I think most writers have a dream of having long, uninterrupted stretches of time in which to write. Time when people aren’t disturbing them, time not squeezed in around study, work, and other commitments. I know I often wish for more time for my writing. Even though I can literally arrange my day any way I like, writing still has to compete with my work for my YouTubechannel, my family, emails, blogging, looking after the house, cooking, sleeping, and a host of other life things.
But something I’ve learnt is, you don’t need unlimited time to write.
I started writing seriously when I was 14. It was amazing. I had whole days in which to sit and write. And I did. I spent hours typing away on a slow desktop computer with a bad habit of overheating at bad moments. People just left me to my own devices. I did my first NaNoWriMo in 2011, won it and loved it. I had all the time in the world to write in.
And then I started university, and all those free hours disappeared.
To be fair, I absolutely loved my course. I studied writing and publishing, learned to write poetry (badly), creative non-fiction (even more badly), and learned about editors and publishing. But at the same time, there were no long stretches of just staring at the screen, letting the inspiration come to me when and if it wanted to. If I couldn’t get the words out at once, the opportunity was gone and it was back to lectures, writing essays, researching, stressing over deadlines. The long mornings of writing turned into twenty minutes before I started studying, half an hour of coffee, and whatever time I could force my tired brain to work in after everything else was done at night.
And yet, I was more productive than ever.
In 2010-2011, before I started at university, I wrote maybe 3 novels at best. In 2012 I wrote 6, plus editing at least 3 drafts. That NaNoWriMo was also my most productive, clocking in over 300,000 words. Even though I was so much busier in the rest of my life, somehow I was also writing more, finishing more books, writing so much more with so much less time. Because it’s not really about how many hours you have. It’s what you do with them.
Having more limited time meant I had to make the most of what free moments I had. I had to get those words down as fast as I could. I had to be disciplined. I had to scrape together time wherever I could, because if I didn’t, I wasn’t going to get anything written at all that day. And I never even considered quitting, which meant that that time was going to come from somewhere.
I’ve kept a lot of those habits actually. I write, sitting in the car while waiting to pick people up from music lessons. I brainstorm while driving to get my sister from work. I write notes while cooking dinner. I write while on my coffee break. I’ve even had times where I’ve gotten up an hour earlier to write because that was the only time available.
You don’t need all the time in the world to write. You don’t need hours and hours to be brilliant in. You can be amazing in the cracks of time between other things. In fact, you can be more brilliant than ever. Never, ever write off the power of a free five minutes. Trust me, those five minutes are the most important. Write when you can. You’d be surprised at how much you can actually get done.