, I set my 1,000-word goal and then immediately had a surge of new copywriting work. While I hit the goal some days, I failed most. It was too many words per day when I was spending almost eight hours on copywriting.

I may try a words-per-day goal again, starting with a lower number. For the next few months, my goal is to complete one (draft) chapter per month. How I’ll get it done, I’m not sure. But I know I must to meet my goal.

Like all my 50/50 posts, this is where you share your experience. What’s worked for you in terms of balancing a day job (or other responsibilities) and writing? What have you tried that you’ll never do again? What are key elements that help you set—and meet—your writing goals? Please share in the comments. Thank you!

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27 thoughts on “50/50 Post: How Are You Making Time to Write?

  1. Wow, it was really interesting to read all the different approaches to keeping your bum in the chair and your hands on the keys.

    Like a lot of folks who weighed in, I write every day, since that’s what I do for a living. Deadlines, help, of course, as does a story board for my blog and other blogs I contribute to. I also check in with a couple of other freelancers via email once a week, where we track each other’s progress.

    What I’m not good at, I’m discovering, is carving out time for a big, personal project that may or may not pay off (book proposal anyone?). That’s what I need to make time for in my busy schedule.

    Clearly, though, it’s doable. Seems like so many of my fellow freelancers are working on books at various stages of development.

  2. Personally, I just make a commitment to myself that what I am doing is not only beneficial for me, but for the planet. Writing words of humans having positive interactions with the natural world is not only helping me improve on my imagination quality, but it is also helping to add to the collection of thoughts that people think.

    Additionally, knowing that each day I am going to compose an “imagining” is something that gets me inspired and motivated. When this is no longer the case, then I won’t do it.

    That is, I think that it is important to have the right spark of energy to write things. If there is no spark to write it, maybe it is that I need to be doing something else. 🙂

    With Love and Gratitude,

    The Intentional Sage

  3. As a freelancer finding that right balance is always so tricky. What I’ve been trying to do is set aside certain days for certain parts of writing life–different days for querying, interviewing, etc. I usually do well for about a week or so but then I tend to go back to a more hodge-podge organization.

  4. I loved a comment I picked up years ago on a writer’s listserve. “A surgeon can’t wait until he is in the mood to operate.” Professional writers just write.

    And I think if you’re doing the #words per day, you need to cut yourself slack and count ALL the words you write–expanding the goal if you need to. And Alexandra–why do you say when you are blogging you aren’t writing. Of course you are writing.

    Minutes work better than #words for me. If I say I will do nothing but write for 15 minutes, it often stretches to an hour because I get absorbed.

  5. This is a tough one! One thing that works for me is waking up a couple of hours earlier than I normally do, and using that time to work on my fiction before diving into copywriting. The benefits for me are two-fold: my mind and thoughts are freshest in the morning, and since most people are asleep, I don’t get distracted by other work commitments.

    The downside: I’m not a morning person. So it’s not at all easy for me to wake up two hours earlier, but once I get into a pattern of it and start seeing how much progress I’m making, it motivates me and makes me excited for the next morning. I can only keep this up for a few weeks at a time before I get tired, though, so on my off weeks I try to set aside at least an hour or two in the afternoon.

    It’s always a struggle, but always worth it.

    • Natalia, your comment came at the perfect time. Coincidentally, I woke up earlier today and started writing before doing anything else (no blog, no email, no copywriting) and already have nearly 1,000 words written. Your experience is especially encouraging because, like you, I’m sharpest in the morning but I’m not necessarily a morning person. I’m going to try this again. The results are very encouraging! Thank you.

  6. I generally divide my time between freelance/client work and my own projects. Sometimes my own projects are about editing, sometimes they are about writing and, sometimes, they are about doing something creative other than writing to gain perspective. I don’t have a specific word count, but I might set an internal goal like to finish a concept or get the arc of something down. I approach my personal project in a similar way that I approach client work – that a job has to be done so I do it.

  7. It’s so inspiring and motiving to hear what does–and doesn’t–work for fellow writers. Thank you for your comments!

    Roxanne and Alexandra ~ Like both of you, blogging has helped me tremendously in my writing. When I recently thought about not blogging so that I would write more in other areas, I realized that I would be giving up too much. Even if I’ve spent nine hours writing copy for a client, knowing that I have to write my blog post, keeps me writing in my own voice.

    Ruth ~ You make an excellent point! Part of what worked with my 1,000 words per day goal was that I gave myself no option. I had to write whether I was “in the mood” or not.

  8. God, I love the idea of 1,000 words a day.

    I write for a living so I’m always writing but a lot of it is researching and interviewing and traveling (for my travel stories). Sometimes I realize I don’t write anything that feeds my creative soul.

    I’m inspired by 1,000 words a day on my own stuff.

    Another way to do this is to carve out minutes: You can do anything for 15-minutes a day so that would be another way to make sure you are writing.

    • Jennifer ~ When I was writing 1,000 words a day, there were many days that I actually wrote between 1,500 and 2,000. It really was inspiring and something I hope to do again. Next time, maybe I will try looking at it in minutes, like you suggest. Maybe spreading those words throughout the day instead of cramming them in at the end, when I was tired from copywriting, would have been more productive. Let me know how it goes!

  9. I struggle with this, too. At one point I’d set a goal of working on essays one day per week, then it dropped down to twice a month, then it became one day per month and now it’s basically when I have a spare moment which is … almost never. There’s a great book by Kelly L. Stone called Finding Time to Write. I’d highly recommend it.

    • Susan ~ Thanks for the book recommendation! Our experiences sound similar in trying to carve out days for writing. Since I’m so deadline driven, I’m curious to see how I do with a deadline only and not other parameters.

  10. Generally I set deadlines for myself as to when I need something to be done and I try to treat those deadlines with the same attitude I treat other deadlines.

    • Maybe the key is exactly what you say: “treat those deadlines with the same attitude I treat other deadline.” This is an area where I need work.

  11. I was blocked/unmotivated/procrastinating for years, and let me tell you: I swear by the blog method. I’ve been keeping a daily blog for about six months now. I write about whatever moves me, and then edit the contents for whatever purpose I want to use them for. I made the commitment to write daily publicly and so not writing one day is NOT an option. It’s kind of freeing, actually. And writing a handful of paragraphs a day over the course of the past six months has netted me about 500 double-spaced pages so far this year! (But who’s counting? ;))

    • Hi Amanda~ Thank you so much for sharing your process. I wondered how your blogged worked for you and what I didn’t realize what that the blog *is* your writing. (I consider my blog and my writing projects separate.) You demonstrate that even a few paragraphs per day can really add up. I can’t wait to see what happens with your writing over the next six months.

  12. I’d love to be like Alisa – organized, structured, sticking to the same regimen every day. It sounds so easy! But if there is one thing I’ve learned about myself in 37 years, it is that I am not a planner. I like a little unpredictability to my days (not sure why). So I write a daily goal into my day planner, based on what I know I have going on that day (hah!), and then I cram the writing in whenever I can throughout the day. By using elastic goals like this, I’m having much more success.

    • Jennifer ~ do you find it easy to switch between your writing and other tasks? Sometimes I put off writing until everything else is done because I think it’s going to impact my mood. I like your approach. How do you set your daily goals? Word count? Scene? I’m very curious how you make it all work!

  13. I agree with Sandy. Writing is like exercise: the more you do it, the better — and faster — you become. I’ve found over the years that waiting for the right mood can cost you too much time.

  14. I split every day into thirds. One third is always client projects. One third is always my personal writing: blog, my memoir project (before I finished it), stuff I’m doing to promote myself etc. The last third can be more of one of the former, or it might be catch up stuff (email, banking, etc).

    • Alisa, I love how you split your time, especially because it means you’re writing every day. If my deadline-oriented plan doesn’t work, I may try your approach. I’m determined to make my own writing a priority.

  15. I agree about blogging but see it as practice, like flexing muscles. Since I blog every day, I do not write. I find life gets in the way, as Sheryl says. Having someone read my writing is an excellent motivator. My husband is leaving on vacation in two days, so I hope to have more private time and be able to revise a manuscript, the writing I have been putting off.

  16. I think blogging is good at building consistency in writing practice. I wonder if there is a way to harness blog technology (in a private way) to create a structure for writing.

    Still … for me, it’s hard to balance the work that PAYS the bills with the other kinds of writing I hope to do. It’s all writing, though.

  17. Sheryl ~ I agree with life getting in the way! Before setting my new writing goals, I even revised my freelancing goals to make the writing a priority.

    Christine ~ Four kids? I’m impressed that you have time to do anything, much less write. I may bug you about the writing at night in a month or so to see if it’s still working for you. Do you find it hard to sleep after writing? I always think my brain will get wound up again if I write before bed.

    Thanks for your comments!

  18. What a great topic. This is always on my mind, while I’m doing the many other millions of daily tasks I need to do to keep life moving along in a family with four young children. It feels so hard to make the time to write. But I think it’s so important to make it a daily practice. I usually only write when I have a deadline, but I want to try to get some ideas down on paper for myself to see where they’ll go. Last night I decided to take my computer to the bedroom to try to write a little instead of reading a book. I got a bit done and I think I’m going to try to do this every evening if I can.

  19. Ack. I wish I could meet my writing goals, but LIFE keeps on getting in the way. To make things worse, I am the type of person who can only write when the mood is right, so scheduling “writing time” is not always productive for me.

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