Today we welcome author and lifecoach Elaine Bayless of Raleigh, NC. I first met Elaine back in 2010 at a women’s networking group and about a year later she became one of my most ardent supporters of my workshops and programs! Thanks, Elaine! Elaine’s writing is warm, funny, and inspirational like her many retreats and programs. Her post is one I know y’all can relate to—how to find more time to write. Enjoy!
As a life coach, novelist, and mother, I know a little about crammed schedules. I used to be a perpetual motion machine, never content unless I was doing doing doing. After crash landing more than once, I finally learned the art of balance. But that didn’t mean I had to stop achieving. I love finding creative ways to squeeze extra joy out of life, so when Alice asked me to write about ways to create time to write, I was thrilled. While I am operating at capacity, part of balance means that I do find time to relax, do nothing, or (occasionally) bingewatch something on Netflix (Sherlock, Call the Midwife). I hope that my suggestions are useful and help you get back to writing on a regular basis.
5. Schedule it
You use a calendar, right? Whether it’s electronic or paper, shared or private, there’s some way you track your appointments and meetings. So put your writing time in as an appointment! If possible, just put in a standing weekly appointment—every single week at this time, you’ll write for an hour, or 30 minutes. Not possible? Then do this instead: on Monday morning, look at your calendar for the week and find time to write. Going to a doctor? Sitting in a carpool line? Getting an allergy shot? Bring a writing journal along and write as many words as you can in that waiting time.
4. Write during commercial breaks
No, I’m not going to make the horrific suggestion that you give up all TV (gasp). I mean, Game of Thrones and Walking Dead ain’t gonna watch themselves! However, an hour long TV show is actually 44 to 48 minutes long. That means for every hour long TV show you watch, there are at least 12 minutes of wasted time. So capture that time for writing. Either mute the TV during commercials and write then, or put the show on DVR. At 8:00, write for 15 minutes straight, then at 8:15 turn on your show and watch it without commercials. You’ll get to write AND watch TV without wasting a minute.
3. Outsource 1 time consuming task per week
There’s a least one time-consuming task in your life that you hate. So outsource it. This may mean investing some money by hiring a dog walker, maid, or paying your kids to clean the house. That’s fine—if you invest money in your writing you’ll be a lot more motivated. But you don’t have to pay someone. Maybe you can trade: you’ll cook dinner once a week for a friend who then cleans your house. Instead of chauffeuring your children to all their activities, find other moms to share driving duties with.
2. Set a deadline
If you’re like me, you need a deadline to get anything done. I’m still struggling to get my memoir word count above 30K, and I’ve been writing it for 3 years. But last November I wrote an original 50K word novel in 30 days! Nothing like the power of deadlines. So write for someone else. You could try doing freelance work—maybe you’ll make back that money you’re paying the dog walker. But you can also impose deadlines on yourself. Find a writer friend and make a bet that you can write more words than s/he can in a week. Offer to write guest blogs. Start your own blog and give yourself a deadline to post every week.
1. “Write drunk and edit sober.”
This quote is attributed to Ernest Hemingway. For me, it gets to the heart of why I struggle to write. I allow my excuses (inhibitions) to get in the way. Here’s a partial list of inhibitions:
- I need to get in the mood
- I need to write something good
- I don’t know what to say
- I can’t think of the right word
- The voice in my head is so loud and critical that I can’t create
And this is why we need to write “drunk.” Not that we literally need to be inebriated, but that we need to lower our inhibitions (which is, of course, what alcohol does). Whatever you have to do to release those inhibitions, do it! I follow Anne Lamott’s advice in that I write shitty first drafts (from her book Bird by Bird). I follow Julia Cameron’s advice in that if I don’t know what to say, I literally write “I don’t know what to say” (from her book The Artist’s Way). Get those fingers moving and words flowing and whether your muse appears or not, whether you are in the mood or not, you will be WRITING! And that’s the goal. Good luck!
Elaine is the sought after voice of reason for overwhelmed mothers. She helps women create sanity, create time, create loving relationships, and create freedom to live lives of abundant joy. Sign up today for her Spring Forth Retreat!