“If only I had more time to write, then I’d be able to finish my (novel, memoir, short story, non-fiction proposal, etc.). ”
Who of us aspiring writers has not had that thought at least once a week? Most of us have day jobs, families, social lives, obligations, and other interests (which often give us ideas and inspiration for our writing—mine is wilderness canoeing), so writing often gets relegated to the “I’ll write once I’ve taken care of all my other ‘jobs’ for the week,” bin. Not a formula for success.
I’ve thought about this dilemma a lot in the past month, when I get tired of thinking about my novel and its necessary revisions and tweaking to make it perfect. Have you noticed that once you ‘become a writer,’ your thought process changes completely. You read everything with a writer’s eye, even the newspaper and e-mails. “Hmm, I like how he used that metaphor” or, “Her tense and verb usage is all wrong for that situation.”
Worse, I find myself thinking about writing all the time. How can I jazz up the plot? Make this character more sympathetic? I can’t even daydream in peace anymore. But at least thinking about finding extra time to write—or do anything, for that matter—gets me away from thinking about my manuscript. So here are a few ideas that I’ve come up with to free up two hours a week, which might be all the extra time you need to put you over the top and really get into a writing flow.
- Shave every other day. Time savings- 5 minutes x 3 days (go ahead and shave both weekend days) = 15 minutes. Ladies, I’m not sure how often you shave legs, underarms, etc., or how long it takes, but I have to think it takes longer to shave two legs than it takes me to shave my face. So shaving legs and underarms once less per week should save you close to 15 minutes.
- TiVo your ‘must see’ TV program(s). A friend of mine tells me he TiVos almost every show he watches now. An hour-long show can be watched in about 50 minutes, half-hour shows in about 25. Assume one of each= 15 minutes saved. Better yet, drop off your least favorite shows and save maybe an hour or two per week. But we’ll just assume baby steps here and settle for TiVoing two shows. Savings= 15 minutes.
- Take quicker showers. I know many like to luxuriate in the shower for 10 or 15 minutes, but are those extra 5+ minutes worth it? I used to take about 10 minutes in the shower, but my frugal nature sensed I was wasting hot water, as well as time, so I cut down to 7 minutes, and get just as clean as I get with a 10-minute shower. Assuming a daily shower trimmed by 4 minutes or so, time saved is 7x 4+ minutes= about 30 minutes a week.
- Combine exercise with transportation. I live in a small town and like to write in the local coffee shops. Several are within a few miles, so when the weather is cooperative (here in Minnesota, cooperation only occurs between April and October), I either walk or ride my bicycle to the coffee shops. Biking takes about 15 minutes each way. Walking about 30 minutes each way (I walk fast, maybe a little more for slower walkers). I usually bike, so biking even once a week saves me 30 minutes per week. Since writing is a sedentary occupation, we simply must exercise, if only to refresh our minds and re-energize. Assuming you are already an exerciser, that 30 minutes per week can be deducted from the time you spend slaving away at a gym or on your basement treadmill. The extra benefit is getting out into fresh air, seeing people, creatures, scenes, activities and such that may serve to give you a writing idea, suggestion for a character, situation, description of a scene, or something else that may stir your creative juices.
- Cut out one restaurant meal per week and eat light and simple at home. The benefits here are multiple. Besides time-saving, the first is trading high fat, high sodium, high calorie food for lighter, healthier fare you can prepare for yourself. Second is money savings. It’s pretty hard to spend less than $10 per person at any restaurant above the level of a fast food joint. A simple home meal can be easily prepared for less than half that. Third is the satisfaction of knowing you are being proactive and self-sufficient—making your own meal, taking care of your body. My time saver meal is spaghetti with marinara sauce. I make a huge batch of sauce which is enough for about ten meals for the two of us (20 servings). I freeze what’s left in two-serving portions. My sauce recipe includes a small amount of ground beef (1/4-1/2 lb TOTAL for 20 servings), garlic, olive oil, tomato sauce and paste, and herbs and spices to taste. The secret, super healthy ingredient is fresh spinach chopped fine in the food processor and added to the sauce. Served on whole-wheat pasta (or even regular pasta), it’s an incredibly healthy meal and costs only a dollar or two per serving. The fourth benefit is time-saving. Boiling the pasta water and cooking the pasta takes less than 30 minutes and the sauce can be reheated while the pasta cooks. Going to and from a restaurant usually takes some time, and being seated, served, getting the bill, etc., usually eats up the better part of an hour. Maybe more if you travel farther and eat fancier (i.e. – more leisurely service, drinks before, coffee after, etc.). Let’s estimate time savings at 30 minutes per meal eaten at home instead of a restaurant.
So there you have it–two hours saved per week that you can now apply to writing time. It might not seem like much when you wish you could spend eight hours a day writing, but only have eight hours a week of ‘free time’, but it’s a start. Hopefully, I’ve jogged your mind to examine your daily routines and find other areas where you save time by reducing or eliminating down time or unproductive activities.
How do you find extra time to write?