“I work all day. I don’t have time to write because I’m exhausted when I get home.”
Something us writers who work 9-5 tell ourselves. The ones who hope to work-by-day and write books by night… but actually work-by-day and crash at night with netflix and pizza.
Be kind to yourself! Creating a healthy writing habit take time. For me, this has involved making compromises and doing an evaluation of lofty goals/unrealistic time frames. Here are a couple of lessons I have learned on the way:
Organize your time in a way that works for YOU. Strategically wake up at the crack of dawn, become a night owl or write through your weekends. There is no way around this because developing a writing practice requires TIME. Here are some of my suggestions: Create a google calendar that is dedicated to making time for your writing. Manage your creative/writing calendar as often as you manage your work calendar. Set notification reminders, reschedule meetings with yourself, plan breaks and make adjustments as needed! Make a google drive folder or bookmark tab for quick access to your writing/inspiration. This will allow you to spend more time writing and less time feeling scattered as your “prepare” to write. Try the Pomodoro method (something I live by) and use a timer and work in structured intervals. Experiment until it works and forgive yourself if it doesn’t. Then move on.
Write small now, cultivate later. Sometimes ideas can come to you at random without warning. I have been in many meetings at work and suddenly feel an inkling to write a poem. The first time this happened to me as a young professional I got frustrated by the fact that I felt creatively compelled at a time where my ability to act was limited. Write in meetings! This does not mean write a novel during a sales meeting. Instead, create small pockets of intentional space to make note of an idea: you can work on cultivating it later. I designate a Moleskine planner, that is half-calendar and half-ruled paper, for both work items and writing inspiration. This writing space serves as a healthy nexus between my professional work and my creativity. Once I am home I move my creative notes from the work day into my creative journal, which allows me to reflect on the inspiration I had earlier and make plans to act on it. Take time to find a medium that works for you.
Skip on the lunch with coworkers and seek artistic inspiration. While working downtown Chicago I’ve opted into several walking lunches alone. I can journey off to the Art Institute to marvel at exhibits or just people watch with a notepad. This was never enough time to get substantial amounts of writing done this would encourage me to finish up a story later. If this is not your style come up with a weekly list of things you could be working on during your lunch or breaks… Maybe use 30 mins to do research for a project or annotate an interview.
Know your triggers for artistic lethargy and negativity. In my experience it is not lack of time that prevents a writing practice, it is how we view the time that we have. I have neglected the opportunity to use my time wisely because I felt unmotivated by my lack of “skill”, negative about my experience at work and exhausted by my use of time at my 9-5. This is normal to feel, especially when you may be spending most of the day working instead of creating. Once I realized that my artistic lethargy and negativity stemmed from being jealous of other people having more time and the fear of failure both artistically and economically I was able to combat my mental blocks so that I am empowered to write despite how I feel. You can dig deeper and determine your triggers by reading The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, an excellent book for creative/artistic recovery.
Value your writing practice as much as your value your job. I know that some of you are like… “but I do!”… you probably don’t. Are you using the same skills you are learning to improve your job performance to impact your writing performance? When you set aside time to write do you show up on time like you would at work? If your writing practice is just as valuable (if not more) as your professional endeavors, then act like it! Check out the book The War of Art: Winning the Inner Creative Battle by Steven Pressfield. The chapter “We’re all Pros already” is a great guide to start doing this work.
Bonus. Each time you want to check social media during a break, write or read something related to your craft for 5-10mins instead. It’s worth it.