By Cate Pitterle
Over the weekend, I was talking with some writers I knew, and one of us asked the most dreaded, most glossed-over question a writer can encounter: how on earth do you find time to write?
We all had different answers. One of us said they wrote when inspired; one said they found deadlines helpful; another deleted distracting social media apps off his phone; a fourth found she had a hard time juggling everything. As for me, I always keep the Notes app on my phone open. When a piece of poetry or a great line for a story hits me, I jot it down for later… and hope I ever find the time to get back to it.
In reality, I’ve found balancing writing and the rest of my life hard, especially in the thick, standardized-testing, endless-homework-pile, mountains-of-work slush that high school can become. What’s the solution, then? Staying up until 2 a.m. typing away on a document, or waking up at 5 a.m. to do the same? Writing during free periods during the school day? I’ve tried all of those options, and I’ve personally found that staying up late works for me. Maybe it’s because I’m a night owl, but I’ve found that my “writing hours” usually fall somewhere between 11:00 and 12:00 at night.
Whatever time of day works for you, though, one thing remains the same—you have to make the time to write. A day is only 24 hours, and every writer in history has had those same 24 hours in which to work. Not everyone is perfect (let’s admit, everyone needs some Netflix time now and then to relax), but cramming in writing sessions whenever you can means more words on the page, more stories and poems taking shape, more characters coming to life. Toting around a notebook or a phone is a step in that process, sure, but I think it requires more than that. It requires staring down that blank page and conquering it. It requires dedication. It requires the dedication that I’ve tried to build up over the years, the kind of dedication that every author needs.
When I open my Instagram and wonder how the professional authors that I love pound out 5,000 words a day, I feel a little intimidated. But even if I can get 100 words on the page, it feels like a win. Writing is a marathon sport, as cliché as that sounds. No matter how much you write, you’re moving forward. If you keep writing, you’ll reach the finish line.
Establishing a writing routine is easier said than done, though. I try to write as often as I can, but when it comes to sitting down at a desk every day, it can feel impossible. Some things that have worked for me in the past were NaNoWriMo (if you’re competitive, try this in November! The goal is to write 50,000 words of a novel in 30 days), creating a daily word goal calendar, or even setting an alarm on my phone to remind me to write at a certain time. I also like to think of it as “carrot and stick”—if you don’t write, do you have to do a load of laundry instead? If you do write, should you give yourself a chocolate to celebrate? That kind of risk-reward system might be another source of motivation as you look to develop your writing habits.
Is finding time to write hard? Definitely—I think every writer, even the pros, would say the same. But don’t let that stop you. Just keep swimming (writing?).
You’ve got this.