Writing a book is a dream for many people. However, finding time to write makes achieving that dream difficult. Life is constantly competing for our attention – meaning, that “perfect” time to write will never appear. It’s time to buckle down and commit to writing through determination, planning, and accountability. It doesn’t have to be anything extreme – even 5 minutes a day can carve out a writing habit for you.
Let’s take a look at the steps to make this habit.
No more excuses!
One of the greatest challenges to writing is the self. Not for lack of ideas, but because of the tendency to make excuses. Some of the most common excuses that stop people from writing are:
- I don’t feel like writing.
- I need to relax first, then I’ll write.
- I have to do (household chores, catch up on a TV series, run errands, etc.).
- I’m waiting for the right time.
- I don’t know what to write.
Your ideal writing conditions won’t happen on their own. If you wait for them to appear, years will pass and the stories in your mind will never be written.
Make a commitment
You have to prioritize your writing.
In the list of excuses, doing chores and running errands were some examples. There will always be other things to do. And if you don’t make writing a priority, there will always be something more important than writing to you.
Take a moment and ask yourself “Why am I doing this? Why do I want to write? Is this important to me?” Write your answer down somewhere you can see it often – your desktop, your notes app, a sticky note on the fridge.
Now that you know writing a book is important to you, treat it like it’s important. Tell yourself, “I have decided to write a book.” Even if others don’t give it the same respect, keep this statement in mind when you sit down to write. Just like work requires dedicated hours, or learning an instrument requires practice, writing requires its own specific time.
Because writing is an important priority, you must be willing to compromise your schedule to fit it in.
Everyone has things going on. Taking care of family, going to work, seeing to health, studying, exercising. Where can writing fit in? Even if some don’t feel like it, many of these daily tasks can be moved to make time for writing.
Make a list of your day-to-day activities and split them into three categories:
- Immovable tasks: time commitments that cannot be changed, usually because someone else scheduled them for you. Ex: 9-5 job, class meetings, sport practices
- Movable tasks: time commitments that have more flexibility. While they do have to happen at some point, you can move them around and find other times to complete them. Ex: studying, shopping, cleaning
- Optional tasks: things you enjoy doing, but don’t have to do. Ex: binging Netflix, playing a video games, window shopping
Then, rate them from most to least important. Take out some of the least important activities to fit in time for writing. This could be an hour of TV time at night, social time after work, or an extra hour of sleep in the morning. Be sure to keep some activities you enjoy for a nice refresher between writing and all your other tasks.
Yes, some down time will have to be sacrificed regardless. But that is a sacrifice you must be willing to make in order to write a book. You can bring back some of the things you enjoy as a special reward whenever you meet a milestone or writing goal.
Be intentional – set up writing sessions
First, decide how long you want your writing sessions to be. This can be anywhere from 5 minutes a day to 4 hours, and can be split into multiple short or long sessions. Don’t try to be superhuman – be honest with yourself about what kind of a commitment you can make. This should be a realistic goal that you can reach consistently for several months, at least.
And yes, you can write a book with just 5 minutes of writing a day. Alexandra Sokoloff is a great example of this – writing her book The Harrowing in just 5 minute-long sessions each day after long hours of work. Five minutes each day for 365 days… that’s a book in a year!
Everyone has five minutes somewhere. If you make your writing sessions the edges of your day (any spare moment you can find between tasks), the minutes will start to add up. So will your word count.
After you’ve decided how long you’ll write, determine when you will write. What time of day works best with your schedule? Which days will you write – every day; every other day; only on Mondays and Wednesdays; the weekend? Make sure to avoid burnout by scheduling breaks and clearing your head between tasks.
Once you have those details figured out, block off your writing sessions in your calendar. Doing this will help you feel obligated to complete your writing session.
Plan ahead of time
Now that you know when to write and for how long, it’s time to build your writing plan. Without one, you will drift and procrastinate instead. You might have one already. But if you don’t, don’t worry! Here are some tips to build a writing plan:
- Find your environment: Having a scheduled writing time is great, but if you don’t know where you’re going to write, you might miss it. It’s important to choose a place you are comfortable in that has minimal distractions. This can mean different things for different people – you get to decide if that’s a local coffee shop, a library, an at-home office space, the bus on your commute to work, or anywhere else. Wherever you end up, keep it sacred. This is your writing space. That means you should only be writing while in it. Use productivity apps, browser extensions, or parental lock features to block websites and social media during your sessions if you have to.
- Set a word count minimum: This is to help you put your work in scope. Look at general novel guidelines and lengths to get an estimate on your own book’s final word count. Then, break that down into smaller chunks. These chunks can be strategically placed along your writing timeline – day by day or at intervals over months – and represent the minimum word count you want to reach by those times.
- Create a big picture outline: Many of us get stuck in the finer details of our writing. Sometimes those details can put us into gridlock – we don’t know how to fix them because we haven’t written the rest of the story, but we’re unwilling to move on until we finish them. Don’t do that. Create a broad outline of your book and practice loose writing to fill it out. Skip over or leave notes about details, transitions, and dialogue you can’t figure out just yet and go back to fill them out later. This will increase your productivity and creativity. By the time you go back, you’ll most likely find it easy to fill in those missing details.
- Plan each writing session: Schedule a time to plan out your sessions. You could do this every weekend for the coming week, or at the end of each session for the following one. Make sure you note down what you want to work on. Will you focus on characterization? Writing that one scene that’s been on your mind? Go back and fix details? Make it as specific as possible, so you have an action plan each time you sit down to write. Having specific tasks will help you stay productive and keep your writing a habit.
- Research separately: Along that note, make sure that you aren’t stopping to research during your writing sessions. If you have blocked off a session to be specifically for research, that’s fine. But make sure you are only writing during normal writing sessions. If you allow yourself to hop on Google, you open the window for procrastination to set in and take over your writing time.
- Choose a dependable software: This doesn’t have to be anything fancy. A paper and pen will do, if you prefer that, or something as simple as MS Word or Google Docs. Other options include Scrivener, ProWritingAid, Dabble, and many more. You could also use a voice recorder for dictating and transcribing on the go. Be sure to stay consistent with whichever software you decide on.
- Track your progress: And set achievable goals. Setting goals along your writing journey will help you stay motivated. If your goals have deadlines, make sure you stick to them, or you may begin procrastinating again and nothing will be accomplished. Goals are a good way to track your progress and see how far you’ve come.
Stay accountable – and reward yourself for it!
Determine how you will hold yourself accountable for sticking to your writing plan. There are many ways you could do this. You could
- Share your progress on social media
- Writing it in your journal
- Find an accountability partner or daily text partner
- Use a habit tracking app
Be sure to reward yourself when you stay on track. Periodic rewards as you meet progress checkpoints and goals can help prevent burnout. Watch a movie, take some extra time with your family, eat your favorite ice cream, exercise – whatever you need to do to refresh your mind and relax.
Now . . . write!
Finding time to write can be challenging, but with determination and thoughtful planning, it is possible. Overcome excuses, commit to your writing, prioritize your time, and set achievable goals. By creating a solid writing plan and holding yourself accountable, you can transform your dream of writing a book into a reality.