Time to Write

An hourglass with blue sand sits at a tilt on pebbles.

Last month I asked what writing problem you would solve if you had a magic wand, and several of you said you’d magic up more time to write. Last I heard, the Ministry of Magic still isn’t loaning time turners to Muggles, so what else can you do to find time to write?

Last month I asked what writing problem you would solve if you had a magic wand, and several of you said you’d magic up more time to write. Last I heard, the Ministry of Magic still isn’t loaning time turners to Muggles, so what else can you do to find time to write?

I’ve been told that I can clarify my priorities when I examine where I spend my money and my time. I believe this to be true AND  I believe sometimes we have to spend time and money in places that aren’t our choice, especially depending on our level of privilege and our current circumstances.

If you’re in survival mode, working multiple jobs to make ends meet, then you may not have extra time to devote to writing in this season of your life. Or maybe you need to give your full attention to healing from an illness or injury or caring for a family member or training an adorable new puppy. If this is where you are, give yourself grace. The writing practice will be there when you’re able to come back to it.

For the sake of magicking more writing time in our lives, let’s assume there is some wiggle room to find in your calendar. Here’s how:

1. Track how you spend your time over a couple of weekdays. Write down everything that you do, when you do it, and how long you spend doing it. You can probably skip your bathroom breaks, but everything else? Track it.

You can post a sticky note on your wall each time you switch activities, keep a tiny notebook in your pocket, or build a beautiful spreadsheet to record your time usage. The medium doesn’t matter as long as it’s something you’ll use.

2. Now review your list. Divvy your activities into three categories: nonnegotiable, potential to write, flexible. This is a nonjudgment zone. I mean it, don’t start giving yourself guff about how you currently spend your time. And keep in mind that what is nonnegotiable for me may be flexible for you, so don’t waste time comparing your lists to anyone else’s.

Nonnegotiable activities are things that you must do and there’s no way you could physically write while you’re doing them. Activities like: work, sleep, ukulele practice, shower, family dinner time, exercise, meditation, a volunteer gig, a date with friends or your partner, etc.

Potential-to-write activities are things that you must do, but maybe you could write while you do them. For example, I had to bring my daughter to a swim clinic this morning (nonnegotiable). But I am spending my time at the clinic writing this Teaching Corner (potential to write). Other activities like this might be commuting to work (if you can use public transportation; or if you have a business-trip flight), your lunch break (although I’d rather you eat, then write, not eat while you write), waiting in a carpool line, or waking a half hour earlier.

Flexible activities are those activities when you can do whatever you want and you choose to watch TV, scroll through social media posts, take a nap, fold the laundry, or organize your sock drawer.

3. Find at least one block of time that you choose to devote to writing. Notice the word choose here. If writing is a priority for you, then you must choose to spend time writing. This block of time can be short or long. The point is just to find time in your calendar that you weren’t aware you had.

4. Add this new writing date with yourself to your calendar. Protect it fiercely. And write.

5. Repeat steps 1-4 with your weekend time.

This exercise bears repeating a couple of times a year because our needs change as the seasons of our life shift.