“How do I find the time to write?”

This is one of the most common questions I get. It’s not an easy thing to figure out, especially when our lives are already so full with work, family, friends, caregiving, community obligations and everything else we have on our plates.

Let me tell you about my friend Mandy. Mandy is a runner. She has four kids, a job, is heavily involved in school/community and gets up early every morning to run. She does a marathon every year with a good friend, and the other day, she told me she’s doing a triathlon (!) this weekend.

I know Mandy from dance class, and I’m often blown away by how she does it all. At night, she reads and in the mornings, she runs. Those are her times for herself. In between, she works, parents, juggles PTO. I’m sure I’m oversimplifying it, but these are the big pieces in her life. She loves running, and she puts in the work—with her carrot at the end being a marathon (and fun trip away) with her good friend.

The Power of Prioritizing

Mandy makes running a priority. She shows up, over and over again, day in and day out.

Finding the time to write is very similar. If we don’t prioritize it, it doesn’t happen.

Here’s a shot from our recent camping trip. Two paths in the river–which one will you choose?

It’s not the sexy answer you wanted, I know. And there’s no life hack to this one—no tip I can give you for adding an extra hour to your day. It’s carving out that bit of time for your writing—essentially, carving out that bit of time for you.

Instead, we wait. We wait for our schedule to ease up, wait for a sign, wait for God knows what, forgetting that we get to choose. We get to create the lives we want to live, after all, the dreams we want to follow. And in this era of be-all, do-all, that’s a tough thing to do. Especially if you’re trying to do everything and be everything to everyone. But the path forward, truly, revolves around choosing.

The Power of Choosing

We must choose. 

If you want to write, then you must choose it. Prioritize it.

Make it a conscious choice.

Ask yourself: What do you need to say NO to in order to say YES to consistent writing time?

Once you’ve chosen your path, stay on it! Don’t get sidetracked by shiny gold objects.

Then stay on the path.

Finding the time to write isn’t about doing a marathon writing session on the weekend (and then burning out and rebelling), but about creating a consistent writing habit that will sustain you over the long run.

The Power of Consistency

Your consistent writing time might look like 15 minutes 5x/week. Or 45 min 3x/week.

Start small, and build from there.

Show up, be consistent and put the time in—and you’ll be amazed at the miracles that happen. Because writing a book really is like running a marathon, just on the page. Show up, put in the time and the work and one day soon, you’ll cross the finish line. This isn’t a sprint—it’s not something you can knock out in a weekend.

It’s about creating a consistent writing habit. Truly, this is what will get you to get you to the finish line. 

For my kids, the downsides of camping (mosquitos and cold nights) were offset with lots of s’mores. How can you celebrate your writing successes? What’s the carrot that will help you reach the finish line? (Photo by Nico)

The Power of Celebrating

Two other things that will help you are celebrating your successes (no matter how small), and creating a carrot to help you get to the finish line. How will you celebrate? What do you have to look forward to?

On a side note, Mandy tried to talk me into training for my own half-marathon the other day. At one point in my life (when I was in grad school and running a couple of miles a day as a way of staying sane), I thought I’d run a half-marathon one day. But that’s no longer one of my priorities—in fact, it’s not even on my radar. (My knees ache at the very thought.)

Right now, my priorities are work, writing and my family. Plus dance/exercise, alone time, friend time and a few groups I belong to. That’s about all I can hold right now. When my children are older, I’m sure that will change. But for now, I have to be conscious of how much I’m trying to put on my plate.

I say NO to a lot. When I end up saying YES to things that aren’t priorities (and I don’t really want to do), it takes away from time with my kids and time with my writing, both of which I already have so little of. That’s how I stay focused.

What works for you? What are you saying NO to so that you can say YES to your writing? Please leave a comment below. 

P.S.: For those of you in the Denver area, I’m teaching a new 8-week memoir class at Lighthouse Writer’s Workshop called “What’s Your Story? Writing Powerful Memoir,” and there are a few spaces left if you’d like to join us. We start next Thursday, August 21!

P.P.S.: If you have a friend who could benefit from my posts, please forward these notes or invite them to join our community here. In the meantime, wishing you and your loved ones a lovely weekend!

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