Finding time to write during the week is hard, especially if you’re a student or you have a full-time day job. Yet if you don’t write regularly, you have no chance of getting better at it. Whether you work full-time and have a long commute or you prefer saving your personal writing time for last, here are a few productivity tips for night writers.
Block out writing time five days a week
Getting up in the morning and saying, “I think I’m going to try and write tonight” isn’t enough. Chances are, you’re going to get home and not actually do any writing, because adulting is hard and you’re going to be tired and the only one you’re really disappointing is yourself, right? There’s a solution to this: plan ahead. Block out specific time in the evening to write – one or two hours, depending on what you can manage in your schedule. Do this five days a week. Follow through and stay consistent.
There are several reasons why this works. You shouldn’t have to write every day: you need some days off every week or you’ll burn out pretty quick, and if you don’t work weekends, they’re the perfect time to give your brain a real rest. Writing Monday through Friday, if those are the same days you work, makes writing a part of your day, the same way going to work is. Writing at the same time on those days also helps train your brain and body to prepare for that time. It almost becomes automatic, which you need if you’re usually exhausted by the end of the work day.
Always keep a pen and paper close to you
Working from home, I log time with a desktop app. The app takes regular screenshots as it’s running, which means I can’t just click over into a new tab and start a new draft in WordPress if I have a sudden new idea for a blog post. I’ve gotten into the habit of keeping a notepad next to my keyboard. Actually, I come up with more ideas when it’s sitting there, because it only takes about 10 seconds to stop what I’m working on, jot down a thought and get right back to work.
Having a place to jot down your writing-related thoughts and ideas keeps writing out of your main line of focus until you get to sit down and work on your personal writing projects, probably at home, at the library or at your favorite coffee shop. It also saves you time later. Instead of sitting in front of your laptop at 8 p.m. trying to decide what to write next, you’ll most likely already have an idea in mind before you even sit down and start writing it.
Accept that you’re going to be tired
When I first started writing content more regularly for this blog, I was working full-time in the city, which meant, on top of working eight to five, I had a total 90-minute commute every day. In the mornings, I was too tired to write on the train. On the way home, I was still too tired. I was never any less tired by the time I sat down to work on my novel or write blog posts, but I made it work. I did what I had to do. Coffee and a 9 p.m. work cutoff time were the only things that helped. But I got it all done.
It doesn’t get any easier when you add school or family stuff to the mix. You get home, and you just want to relax. It’s tough. Which is why i recommend setting the start of your writing time as soon after you finish the work or school day as possible. It may not be your first priority, but the longer you wait, the less you’re going to want to do it. Also set a stop time, so you actually have an hour or two to relax and wind down before going to bed. Believe it or not, it doesn’t take your body and mind that long to relax. You don’t need an entire evening to do so. Obviously, family first, probably, but I can’t really speak to that too much, as I’m hopelessly in an exclusive relationship with my career (sigh).
Yes, finding the time to write – and sticking to a schedule – is not an easy thing to do. It’s hard, having to end your day doing something you probably aren’t getting paid for.
If you’re really struggling with this, take some time to really think about why you think writing “extra” is worth it. If it’s something you really want, you’ll make it work – even if it isn’t always pleasant. And if you just can’t make writing a priority right now, that’s OK. You can also write on weekends, when you might not have to focus so much on school or work. Whatever you have to do to make it happen, if you want to, don’t let anything stop you from doing it.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.