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Time is made, not found

If you can't find time to write, make time

A  photo of a writer's clock

Return of the Jedi is babysitting my son while I plonk away at the keyboard in fingerless mittens, trying to remember whose brilliant idea it was to set up our study in the one room without heating. Star Wars and its sequels have given me about 10 uninterrupted writing hours – and during school holidays I’ll take anything I can get.

Any successful author will tell any emerging writer the same thing: you need to put in the time. If you don’t have the time, make time. And they say it because it works.

I was at a workshop recently with a successful YA and middle grade author. When he said he wrote for 10 hours a day, some participants gasped in shock. But, if you think about it, most professionals put in roughly those hours – either in the office or at home. We all know people who don’t consider writing to be a job, and unless you - the writer - treat it as one, they never will.

I blogged last year about failing to find time to write during the school holidays, and a couple of things have – thankfully – changed. My son will watch a movie or play on his own now, which is a huge step forward for the little guy; and I’ve learned to be more flexible and to plan ahead.

I got a huge amount of uni work and writing done during the first semester by splitting my day: writing in the morning and studying in the afternoon, and investing in a day of after-school care gave me nine clear hours of writing time.

In the three weeks between submitting my last uni assignment and the start of school holidays, I worked an average of 12 hours a day. Yep – 12 hours. Writing from 5am-7am, 9.30am-3.30pm, then again most afternoons and nights, often until midnight, plus all day on the weekends.

And why did I do that?

I’d set myself a deadline. In addition to pitching to publishers and putting together a research proposal, I had a novel to rewrite and cut down by 10,000 words. And I did it with 30 seconds to spare – I hit save, grabbed the car keys and picked up my son.

It meant booking extra after-school care, hubby picking up takeaway on the way home and drinking way more coffee than any one person should, but I knew if I didn’t hit that deadline I’d struggle, because school holidays have in the past been a writing-free zone.

These holidays, between DVDs and a school holiday program, I’m making time to work – but I’m realistic: if I can average four hours a day, I’m happy.

So, here are my tips for finding time to write:

Be realistic. Don’t commit to six hours a day if you can’t do it, or you’ll end up overloaded, overworked, stressed and resenting the writing. Start small, and then work up.

Be a dedicated hermit. Whether it’s 30 minutes, an afternoon, or a 10-hour day, treat this as your time to write – no social media, no housework, no emails, no coffees with friends, no distractions.

Take breaks. Eat, replenish caffeine supplies, check email, go for a walk occasionally. Short breaks will help you stay focused for longer and save on physio bills in the long run.

Be realistic II. 10,000 words in an hour? Write a 65,000-word novel in a week? No problem! Sure...

Don’t feel guilt over writing. If this is your ‘job’ – either full-time, part-time or casual – treat it that way. We don’t feel guilt about other employment – and shouldn’t let people make us feel guilty about it, either.

Know yourself. If you work better in the morning, work in the morning.

Be realistic III. After three weeks of 12-hour writing days, my family is sick of stir fry. But the pre-packaged veg and quick meals have been a lifesaver.

You’ll never write anything unless you write something. Sit your butt down, pick up a pen or turn on your computer, and just do it. Get the words out of your head and onto the page. It's not going to happen any other way.

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