I’ve written and self-published two books so far, and I’ve written loads of other stuff that will probably never see the light of day. I have managed to do this while working a full-time job and allocating enough time for videos games, TV, and my girlfriend. My method for managing to squeeze time into a day for everything is not to spend a lot of time writing. I know this seems odd, as a professional writer spends most of their day writing. But for those of us who do not write for a living yet still want to be writers, we need to squeeze at least a little bit of time out of each day for the task of putting word to page.
Over the years, I have met many people who are “writing a book” or a screenplay or something, yet somehow can never seem to accomplish it because of the lack of time they have. The number one most common excuse is, “I don’t have enough time.” To that I say bullshit! You have the time. What you don’t have is the motivation or perseverance to do it.
For me, I can make the time. What I have difficulty with is motivation and energy. I am an insomniac and have pretty much always been one. I’ve tried drugs such as Ambien, which works great but requires a prescription, and, it’s not something you can take every night because of the long-term impact. I’ve also tried over-the-counter sleeping pills, marijuana (it’s legal in Washington State), meditation, fancy pillows, etc. So far, nothing works as well as I would like it to.
Great, you might think? Why not use that time, while not sleeping, to write? Unfortunately, that’s not how it works. Insomniacs want to sleep. We are tired and feel the need to sleep. So having the desire to sit in bed with a laptop is not appealing. I will often use my phone to jot down sentences or ideas that occur to me as I’m tossing and turning in a note app, but bright screens are not good to look at when trying to sleep.
What this means is, I wake up more tired than I was when I went to bed. So, finding the energy throughout the day to do my day job is difficult, let alone doing some writing. But just like musicians practice regularly, athletes exercise, and actors rehearse, writers must write. We must keep the brain trained and working or else it dissolves into a skull full of useless muck.
How do I get in a bit of writing? My system when I’m writing is to squeeze in only a few minutes a day. Usually, my process is to go to work, drink a smoothie or eat a yogurt, get my tea (or coffee), clear out emails, then write until I tire of it. This might only be a few minutes of editing or a few minutes of writing. But that’s my goal, 5 days a week. I usually only achieve that goal 2 or 3 times a week.
My One Month Challenge
Recently, I set myself a challenge. For one month, I set a goal of 15 minutes a day, 6 days a week. Because if God can take the 7th day off, so can I. Even the busiest of busy people can find a 15-minute block in the day to sit down and write something. There were a few rules for the challenge. The first rule was that I would not be specific about what I was writing, only that I would do it for 15 minutes a day. Blog posts, movie reviews, medium articles, stories, stuff like this would be included in what is allowed. The second rule was about what was not allowed. For that, there would be no editing. That could be done outside of the timeframe.
On the first day, I began writing a blog post for my website at 12:01 and finished at 12:16. Exactly 15 minutes. Success!
When I decided to focus more on my writing, I felt that setting a goal that was attainable would make it more likely to succeed. The reason many people don’t achieve those “New Year goals” or other goals is they will often set the bar too high. Such as “I’m going to jog two miles a day.” They do it for a couple of days then get tired or are sore and give up. Instead, set a goal of walking a mile every other day, then every day, then running a mile every other day, etc.
By setting my writing goal as something that is not far off from what I normally do, the objective was easier to achieve.
I had previously set a goal to write every day for 1 hour. On average, I ended up doing 20 minutes twice a week. For my experiment, I decided I could do at least 15 minutes a day for 6 days a week.
The results turned out pretty good. Of the days I was supposed to write, I missed 3 days. One because I got busy and forgot about it. I made up for it the next day by writing for 30 minutes. The other two missed days were because I was sick and medicated. I wrote an extra day on one of my days off. So, out of 30 days, I didn’t write for 5 of them. Since two of those were days off, calculating 3 days of not writing when I should have, I had a 90% success rate. Good if I say so.
When I started the project, I expected that my writing times would go longer than 15 minutes and my word count would increase over the month, but that wasn’t the case. Other than a few outliers, the time I spent writing and the word count didn’t change from the beginning to the end of the month.
Including the no Writing Days
- My average word count was 526
- My average time spent writing was 17 minutes
Removing the no Writing Days
- My average word count was 631
- My average time spent writing was 21 minutes
I had days where I wasn’t motivated to write, or not motivated to work on the things I wanted to work on. For those days I did some free form writing. I sat down and wrote the first thing that came to my head. It won’t ever get published or be seen by anyone, but like an athlete exercises regularly even on days they don’t have a game, or a musician practices on days they do not have a concert, a writer should still write to keep the brain working.
The only disappointing aspect of the project was that I did not spend as much time working on my next book as I wanted. I worked on it a little but spent more time writing blog posts. Maybe it had something to do with the mindset of only writing for 15 minutes, and the fact that blog posts can be completed in a short time.
Overall, I found this to be a useful endeavor to motivate myself to write more regularly. One of the arguments we give ourselves about not writing is being too busy. Even on busy days, I managed to squeeze time in, except for the one mentioned above. Going forward, I have changed from 15 minutes minimum per session to 20 minutes, and switched to 5 days a week, instead of 6. I also now include re-writing and editing to what is allowed within the 20 minutes, compared to the experiment where it was only new content.
Maybe I will never be a professional writer who can live off his writing, but with this system in place, I can feel a sense of accomplishment at occasionally complete something I am composing. Will this system of 15 minutes a day work for you? Only one way to find out.