Most writers will tell you that if you want to become a better writer, you must write on a daily basis. You might record your activities every day in a diary, for instance, or you might reflect upon those activities in a journal. However, knowing what to write or how to write isn’t typically the real struggle. Instead, most people struggle with finding time to write. Fortunately, some successful writers have shared their secrets to finding time to write, and you may be able to duplicate their methods.
Writing Early in the Morning. For many people, writing early in the morning is the best and most productive time. Yes, you may have to get up earlier than normal to find time to write, but if you don’t write in the morning, the normal activities and interruptions of the day may prevent you from writing later on. British novelist Anthony Trollope worked in a London post office in the 19th century, but he wrote every morning before he went to work (Scanlan). In fact, he was such a disciplined writer that he used to write for three hours every day, and his goal was 250 words every fifteen minutes (Trollope).
Writing on the Way to Work or School. If you ride the bus in the morning or car pool with someone, you may be able to use your travel time to get some writing done. Current American author Scott Turow, who writes legal thrillers, had to find time to write early in his career, so he wrote while he rode a commuter train into Chicago. He admits that “it was sometimes no more than a paragraph a day, but it kept the candle burning,” and he wrote a good portion of his first novel, Presumed Innocent, on that train (Scanlan).
Writing During the Day. Daytime writing may be difficult for most people, but American novelist Anne Tyler found her time to write while her children were in school. If the children left for school at 8:00 a.m., Tyler made sure she was in her study and writing by 8:05, and she was methodical about it: “As I close the door on the kids, I go up to my room — like one of Pavlov’s dogs. Otherwise, I’ll get sidetracked” (Michaels). Similarly, if you are a full-time student, you may want to write during the breaks between classes, and if you are a full-time worker, you may want to write during a portion of your lunch hour.
Writing at Night. While I wouldn’t describe myself as a “successful” author, I am one of those authors who writes mostly at night. The task is not easy, however, because after a day at work and after an evening meal, I am committed to or tempted by many other activities: household chores, church meetings, television, reading, or even a game of checkers. Thus, I have to discipline myself to write, and I usually find myself at the keyboard when everyone else in the house has already gone to sleep. In fact, our younger daughter, Katrina, who is now almost 30, says she has fond early memories of falling to sleep to the sound of my typing.
Writing in the Middle of the Night. Personally, this sounds like the most difficult time to write, but this is the time that worked for author Richard Selzer (who passed away in 2016). Selzer didn’t begin writing until he reached the age of 40; he had worked exclusively as a surgeon until that time. Once he knew he had that passion to write, however, he eliminated certain activities from his life, and he found a time and a place that worked for him: “Every night at one o’clock in the morning, I got up and went down to the kitchen for two hours. While the rest of the world was asleep and all the light in the universe shone upon one page, I wrote my heart out” (Selzer). He continued as both surgeon and writer for the next 18 years before he retired from surgery to write exclusively. At that point, he says, “I left my beloved workbench in the operating room and became what I am now, a writer” (Selzer).
So do you really want to become a better writer? Of course you do. All you have to do now is commit yourself to the task and, like the authors mentioned above, find a time and a place that works for you.
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Michaels, Marguerite. “Anne Tyler, Writer 8:05 to 3:30.” The New York Times on the Web, 8 May 1977, www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=%E2%80%9CAnne+Tyler%2C+Writer+8%3A05+to+3%3A30.%E2%80%9D+&btnG=Google+Search.
Scanlan, Chip. “Time Is on Our Side; Write to the Beat of Your Circadian Rhythms.” Poynteronline, 30 May 2007, www.poynter.org/dg.lts/id.52/aid.123845/column.htm.
Selzer, Richard. “Doctor-Writer Disconnect.” Fathom: The Source for Online Learning, 2002, www.fathom.com/feature/2093/.
Trollope, Anthony. “250 Words Every Quarter of an Hour.” Great Writing: A Reader for Writers, edited by Harvey S. Wiener and Nora Eisenberg, McGraw-Hill, 1987, pp. 168–69.