How to Find the Time to Write

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I was chatting with a writing friend about the day job dilemma as a writer. How do you find the time to write when you work full-time, just had a baby, or you have 18 million other things you must do?

Before I went freelance full-time, I worked full-time for 12 years while writing at various jobs from nonprofit work to magazines. Some of those jobs, my annual salary was just enough to cover rent, food, and transportation. And while a DAY JOB may seem scary and awful while you’re working on your dream, a day job can afford you a roof over your head and pay your bills.

What are some ways you can get that novel/TV script/screenplay/personal essay/memoir written while you’re very busy? Here’s what I did. Hope these ideas help you!

1. Apply to an artist residency.

My filmmaker friend David Licata encouraged me to apply to an artist residency when we worked together at a non defunct nonprofit. I did my first residency at Centrum, then spent two glorious weeks at Hedgebrook (all women writers should apply!). While getting into an artist residency isn’t easy, it’s worth applying. Here’s a great list of 21 writing residences. If you don’t get accepted the first time around, apply again. David talks here about applying to the MacDowell Colony FIVE times before landing a residency.

2. Get up early.

This is probably the most hard thing to do, but it’s worth it. When I worked as an editor at a magazine, I found that I was too tired post-work to write anything. Mainly because I had spent my day editing and writing. So I decided to get up an hour earlier each day—6 am—and work on my own personal projects. Sure, I was tired as hell the first week or so, but my body adjusted. I found that the quiet and solitude of the morning and the crunch time of 60 minutes let me write faster than at night. If you’re a night owl, try the same tactic at night.

3. Write during your lunch hour.

When I landed a few freelance assignments while working at a magazine, I used my lunch hours to interview sources, write pitches, and finish assignments. I made sure to pack a lunch and used my hour off as my time for my writing.

4. Take a writing class.

I love the beauty of taking online classes such as courses through Mediabistro or the Writing Pad. You don’t have to commute, you can “meet” other writers, and you have hard deadlines for homework assignments. It’s networking, learning, and writing all rolled into one.

5. Give yourself deadlines.

Saying that you’ll write that novel some day is basically like saying you’ll join a gym some day. You gotta to get your butt in a seat and do the work. I give myself set deadlines for projects. Some times I don’t meet those deadlines (unless it’s an assigned piece then deadlines are a MUST), but I get as close as possible. I schedule days on a writing calendar, which is a simply print out of my iCal calendar.

I'd love to know what you think! Tell me in the comments below.

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