The (Too) Busy Writer
Contributing writer Laura Brackin gives some tips to help writers manage and maximize their writing time, even when life keeps you busy.
A common image of the writer is one where they sit with their laptop in an oversized, comfy chair, in front of a large picture window—with or without a sheer, gauzy window dressing of some kind, but either way, allowing entry for cheerful sunlight—a cup of steaming something, coffee, tea, on a small table beside them. This writer is happily spending their stress-free hours combining beautifully written sentences into a literary masterpiece. Feel free to substitute a large, mahogany desk for the oversized chair in this scenario; the visual is subjective on this point. The important constant is the leisurely life this image portrays: the writer as engulfed in their art, unperturbed.
Reality comes differently, however, for most writers. We are busy. We have responsibilities. We have homes that need care, families that need care, our own minds and bodies that need care. Someone has to do the grocery shopping, put gas in the car, keep up with the kids’ band practice and karate schedules. The dog has a grooming appointment and the air conditioner just died. We’ll write later, tomorrow, over the weekend, once things settle down a bit. But first we have to buy that oversized chair or mahogany desk; certainly we can’t be expected to write without one of those.
There is a misconception about how writing can happen. It doesn’t have to be something which needs hours, days, of uninterrupted time and concentration. There are many opportunities to write throughout a busy day. Here are a few ways you can take advantage of the times in your schedule where writing time can be applied.
- Wake up an hour early several mornings each week and get a page or two written in that time.
- Keep a journal or small notebook with you at all times so that when a thought hits you, you don’t have to hope you can remember it until you have time to write it out and work with it. These bits of inspiration can be an image, a character idea, something you want to look up and find more information about, or even a well-structured sentence you’re not sure yet where it will fit, but you don’t want to forget it.
- You don’t have to give up your favorite leisure time activities, but maybe just watch one episode of Game of Thrones, instead of the whole season at one sitting. If you have six or seven hours for binge-watching, you can certainly use some of it to add to your word count or work on redrafting.
- Every sentence doesn’t need to be laid out perfectly. If you have thirty minutes before you need to take the tuna casserole out of the oven, go ahead and get a few paragraphs hammered out. It doesn’t even have to be what would chronologically come next in your story; if you have an idea for a scene that you know you want to put in your narrative somewhere, go ahead and write in real quick; you may have snippets of dialogue in a conversation you can already hear your characters having, use that time before dinner to get it on a page. You can put it all together and edit it later. Remember, it doesn’t all have to be perfect when you’re drafting your piece.
Once you find yourself using the little moments to add to your literary work, you’ll see it taking shape, week by week, and the feeling of accomplishment will go a long way to helping you keep with it. You will likely be inspired to find more time here and there to add to your novel, memoir, or poetry collection. There is no shortage of opportunities to move your endeavor forward.
Keeping with it is the key.
LAURA BRACKIN is a student at Sam Houston State University where she studies in the MFA program for Creative Writing, Editing, and Publishing. She works part time with the Texas Review Press and desires to work as an editor upon graduation, while also building a career as a prose writer. She lives in The Woodlands with her husband, two teenaged kids, and her English pointer.