In pursuit of my author dream I wrote about in my previous post, I get up at 5:30 every morning to write before work.
For a year before I started doing this, I worked on the same novel whenever I had time.
In other words – hardly ever.
Because when you leave it for your spare time, you’ll never get to it. Let’s face it – “spare time” as adults is a myth, a magical idea that would be great if it existed but doesn’t. Like leprechauns or fairies, spare time is only something of fairy tales.
That’s how it is for me, and I imagine it’s that way for many others. Between a full-time job, pets, workouts, and obligations like Friday night margaritas, it’s hard to regularly find that mythical spare time to work on life goals.
That’s why we have to make the time.
I’m not saying anything new – we’ve all heard some version of, “Oh you don’t have time? Then make time.”
But how? How do you make the time to keep you consistent toward your goal?
For me, I experimented. My first idea was to set aside one day a week to write. On Sundays for a few weeks in a row (okay more like two weeks) I sat down and wrote.
I binge wrote for about four or five hours straight, like I used to binge-watch Gossip Girl in college with a bucket of popcorn and pepperoni pizza.
But the binge sessions once a week (those two times) weren’t cutting it. There were Sundays in between and after my experiment period when I couldn’t write because we were out of town, or we had family over. So again, I was back to where I started and only sporadically writing.
Even during those sessions, though, I wasn’t productive. I spent so much time away from the story I often forgot what I needed to write next and what scenes I already wrote. There were a couple times I started writing a scene that felt familiar, and halfway through it, I went back to my folder and realized I already wrote that same scene.
Something had to change. And putting up Post-It notes to remind my flustered brain what I already wrote wasn’t enough to efficiently help me reach my goal of finishing this manuscript. In less than 7 years anyway.
I needed a plan that allowed me to be consistent, a plan I needed to outline better than I outline my stories (because well, I barely outline at all and often write myself into a corner – a blog post for another day).
I started with the steps I needed to take each day to accomplish my goal. In doing so, I considered my work schedule and other obligations – family, friends, the laundry, those types of things. I took into account other activities as well, such as working out and reading.
After writing all these out, I put together a realistic plan and set aside a realistic amount of time I could dedicate to writing every day.
I put my new plan to the test. For one week, I set aside an hour every evening to write. After I went to work, gym, and cooked and ate dinner, I sat down at the kitchen table with my laptop, glass of water (okay a Monster), and soothing music to breathe life into the story.
This went well…for that first week anyway.
Again, I came to a standstill, but I was closer to a more viable plan. I was way too exhausted by the end of the day to think straight or breathe for myself, let alone “breathe life into the story.” I got a few hundred words in each session, which was good for me, but it was always a struggle. I had to pull the words out of me with as much energy as it takes for heavy deadlifts – the whole process very draining.
But, with that said, writing every day did help me keep the storyline straight. It helped me stay motivated to keep writing because even after doing it for only a week, it felt routine.
So I implemented yet another plan, taking into account what worked and what didn’t with the previous ones. This new plan required me to get up and write before the day’s exhaustion set in.
Which meant 530 AM.
It was a difficult schedule to adjust to at first, but I’m two months in now and going strong. The main thing that keeps me going is how productive I am at this time of day. I write with a clear mind and unwavering focus since I don’t have a whole day’s worth of stress and events running through my mind. Because of this, I’ve been able to get more than 1,000 words in during each hour-long session.
More than that, I start each day feeling accomplished – all before walking into work at 8 AM (okay 830 sometimes).
This has worked well for me so far, and I’m now almost finished with this manuscript. Of course, it needs many, many edits, but that’s a different goal, requiring a whole new plan that I’ll tackle at a later time.
The point? Find what works best for you in terms of taking a step every day to meet your long-term goal. Experiment with different options until you find something that you can stick to, a schedule you can commit to and be consistent with. We’re all so busy, but even spending a little time every week on your goal can have a large impact on your future.
Whatever you do, commit to a realistic schedule. If you can only commit to three days a week, do that. I keep emphasizing “realistic” because I think that’s the key to being consistent, which will then contribute to our success. Being unrealistic with our schedules, trying to commit more time than we can handle, will likely set us up for failure. But being self-aware and honest about our time commitments elsewhere can help us create a consistent routine to dedicate to our life goals.
The applicability of this idea is far-reaching, not just to writing. Everyone will handle this differently, as we all have different schedules and outside obligations. But whatever you do, make the time for yourself and your goals every week to become better versions of yourself in the long run.
And making the time? It starts with finding our consistency.