How to Make Time to Write – Simple Strategies

We all get 24 hours in a day. We have to use those hours differently. Right now, you may feel maxed out. You want to write, but there’s no time. I have some good news. You probably do have time to write; you have to find it and prioritize it.

There are simple ways to squeeze in short writing blocks throughout your day. Let’s start by evaluating your day. Don’t ditch your planners or lists, keep those for now. I want to introduce you to an activity log. An activity log will help you look at your day differently. Understanding where and how you spend your time, you can discover which tools work best for you to carve out some writing time.

Evaluate Your Day

Start by evaluating how you spend your day. Juggling a job, family, pets, and life, in general, can make it seem like you are always on the go. Take a hard look at what you are doing and when. Get a notepad or cheap notebook—doesn’t have to be anything fancy—and keep a log of each day for at least a week. If you can, log your days for two weeks. Keep it simple! You need the date and day of the week across the top of the page. Then note the rough start and stop time for everything you do throughout the day. Don’t use this as a schedule to pre-plan tasks; record what you do as you are doing it.

The goal isn’t to account for every single minute of your day; you can have gaps. Be honest. You can always destroy the pages later. Completing this exercise is a tool to help you see where you are spending your time and help you find spots where you can carve out small writing blocks. Do you work a “day job” that gives you breaks and lunch? Do you have kids in sports or other activities where you have to wait during practices or lessons? Those are fantastic opportunities to spend 10-15 minutes writing.

Planners, Calendars, and Schedules – Oh my!

For those of you who do live and die by your planner, calendar, or another scheduling tool, you may think you have a perfect picture of where you spend your time.

Try the activity log for a few days and compare to your planner. Are they different? Does your activity log show you things you didn’t put on your calendar? For example, you may have a doctor’s appointment scheduled in your planner. Did you sit in the waiting room? What did you do while you waited? Situations like this is an example of a missed writing opportunity.

Use Technology to Your Advantage

Once you are open to the idea and practice of writing in 10-15 minute blocks buried inside of other events, be prepared. You need a way to write that you are comfortable using no matter where you are. The method doesn’t matter as much as making sure it fits you. If you prefer notepads and handwriting, do that. If you want to carry a laptop with you, do that. Don’t forget about the one thing you probably already take with you everywhere you go—your cell phone. Typing on that tiny little touch screen keyboard may not give you the efficiency of a laptop, but it will still allow you to take advantage of situations where you may not be able to use another device.

Also, don’t forget about programs that allow you to work across multiple devices. You can use your phone to start a document at Susie’s soccer practice and finish it on your home computer once the kids are in bed. Apps and programs that allow you to sync files make writing on the go and in small sessions much more manageable. There are cloud drives and other programs that let you take your documents with you anywhere you go.

Just Say No

Once you find your writing time, you have to protect it. You have to say no when others try to infringe on that time.  If writing is important to you, prioritize it like you would other “to do” items. Uphold your end of the agreement when it comes to staffing the concession stand at your child’s sporting events or picking up extra shifts at work, but don’t volunteer for more than needed. I know this sounds like I’m saying be a lousy parent or employee or don’t be a team player. We want to be helpful but saying no is all right.

You also have to say no to yourself sometimes. It’s easy to get distracted by the other things we enjoy or feel we have to do. Don’t let new episodes of your favorite TV show or anything else to take the place of your writing time. You could use those things as rewards for meeting your writing goals each day or week. Do what you need to do to protect your writing time once you find it.

If writing is something you want to do, but you couldn’t ever figure out how to make time to write, I hope the information above helps you find a few minutes here and there to get started. There are hidden pockets of time throughout the day where you could be writing. It may take longer to write on your phone or in short bursts, but I guarantee you that writing this way is much better than not writing at all.

As a bonus, I’ve also included a very basic, no-frills, printable worksheet to help you track your day. You can follow the link below to print a few copies, or you can use it as a guide to set up your notebook.

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Using the Best Creative Writing Prompts for You

You want to write. The blank page is staring back at you. Maybe you write a few words, then delete them. You type a few more words. Then delete. You do this until doing laundry or dishes sounds like more fun. Sound familiar?

Almost every writer, including me, has gone through the write-delete ritual. To break out of this cycle, try using the best creative writing prompts for unlocking your imagination. Prompts can be a great way to jump-start your writing.

Let’s take a closer look at what writing prompts are, how to pick the best prompt, preparing to use prompts, and a few of my favorites to get you started.

What Are Writing Prompts

Writing prompts are a writer’s best friend, especially to fight off a case of writer’s block. The purpose of a prompt is to make you think about something in a different way. Think of prompts as an alarm clock for the creative side of your mind. They help wake up the connections in your brain.

Prompt work may not always lead directly into the story you wanted to write, and that’s all right. The important part is that the practice helps you start putting words on the page and keep writer’s block at bay.

Getting ready to use prompts

Let’s talk about preparing to use writing prompts. If you aren’t in the right frame of mind, you can select the best creative writing prompts and still struggle to get your first few lines. When using prompts, remember:

  1. It doesn’t matter if you want to write poetry, memoir, short fiction, a novel, or something else. The purpose of a writing prompt is to get the words on the page.
  2. Permit yourself to write badly, to write fast, and to write whatever topic or image that comes to mind.
  3. Be open to the prompt. If the prompt suggests writing about chewing gum, write about chewing gum for five to ten minutes.

Picking the Best Prompt

Prompts could be a single word, a phrase, sentence, elements of a story, a photo, an activity, or a thousand other things. If you search online, you will find curated lists for poets, kids, teachers, horror novel writers, and much more. The secret here is that any of them will work for you even though you aren’t a poet, kid, teacher, or horror writer.

The key isn’t to find the best prompt for the format or genre; the key is to find what works best for you. Try a variety of different prompts. You may find writing while looking at a picture works best one day where writing from a random list of items works best the next day.

When you see a prompt that makes you think: “oh, this will be fun” or “oh, this will be hard” that’s the prompt you want. Both will get the gears turning in your mind and the words flowing onto the page.

A Few of My Favorites

The good news here is that writing prompts are all around you. I’ve recommended a few of best creative writing prompts for me, and hopefully you, below:

  1. Look around your desk, room, or house, or even outside your window. Pick an item or object and tell that item or object’s story. Where did you get it? Who had it before? Did you or a family member make it? Don’t know? Make up the answers.
  2. Play the Why Game—Ever been around a little kid that seems only to know the word “why?” Do that and make up answers as to why. You can start with something like: I’m writing a sentence. (Why?) Because I want to tell you about the turtles. (Why?) Because turtles are cool. (Why?) Keep going until you don’t need the “why” anymore.
  3. The Amazing Story Generator (ISBN-13: 978-1452111001)—I’ve used this book for years. It is a spiral bound “choose your adventure” style book with split pages that can be mixed and matched. You could start with something like: “While on a second honeymoon, an identical twin, is reunited with a long-lost twin.” Then, flip one section, like the character, to get: “While on a second honeymoon, a pathological liar is reunited with a long-lost twin.”
  4. Rory’s Story Cubes (dice or app)—The story cubes come in sets of nine dice with simple pictures on each side. Roll two, three, or all nine and use the images to start writing. How you interpret the image is up to you.
  5. A Writer’s Book of Days: A Spirited Companion and Lively Muse for the Writing Life (ISBN-13: 978-1577319368)—This is my go-to book when I need a writing prompt for writer’s block. Confession—I haven’t read the chapter material even though I use the prompts whenever I feel particularly stuck.

Using prompts can be a great way to conquer the blank page. Prompts can open up a pathway for you to start thinking about one thing and leapfrog into any number of other stories. Focus on what works for you, on what helps your writing get started and don’t worry about whether a prescribed list targets you as a writer or the writing you want to do. Trust your creativity and the prompt to set the words inside you free.

Ready to dive in? Check out the Write the First Word Facebook Page for the 30-Day Prompt Challenge.