“I would love to write a book. If only I had the time.”
We’ve all heard it. Possibly we’ve even said it. The classic lament of the would-be writer: time. If only we could magically increase the hours in the day or reduce the amount of responsibilities we have that crowd the creative time we crave. If only. Do you want to know the secret to having or finding the time needed to write the next New York Times Bestseller?
Come in closer…
You have to…
Decide to write. It’s that simple. Make the decision and, presto!, the time will be there.
But wait…? You’re saying this right now. There isn’t time to do write now, so how can deciding to write suddenly increase the amount of time you have in a day? Well, in truth, it doesn’t. Your day won’t magically get longer or your list of responsibilities shorter. So what am I missing here, BC?
Easy. Human beings are masters at time management, and we’re equally as inept at time management. (Learn more about the difference being having time and having motivation here.) As people, and writers, we waste countless hours that could be spent on the writing projects we really want to do. Instead we find ourselves frittering away precious minutes instead of investing them in our next novel (or our first one). So what time am I referring to?
Do you commute to work? If you drive to work daily, chances are you’re not so fortunate as to live less than fifteen minutes from your job. And in many cases, people like, on average, between 20-30 minutes from work according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Time spent in the car can easily be used to outline a story, work on plot holes, or even dictate a chapter or few paragraphs as you watch brake lights and tap your fingers on the steering wheel. With the technology we carry around in our pockets, opening a notepad via voice command is one of the easiest ways you can invest in finding the spare time you didn’t know you already had in logging words instead of listen to crappy drive-time traffic radio.
Don’t drive and take the bus instead? Even better. Your commute is probably a little longer, giving you more time, and you can outright write instead of just dictating notes and ideas.
Okay, if you’re one of those rare people who still watch television via cable or satellite service, you have more time than you realize to spend writing. Commercials are writing opportunities. Even five minutes is enough time to jot down a few lines of writing. Consider the time a writing sprint to either strength skills or jot down ideas that you work on in depth later. Not sure how to word print? NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writer’s Month) has a great Twitter feed called @NaNoWordSprints to get you started.
But that’s the LAST time in my day with spare time. And if you think so, you couldn’t be more wrong.
We waste a gaggle of time doing chores. Probably because we don’t really want to do them. But if we can maximize our time spent on chores, we can grab a few extra minutes writing and we might even start to enjoy our chores a little bit more. At least make them less dull.
Take, for instance, the laundry. According to Unclutterer, the average family of four accumulates between eight and ten loads of laundry per week. Given that an average wash cycle takes thirty-five minutes and an average drying cycle takes one to one and a half hours, that’s roughly 10 hours a week that a machine is doing your laundry. So what are you doing during that time? Sure, some of us are maybe doing other chores, trying to multitask, but I’m willing to bet a lot of us aren’t. We’re probably sitting on the couch channel surfing or watching a movie, maybe reading a book. Why not spend that time writing instead? In two hours you could get a lot written.
What other chores can we capitalize on? How about washing dishes? Same principle as being in the car for your commute. Open up a file and dictate your story, plot notes, ideas. Sweeping and mopping? Same thing. Strap an exercise band on your arm, pop your phone in it, and dictate away. How about walking the dog? This is a trifecta of opportunity actually: Chore – the pup’s exercise; Bonus – the human’s exercise; Jackpot – writing. If the dog is decently leash trained, you can even write via a tablet or your phone while you walk the dog. I use this method all the time. My Shepherd needs a lot of exercise. I bought a waist band I clip the Shepherd’s leash to and write my little heart out on my phone while we both get our exercise. The cherry on top is that exercise increases blood flow which increases brain function. (Here is my Shepherd. She’s a bit of a weirdo. Naturally.)
I know what you’re thinking. You’re out with friends, why would you want to spend time writing? If you think about it, or just observe while out, we check our phones on average of 14 times a day according to NBC. And that’s just for Facebook. And the New York Times reports we spend about 50 minutes a day on Facebook on average. Imagine if we cut out checking Facebook during the times we’re out during the day or night and turn that into writing time? Let’s face it, with SnapChat and Instagram we can make one picture stretch between all of our social media platforms with only two apps. So stop investing time opening Facebook and checking it, and instead while you’re waiting to get drinks or your friends are dancing to a song that just isn’t your jam, write.
There are days we all must just get out of the house. Maybe we run some errands we’ve put off, or maybe we just decide to go grab a bite to eat. If you pick errands, see the commute portion of this article for reminders. If you choose to treat yourself to a nice, quiet meal, use the time to write. Take a notebook, tablet, laptop, or your phone with you and write while you eat; people watch and jot down things you overhear or mannerisms you see, descriptions of clothing. Use eating as a writing exercise to taste, smell, and visually describe your food in as many ways as you can. No matter how you use the time, as exercises or logging words in your latest project, there is time to write.
So there you have it. Four times in your day you didn’t realize could be used to write. If you’re anything like me, any combination of these four times can give you approximately 3-4 hours of extra writing time each week. It may not seem like much, but according to Quora the average person types around 35-40 words per minute. Even accounting for one 15-minute break per hour, an extra 3 hours per week is 5,400 words. 5,400 words a week on any given writing project is solid writing. Guess there’s more time to write than you thought, right?