Finding time in our busy lives to fit in our writing is a challenge. However, I’ve discovered that “finding” is the wrong word. “Making” time is actually more “fitting.” How can I “balance life on and off the page?” This puzzle led me to read about time management and building good work habits. Knowing this conundrum faces most writers, my life and writing became predictably intertwined. The result was my “Mastering Good Writing Habits” workshop to share the knowledge and strategies I’d gained with other writers at the 2016 InScribe Fall Conference.
Time to Write
Our dream of becoming a writer is often suppressed by other demands on our time. Those close to us might not understand our need to write. They may discourage, or even disparage, the devotion we display towards our “gift.” But if we see our writing as a gift from God, we feel a responsibility to use it to His glory. Regardless of whether we’re writing in obedience to God’s call or simply dedicating our writing to Him, we must trust the Lord to give us everything we need to fulfill our writing ministry:
And God is able to make all grace abound toward you,
that you, always having all sufficiency in all things,
may have an abundance for every good work.
—2 Corinthians 9:8 (NKJV)
But in the end, the only one who can make you a successful writer is you! It’s up to you to make that happen. You can continue to just dream about it and talk about it, or you can act on it. In order to do that, you’ll need to develop good work habits and learn how to be well organized and manage your time effectively and efficiently. In her bestseller, The Creative Habit, Twyla Tharp said, “Creativity is a habit, and the best creativity is the result of good work habits. That’s it in a nutshell.”
Mastering good work habits helps free up your mind to think more creatively because you’ll have established a regular writing routine. The words will flow onto the page with less effort because you’ll feel more energized, engaged, and focused on the writing process. There’s no longer any need to waste time and energy on psyching yourself up, making decisions, or struggling with self-control. There’s nothing to distract you from the task at hand, and you’ll finish your day with a real sense of accomplishment.
The bestselling Japanese writer, Haruki Murakami, has won numerous awards for his novels and short stories. He said this about the importance of developing a daily writing routine in a Summer 2004 interview with John Wray in the Paris Review:
When I’m in writing mode for a novel, I get up at four a.m. and work for five to six hours…. I keep to this routine every day without variation. The repetition itself becomes the important thing; it’s a form of mesmerism. I mesmerize myself to reach a deeper state of mind.
Schedule Time to Write
One of the best ways to fire up your time management skills is to identify your goals. You’re dreaming about writing that 100,000 word Christian suspense novel? If you aim for just 275 words a day, you’ll finish it in one year. You have 168 hours every week. Allowing forty hours for work and fifty-six for sleep leaves you seventy-two hours—plenty of time―right? Right! (Was that you being cynical?) In order to manage those left-over hours better, you’ll need to analyze how you’re spending them now. Then make your writing a top priority—schedule time for it and avoid distractions. Learn to say “no” without giving a reason or feeling guilty. Only have a few minutes today? Keep a notebook handy, and jot down a couple of ideas or observations. Taking just these few simple steps will start you on the right path to fulfilling your dream!
Photos: Nina Faye Morey
Twyla Tharp: The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life, Simon and Schuster, 2006.