On Writing: Dealing with a Busy Schedule

The next question from my Ask Away post is from Roxanne Oduro. She asked:

“I’m a university student, and with the amount of readings and assignments I have [to] do, I barely have any time to write. Do you have any tips/advice on how to keep up with writing even with a busy schedule?”

I’m going to have to be really honest here and state that I don’t have the answer. I’m still trying to figure it out.

I have a tendency to put my writing above my family (the equivalent, I guess, to being a university student, maybe?). The last couple of months, in fact, has been really rough.

Not to get too personal, but it got to the point where Sarabeth told me to not do any writing at the house because she didn’t want the kids or herself to be flat-out ignored while they clambered for my attention.

I hate to admit it, but that worked. I finished the first draft of my YA novel, which I’m extremely proud of and excited to release to you all when it’s fully edited and revised.

But I know you can’t just take off from college any time you want. But if you’re observant, you’ll notice you have more time than you think (it’s just hidden in the clutter of your full itinerary).

Aside from my family I also work a full-time job and I sit at my desk with a pen and pad and jot down notes and ideas I have during the day. I did the same thing when I was in school. I’ve learned to “split my brain,” so to speak. Even though I’m paying attention to what’s before me, I’ve tried the other side of my brain to run a constant reel of whatever book I’m working on.

Ideas don’t take breaks. We do.

The point to all of this is, you’ve got to find a way that works best for you. Perhaps recording your thoughts as you walk from class to class. Instead of taking a TV break from studying, you write.

Delete the games on your phone.

Maybe you’re in a relationship where he/she isn’t encouraging you in your work/dreams. If you’re married, work it out. If you’re not, dump ’em.

Prioritize. And then cut out the clutter that doesn’t need to be there.

You’ve got to be willing to lose sleep. I’m up at 4 AM or earlier most mornings to get a head start. Someone told me recently that the mornings are when your best ideas come out, because you’re fresh off the battery pack, so to speak.

You have to make the hard decisions to get done what you really want to get done. Ask yourself every day: “Do you really want to be a writer, or is that just what you tell people because it sounds cool?” (This can apply to any dream job.)

I wish I had an easier answer to this, but I just don’t. And I can fill up about four more posts sharing ideas and failed attempts. I’m still learning. I hope this helps, anyway.

Follow me on Twitter: @atoy1208 and Facebook. Why? Because you’re going to get a front-row seat watching this average guy start a publishing company from scratch. And I’m going to need you to root me on.

Published by Andrew Toy

Writer when I'm not being a husband or dad. So mostly just a husband and dad.

11 thoughts on “On Writing: Dealing with a Busy Schedule

  1. I think, too, if you treat the writing like another assignment or an appointment then you have a tendency to stick with it. Some people use day planners or virtual schedulers or even just the calendar app on their phone. Wherever you make a note of your university assignments, add writing to the list. Like, “1. Finish paper; 2. Read chapters 67 through 70; 3. Write for 15 minutes.”

    Often new writers get scared or discouraged because they think they have to spend 10 hours a day writing. You could easily have 10 free hours and not write more than 100 words. Or you have one hour and bang out a thousand. The key is how you use your time and not how much of it you have.

    1. I CANNOT agree with your final statement more. I’ve had full days of writing handed to me on silver platters and came out with maybe less than half a page, if that. Time does not play by the same rules as writers.

  2. I agree with you Andrew.

    Human nature will tell you that you will make time for what you want to do most. I have found very successful authors that teach full time. They will work on their book if only for the few minutes between their students taking a test and grading them or the few moments between class.

    Is it hard to find the time? Absolutely. Voice record on your phone at a traffic light, jot down some notes during dinner, write whenever you can and edit while brushing your teeth.

    Just remember the old saying from Theodore Roosevelt. “Nothing in the world is worth having or doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty…”. Or if you prefer Dr. Kelso from Scrubs says the same thing, basically.

  3. I agree, it’s about prioritizing your life and the different contents in it. Take a look at what you’re doing throughout the day that is a “waste of time” like TV, Facebook, games, etc., and use that time to write instead. Or schedule daily writing sessions like an appointment that you cannot miss…even if it’s just a 15 – 30 min session, it’s still better than zero and will get you going.

  4. It’s so interesting how pulling words out of my head can be a trickle one day and a flood the next. And it always seems to want to flood when I’m really busy with something else. The key for me is to get over this idea that I must have a large chunk of time to write. I have to scold myself into being okay with writing three sentences on my phone while on the toilet because any progress is better than nothing. And I don’t want to forget my idea while waiting for the chance to sit down. Great post, as always!

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