Every writer faces at least one writing challenge—something that dogs him or her all of their writing life and interferes with productive writing. Some of us struggle with more than one big challenge.
That’s why our 2015 year-end survey included this question:
What’s Your Biggest Writing Challenge?
A lot of you answered that question.
The amazing thing is that most of the responses revolved around one issue.
Even more amazing, I’ve struggled with that problem myself.
What is it?
Finding Time to Write
It won’t surprise anyone that this was the number one response. It’s such a widespread struggle, that I recently wrote about it here at Indie Plot Twist. That post was more about my attitude on the subject than with tips for solving the problem, though. So today, I’ll offer a few additional suggestions.
In the article Finding Time to Write, I mentioned two good ways to find time:
- Look for activities you can give up to make more time available for writing
- Look for “spare moments” throughout the day when you can write
Both are good places to start, but they are just a beginning.
So what should you do next?
Diagnosing the Problem
Finding time to write often begins with taking the time to record how you spend your days. Don’t change anything—just make a note of what you do each day and how much time it takes. I did this once for work and was stunned at all the “free time” I was using in unproductive ways.
It’s easy to track how you use your time. If you have a Smart phone, dictate each activity, when it starts, and when it ends.
If you don’t have a Smart phone—yes, we are out here!—or prefer a written record, carry a note pad and pen or pencil. Jot down what you do and for how long.
What should you include? Everything!
- The time you work
- The time it takes to commute
- Shopping time
- Cooking time
- Reading time
- TV time
Keep a record for a week then tally the results.
You’re likely to find a remarkable amount of time spent doing things that aren’t productive. I hesitate to say wasted, but I did find a lot of wasted time on my list. It was revolting!
Solutions to the Problem
Now look for ways to convert that wasted or unproductive time into writing time. You won’t be able to dedicate all of it to writing but you should look for ways to redeem as much of it as possible.
Take a look around. Are there people around you? What are they doing? What’s the first thing you notice about them? Take notes and/or use those observations to create a fictional character.
If there aren’t people or if the setting is of more interest, describe that in as much detail as possible in the time you have available. Learn to describe what you see, hear, smell, feel, and maybe taste, then use those details to create a fictional scene.
Do a little research. You can consider the exercise above to be research. After all, you never know when someone you’ve seen or a place you’ve been is perfect for adding interest to your novel. But I’m talking about actual research. If a lack of information on something is keeping you from advancing your book and if you have a few minutes, get online and do a little research. You won’t be able to conduct in-depth research in your spare moments, but everything you learn can be put to use sooner or later and the time you spend is time that won’t be taken away from writing time.
Edit. One of my favorite things to do when I was working was taking a printed copy of whatever story I was working on to work. I’d eat lunch in my car and edit the manuscript in half hour increments. If I didn’t have anything to edit, I’d write chapters or explore plot options long hand. Quite often, by the time the work day ended and I could write, I was ready to write with revisions or fresh ideas.
Dictate. Whether you use your phone or a tape recorder, you can always dictate notes or entire scenes in small increments of time that aren’t suitable for any other writing-related purpose.
Blogging. If you blog as an author—and you should be blogging somewhere—use some of the unproductive time in your daily or weekly schedule to draft posts off line. I’ve discovered that drafting posts off line and sometimes in other locations is great for finding new topics and keeping my writing voice—and blog content—fresh.
Social Media. This can be a biggie. If you find it difficult to set aside dedicated time for this activity, use your spare moments to check your social media and interact. You can stay in touch and engaged without taking time away from writing. And, hopefully, without guilt!
For a couple of other tips, check out Finding Time to Write.
What’s your biggest writing challenge?