The end of November is drawing near, folks, in case you haven't noticed. Which means thousands of writers are striving to meet their fifty thousand word goal in the days remaining. I am not among that huge tribe of crazy (that is, crazy awesome) people, but perhaps I'm absorbing some of their excitement, because I've been more productive this month than I have been in the last two months combined. Hooray!
Whether you're doing NaNoWriMo or not, if you're a writer, you probably want to write. (I should hope so, or else why call yourself a writer?) And quite possibly, you want to write more than you are currently doing. But life is busy, isn't it? How do you find the time?
However, not all of you reading this are writers. But there's a 98.239% chance that you are a reader.* Life is busy for you as well. Things like school and work and obligations crowd out less urgent things like reading.
*I would be surprised if this blog attracted someone who didn't care for books in some way.
So what are we busy readers and writers to do? I can't promise a magical solution to clear your schedule, but I do have some lil' tips to share that can help you put more time into your creative pursuits.
Step 1: Recognize that time is not a thing to be found or made.You can't find time--you already have it. Nor can you manufacture time. You have twenty-four hours every day. No more, no less. The most productive writers and most prolific readers out there don't have more time than you do! They've just found a way to manage their time wisely.
Time is a resource, just like health or finances. So evaluate where you're putting it. Figure out what's nonnegotiable, such as sleep, work, school, time spent with God, building and maintaining your relationships, etc.
Step 2: Manage your free time.Everything outside of those nonnegotiables can be moved around or minimized.
I keep my Goodreads status updated, so obviously I have time for it. Likewise with the shows I watch, blogs I read, and YouTube videos I consume. All good things, but also all potential time-suckers.
For a few days, pay attention to all the little things you do, then decide whether those are things you want to spend time on. Trust me, I'm as guilty of wasting time as anyone else. (I'm trying to break some bad phone habits, to be honest.) But you might be surprised how quickly those little things add up. Five minutes on your phone five times a day is twenty-five minutes, you guys--almost half an hour.
Step 3: Find the blank spaces in your day.This will look different for everyone. For me, I read during my lunch breaks at work, even if it's only a few pages. My brother and I take turns driving to school, which gives me forty free minutes to read when he's the driver. Three days of the week, my college schedule is such that I have a couple free hours over suppertime, so if I don't have homework, I usually answer emails and blog comments, draft a new post, or write.
If you're in a waiting room, that's another chance to read. If you have a few minutes between activities, you can scribble out some plot points so that later, you can jump right into your next writing session without staring at a wall for ten minutes.
Step 4: Carve it out of your schedule with a ruthless knife of terror.If you've done all of the above and you STILL DON'T HAVE TIME (oh, excuse me, haven't managed the time) . . . you may have to carve out a block of your day to curl up with a book or write a few pages. Don't feel bad if you have to schedule this stuff in. If to-do lists and planners are your thing, penciling in your hobbies might be the trick to finally doing them.
Step 5: Hold yourself accountable.Whether it's the satisfaction of checking off that box or buying a new book once your current read is finished, find a way to reward yourself for sticking to it. Writers, what motivates you? Some of my writer friends like to forbid themselves from using the internet until they've written X amount of words each day--for them, social media is a nice little break before jumping back into their manuscript. Or maybe taking a walk, playing with your dog, grabbing a snack, or indulging in stupid YouTube videos is what will drive you to reach a daily goal.
It's also a good idea to find someone who will keep you accountable, someone who will ask you what you've written this week. Knowing you have to report to them will give you that extra drive to keep going.
Step 6: Short stuff.Obviously if you read shorter books you'll read a larger quantity of books, and if that makes you feel better, no problem. But that's not really the point, because you're still not reading more pages . . . So I guess that's not super useful! But reading in short bursts whenever you have a minute helps.
In writing, don't underestimate the power of word sprints/word wars. I've found that I can write more if I set myself a series of ten or fifteen minute sprints, with the simple goal to see how much I can write during that time.
Something the 100-for-100 challenge taught me was that even if you're crazy busy, you can still write a little bit. And we all know that a lot of little bits add up to a big bit.
Step 7: There's a time to just do it, and there's a time to relax.Sometimes you have to work at getting around to the things you love. Silly, I know, but that's how life is. And if you're fighting to guard your reading/writing time, great. But don't become so task-oriented that you suck the joy out of those things. Don't write just because you scheduled it 7:30-8:30 every Wednesday night, and you have to write five hundred words or ELSE. Don't read just because you have to get through six books a month to meet your Goodreads challenge.
Do it because you actually want to.
Really, there's nothing wrong with wanting to shut off your brain after a long day, and watching a movie instead of writing. You need to unwind too, or your writing will suffer. And don't be so wrapped up in making progress that you kill the book you're reading. It should be recreational, after all! Take it easy now and then.
All you NaNo'ers: this is the month to power through and meet those goals, yes! But don't do it at the expense of your health or peace of mind. Take a day off if you need to, even if it means working extra tomorrow to make up for it. The world will not end if you don't write 1,667 words today.