The Blank Page is a new weekly series on Novelty Revisions dedicated to any writer who is just beginning their journey or starting again after a long pause. Check back every Monday for more tips and inspiration.
When I started learning the violin almost two months ago, I made a very small commitment: Practice a minimum of one hour every week, broken down into practice sessions of at least 10 minutes throughout a seven-day period.
This doesn’t seem like a lot of time to dedicate to learning something new … because it kind of isn’t. Ten minutes a day isn’t a lot. It makes progress very slow, which is something that would become extremely frustrating if I hadn’t deliberately chosen this method of practice before I even “met” my violin for the first time.
I’m a very busy human — I’m not proud of it, it’s just the way things are right now. Time is limited, and I have to be very careful about how I use it. As much as I would love to practice the violin for hours on end, it’s just not possible. I also know that 10 minutes is a small enough time block that I am more likely to stick to it even on days I leave it until the very end of my to-do list and don’t want to practice at 9 p.m. (I do it anyway.)
Writing is complicated. It’s time-consuming and extremely difficult to “start.” When you’re not already sitting down to do it, it can easily become that one activity that always ends up on your to-do list but never actually gets done. Perhaps because there “just isn’t enough time.”
Or maybe that’s just how it feels at a glance.
You don’t “find time” to write; you create space for it. “There just aren’t enough hours in the day for All The Things” is a phrase even I have admittedly used to describe my time management frustrations. Because let’s be honest: That’s what they are.
Not being able to get something done isn’t necessarily the fault of time itself, but rather the fault of the person deciding how they are going to use the time they have.
You already know that you can’t make more hours in a day. But the good news is that you don’t have to. Instead, all you really have to do is — let’s just use my intro as an example — create 10 minutes of space in your day reserved for writing and do whatever it takes to make those 10 minutes happen.
You are responsible for figuring out when writing is most likely to happen for you. It doesn’t have to be a huge block of time. It doesn’t even have to be in a completely quiet or comfortable space. It just has to happen. That’s the only way you’re going to get better at it so that you can make even more room in your schedule for it someday.
Writing does require some sacrifice — but not to the extreme. You don’t have to stop watching your favorite shows, isolate yourself from your family, or quit your day job to become a successful writer … not even in the beginning. In the case of the day job, ESPECIALLY not in the beginning.
But in order to create space for writing time in your life, there are some things you’re going to have to put on hold or rearrange. DVR your favorite TV show until you get your writing time in. Wait to see that movie until it comes out on digital. Plan things with your friends a little less often but make those things super special.
As much as we want to be super-humans who can do everything all day every day, we can’t. But we can dedicate more time to the things that truly matter, even if it means putting less time into things we would much rather be doing. It doesn’t mean you can’t do those things. You just have to learn to prioritize.
If you really want to be a writer, you will make writing happen. I know this is something you probably hear a lot. “If you truly love this thing you’ll make it work!” But you’ve likely heard it before because it’s true. Except when it comes to writing — especially if you’re a beginner — it’s extremely important to remember that really wanting something does not automatically translate to “really need to work hard to make this thing happen.”
You can say “I want to make more time for writing” and never do it. You can say “I wish I had more time for writing” but never figure out how to make that wish come true.
Part of being a beginner is figuring out how to make skill development — whatever that might look like — a priority. No matter the time, no matter the cost. This is why so many aspiring writers never write anything. They want to “have written.” They don’t know how to figure out how to actually write.
So your first step, as a beginner, is to create some kind of writing plan. Yes, that means it’s not always going to be spontaneous. That’s OK. Writing has to happen one way or another if you’re ever going to progress in your journey. It’s not always going to be your best work and it’s not always going to be fun. But this is how we learn. This is how we grow, and how we figure out how to keep growing.
Create the time you need to do the writing you want. One way or another, you have to figure out how. This part, dear writers, is up to you.
Just starting out as a writer or returning from an extended hiatus? Let me know how I can help. Just drop a comment below with your questions/concerns — I am here to serve.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is an editor and writer, and a 12-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food, and Star Wars.