Learn Writing Hacks without BEING a Hack
I want to clarify that I’m talking about learning writing, not how to write like a hack. Most writers have other hobbies that suck up their time – I know I do! So, these are my easy writing hacks to get more done.
The biggest rule of being a writer is that you MUST write often. It is the only way we improve and hone in on our style. However, sometimes the hardest thing for a writer is finding the time to write.
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Unless you have a perfect life with endless amounts of time, then you are in the same boat as me and so many other writers. We are all floating along in the same lifeboat, in the endless ocean of time-constraints and distractions.
I’m a mom, who works full-time. I used to commute 1-2 hours to and from that job, but now I work from home while helping my daughter with her school work at home. That means, I have even LESS time on my hands to write my novel, blog, newsletters, etc.
I’ve come to view time as a commodity more valuable than money. Our time should be managed just as carefully as our expenses. So, I’m not about to squander it.
I’ve learned how to look for those moments of free time that are being wasted and think of those moments as holes in my boat. A leaking boat can’t stay afloat long enough to reach its destination. And a writer drained of time can’t finish that novel, blog, newsletter, etc.
Prioritization is key.
Where is the FREE time?
I’m gonna use my own life as an example since I am a full-time working mom with nearly every hour of my day spoken for. Yet somehow, I finished writing a book.
Here’s what my old scheduled looked like:
My Commuting Workday
- Wake at 5am, workout, shower, etc.
- Drive for an hour to office
- Work 8-hours
- Commute home (up to 2 hrs)
- Get home in time for family dinner
- Bedtime ritual for munchkin (with typical protests, pajamas, teeth-brushing, stories, songs)
- Prep lunches and breakfasts for tomorrow
And, here’s what my current workdays now look like while I work remotely at home.
My At-Home Workday:
- Wake at 6am, workout, shower, etc.
- Work 8-hours / Help daughter with online elementary school work
- Spend time playing with daughter (who’s been waiting all day for me to finish working)
- Dinner, then bedtime ritual for munchkin (with typical protests, pajamas, teeth-brushing, stories, songs)
By the end of my day, I’m exhausted. I have about an hour left before it’s my own bedtime. (Yes, I have a bedtime. I need my sleep to function when I edit and write for my day job).
So, when do I write for me and get my book done?
In case you didn’t notice, I schedule my day’s responsibilities so everything gets done. Because I know my schedule of duties, I also know where my pockets of free time are hidden.
- Lunch time
- The hour before my bedtime
- When I first wake up
These few hours are when I get stuff done. No, I do not utilize every single time slot because that would burn me out.
Depending on how busy my days are, I’ll switch things up to decide when I’m going to write. But, I know these are my opportunities, and I have to select at least one a day to get anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours in. (30 minutes is typical for me lately, but it’s daily, so I’m good with that.)
It’s not a lot of time, but this can add up to a lot of words on a page during the week.
I’ve read several different blogs on writers getting at least 15 minutes a day of writing done. My 1 hours isn’t half bad, then – as writing hacks go.
The only thing more important than my looming writing career is my family, specifically, playing with my little girl and making lasting memories. THAT is worth my time. But, I’m important too. And, if I want to be my best self for my daughter and husband, I need to make time for my passion – writing.
With 24 hours in a day minus 8 for sleeping, that’s a total of 16 hours of waking hours to fulfill your duties and put your writing cap on.
At the office, lunch breaks were my time to write my book or blog. I‘d take a bite of food, write some thoughts while I chew, swallow, and repeat.
At home, the mornings work as my best free time, typing away with my iPad in bed before I get up and start my official day with actual work.
You need to reflect on your own daily schedule. If there’s no extra time in the day, then get up 20 or 30 minutes earlier in the morning.
My schedule is tight. But, my writing is important to me. When do you have pockets of free time? Even just 15 minutes of time? For me, finding time to write is one of the most important writing hacks of all.
Even when you find those little pockets of time, it’s easy to get distracted and have your time squandered. I’m certainly guilty of sitting down with 30 minutes to write, only to be interrupted with a string of texts that suddenly eat up all of my time.
Realizing that free time has slipped from my fingers is like dropping an anchor in my gut. I get so frustrated that the mom inside my feels compelled to punish myself. Luckily, my own disappointment is punishment enough.
I’ve come up with some hacks to avoid these distractions, but you have to be determined to commit to them.
Seriously. Some are a little tricky, but you’ll thank yourself in the long run.
- Turn Off Your Phone: Yes, that’s REALLY hard to do. But, unless you want to get sucked into notification after notification when you’re in the middle of writing an epic paragraph, you need to ignore your phone. Either turn off notifications, or put it in the other room. Your virtual world will survive without you for 30 minutes to an hour.
- Isolate Yourself: I know most professional writers have their own little office where they can close everyone off. Unfortunately, we don’t all have that luxury. Your car or the bathroom will suffice for shorter bouts of time (I’m certainly no stranger to these locations). If you’re Emily Dickenson, you can always live completely by yourself, isolated in a remote cabin from the rest of the world, focusing solely on your writing. But, I don’t recommend this method.
- Use Headphones – drown out the world: Why is it whenever I’m writing at my computer, people suddenly want to talk to me? I find using headphones not only warns people to leave me alone, but also helps me ignore them when they first call my name. I find classical or plain old white noise do the trick of sucking me into my own world where there’s nothing except for me and the words on my page.
Tools for Writing
I’ve mentioned My Favorite Blogging Tools before (which apply to any form of writing), but I want to specify these simplistic writing tools, which are different than just blogging.
First we write, then we compose a blog with pictures and formatting. These easy writing tools can easily make the most of your free time.
A writer is almost always pressed for time and we never know when a random muse could knock us on the head with a brilliant idea. Therefore, a writer must always be armed and ready to write at a moment’s notice.
- Smart Phone
- Google Docs/ Notes App
- Notebook and Pen
- Flash Drive (for backups)
All of these tools can come in handy at a moment’s notice.
My first choice is a laptop, but when I don’t have that on hand and I find myself sitting in a lunchroom with no keyboard to type on, I reach for my phone and open a Google Doc. I personally love Google Docs because I can access my longer works anytime, anywhere. Unless I don’t have WiFi, then using Notes works fine.
If you prefer writing by hand, always always ALWAYS keep pen and paper handy. I actually have a small notebook hidden on every work station I frequent – office desk, home writing desk, night table, glove compartment of car, purse, laptop bag… you get the idea.
I am always armed and ready with my shield of paper and dagger of a pen. That muse won’t catch Me unaware.
You can’t find yourself unprepared for a spontaneous writing sprint.
Write Because You Must
When writing is important to you, you find the time. I know, I know, parenting and a paying job will always take priority (as they should, unless your job is writing novels), but other things don’t have to.
Do you really need to binge watch that series on Netflix? You can still sit on the couch with your TV-watching partners, but use your time to write instead of wasting away watching stories that somebody else wrote. Write your own story on the couch with friends; just plug in some headphones with classical white noise and type away.
Yes, I have done this before and no one’s complained.
Does your writing career gain anything from having you read your favorite book for the 3rd time? Maybe you should use that time to write.
How much time do you spend on your favorite social networks? Instead of creating more stories for Instagram and Facebook or tweeting for the 10th time that day, open a document on your phone and start writing. (see Easy Social Media Management and How I Doubled My Twitter Following for simple networking tips)
You have more free time available to you than you think. You just have to discover where that free time is leaking away from you. Once you find the leak, you can plug the hole and use those moments to jot down ideas or bang out a new chapter in your book.
Hey, if you only have ten minutes of alone time while you sit on the porcelain throne, you may as well write on your phone instead of playing another round of Candy Crush.
I’m not gonna judge.
You’re a creative writer. Be creative with your time and create something beautiful with your words. Or scary, intense, thoughtful… whatever genre you prefer, really.
More Writing Resources
I may know a lot about writing, but that’s because I read a lot about writing. Here are some other bloggers and websites I recommend following when you’re looking for writing hacks on fiction or blogging.
A Writer’s Path
Stray Curls – Creativity and Blogging
Writing Like a Boss – Samantha R. Glas
I gain a lot of knowledge from these other writers who have plenty of skills and tips to share with the rest of us.
Do YOU Have Any Writing Hacks?
Seriously, if you have any writing hacks or tricks that help you get more thoughts down on paper, please share with the rest of us. And, if you like any of my own methods, let me know. If you hate them, well, you can let me know that too.
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