by Michael Cristiano (originally posted on ryanlanz.com)
One of the biggest challenges I have as a writer has very little to with writing and very much to do with time and motivation. After spending eight hours at a 9-to-5, writing often gets left out of the weekday equation, especially when other commitments like personal upkeep, maintaining relationships, and sleep also demand attention. And even when a writer gets around to the half-hour of writing time, it almost never pans out the way we want it too, too commonly fraught with distraction, pressure, and a lack of motivation.
But never fear! Some tips for balancing your writerly life are here!
1. Make Time to Write
Seems simple enough… Yet, for me, it’s the single hardest thing to do. I find that unless I actually set aside time to get to my computer and work on something, I won’t. It’s not that I don’t want to do it, because I really do love what I do, it’s that time slips away easily when we’re busiest. In fact, sometimes I go a couple days without doing any writing at all, and yet it feels like no time has passed.
In between all that homework, 9-to-5 work, socializing, exercising, cleaning, laundry, cooking, driving, and sleeping, it is essential to take a chunk of time and dedicate it to writing. Some writers and bloggers stress that this should be every day, but I don’t know what world they live in. I would aim for at least an hour or more every couple days. And put that in your calendar (or as an alarm on your phone). If you make yourself obligated to get up every morning, sit in traffic, and go to work, then make yourself obligated to doing something you love.
2. Make Time to Relax
There’s nothing more annoying than sitting down for a writing session and discovering that you’re just too damn tired, jaded, and agitated to be productive. And to make matters worse, I instantly get more agitated when I’ve set aside time to write and I just don’t feel like doing it.
For me, writing it not just a hobby and potential job. Writing is a state of mind. And frankly, it’s hard to tap into that state of mind after frantically buzzing around an office all day, sitting in traffic, and then balancing the responsibilities of being a semi-functional-but-trying adult. To counter this anti-inspiration lifestyle, I generally take a half hour before a writing session to set the mood, so to speak. I’ll do some reading, turn off the technology, and sometimes listen to some music to set the tone. I find this allows me to approach my writing with a clear head instead of trying to combat all the other fleeting thoughts while I’m trying to focus.
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3. Remove the Pressure
This ties into my previous piece of advice. I like to call this performance anxiety. I spend all day telling myself that I’m going to write and I’m excited to do so and then I build it up and before I know it, I’ve committed myself to churning out 3,000 words in the 25 minutes I’ve allotted to writing. And then when I fail, I feel guilty and angry with myself.
Take away the expectations and attempt to write in a stress-free manner. I would even go so far as to not worry about a word count. Instead of setting yourself a requirement to write 1,000 words in a given sitting, try just writing any amount of words at all. Lowering your expectations leads to no disappointment and a healthier pro-writing mindset. You might even be surprised at how productive you can be if you allow yourself the freedom of no word count.
4. Cut the Distractions
That means Facebook. And Twitter. And the 100,000 fail videos on YouTube. While you’re at it, tell those around you that you’re taking the time to write and they should only bug you if zombies are taking over the world or if the house is on fire. Last but not least, turn off your phone. I can see mine staring at me right now and there’s nothing he likes more than ringing when I’m trying to get into the mood to write.
And put the cat away. Like the phone, he can smell antisocial behaviour from a mile away, and attacking your foot is the only solution.
5. Don’t Force It
Now, I’m going to give you some advice, and MANY a writer disagrees with me: don’t write if you don’t feel like it. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes we all need a little push to get the words flowing, but other times those words ain’t gonna come unless you drag them out by their underpants. And who wants to be dragged out by their underpants?
Listen to your muse. If it’s not going to come, don’t waste time and toil over it. Return when you feel ready.
Guest post contributed by Michael Cristiano. He works in editing and acquisitions for Curiosity Quills Press, and his freelance work has appeared on websites such as Nexopia, FluentU, and BlushPost. Check out his blog for more of his work.