When did you last feel like you had all the time in the world to write? How long since you had a day free from distractions and demands on your time? Do you regularly find yourself in your ideal writing environment, with everything you need to be at your best and most creative?
I don't think I could answer those questions. I don't have days like that. I don't even know what my ideal writing environment would look like! I do, however, have four techniques that I use to include writing in my day.
1 | The 15-Minute Writing Sprint
As hard as it can be working full time at something other than writing, with a family and demands on my time, most days I can get fifteen minutes to write. The concept is simple enough. Set a timer and write!
It doesn't have to be fifteen minutes. Maybe you only have ten minutes. The point is to give yourself that small window of time to make use of it and write.
When to schedule it? You probably won't schedule it unless you're literally scheduling every block of time during your day. Instead, grab it when you have the opportunity. Look for moments you can seize—and seize them! You might snatch the time when you first wake up. On the way to work. When taking a break. If you need to get out of the workplace, go sit in your car or on a bench outside for your break. If you don't have a place to get away to, stick in headphones.
How much can you get written in fifteen minutes? That depends on your process. For example, I find it easier to get started writing when I have a work-in-progress. It's also easier with progress. Whatever your situation, it is still more writing than you would have done otherwise.
2 | Consider Hand-Writing
When trying to fit writing into the time available, the tool used may make all the difference between writing or not. As a teenager working at my first job in a local pharmacy, I strapped bound ledger books to my bike rack when I went to work. The 14-inch page length gave me more room to write. I'd take my break and write by hand.
Before you recoil in horror at the idea of hand-writing stories, keep in mind that I didn't have the options then that are available now. Writing in a notebook does offer several advantages.
- No startup time. Open the notebook and start writing.
- No connection issues. It's entirely offline.
- No lost files. Every stroke is saved as soon as it is written.
If I'd known shorthand I would have tried that instead. Shorthand coupled with a smart scanning system might still be a viable alternative (80+ Words Per Minute), though I don't know if there is software available that could easy transcribe it.
When I wrote by hand the big disadvantage was retyping my work. That wouldn't have been so bad except I used a typewriter at the time and often had to retype stories more than once to make corrections!
3 | Use Anything Except a Computer
Try something other than a standard laptop. I use a very inexpensive Chromebook. It's small, light, and affordable. I don't have to wait for it to start up or wake up and the battery lasts all day long and then some. I don't have to worry about charging it at all. I plug it in at night and it's ready when I need it.
Another good alternative? Your phone. Whether you're using an Android or iOS device, there are many app options to help you write. Even the popular Scrivener writing program is available for iOS now. A phone has the advantage over a tablet because you usually have your phone with you. Using a phone means you can grab even a few spare moments waiting in line to write.
4 | Dictate Rather Than Write
Dictation offers similar advantages to using a phone or Chromebook and that of shorthand with automated transcription. With a small digital recorder (or an app on your phone) you can dictate when the opportunity presents itself.
A program such as Dragon NaturallySpeaking transcribes the recording into text, which you can then edit. There's also a mobile app version that provides transcription on your phone.
You can also use a free option with a Chromebook and Google's Voice Typing.
Monica Leonelle's book Dictate Your Book: How To Write Your Book Faster, Better, and Smarter covers many of the details if you want a guide to help you get started.
What techniques do you use?
I'd love to hear what techniques you use to fit writing into your life? Do you have something that works for you?