How to write a lot and still keep your sanity

Three story ideas ripped from the headlines
Calendar, notebook, pen, and coffee? Yup, ready to write.

One of my commenters, Alta Peterson who has a fantastic blog, asked me recently about how I’m able to  write and publish blog posts so often.

Well, Alta. Here’s the answer. I have no life.

No, just kidding. I totally have a life.

Alta isn’t the first one who has asked me about this. Friends are always wondering about how I am able to write on my novel/short stories, blog, tweet, and have a full time job at the same time. I’ve always said that I don’t sleep. But that’s not true either. Kinda.

I observed myself (that’s a weird sentence) for a bit and figured out what I do. How am I able to write so much so often? Here’s how.

1.)  Time, time, time is not my friend. 

I have to make time. I know, it’s such a matter-of-fact thing to write but it’s true. At work, I look forward to coming home to write and in the morning I wake up wanting to write, so there’s the overwhelming desire to write all the time, which is helpful.

Sometimes I get up early to write but mostly I listen to my natural writing rhythm, which every writer has. That rhythm tells you the best times of the day or night you’re most creative. I know my rhythm is early morning (5 am-7am), late at night (10 pm-2am), and later in the afternoon because of so many years in newspapering (3 pm-5ish). I try to get things done around those times.  If I’m home from work, I can write any time in the morning before noon. I’m rubbish after that.

Five nonwriter things writers need
Yes, this is an actual to do list from my past. It’s all on my phone now.

2.) Planning just about makes perfect. 

Because I know when my creative windows are, the other times are for planning. By planning I don’t mean plotting out stories or working on my editorial calendar, though sometimes that happens.  That’s when I actually do some living — practicing yoga, watching Doctor Who, going to work, etc. While you’re working on other things, sometimes you’ll get ideas for things for the blog and for writing. When I get those ideas they instantly go in my Evernote (amazing app that you must get).  In fact, I found a new direction for one of my projects while doing something non-writing related.

It’s during this time that I also get ideas for things I should do. That’s when things get into my Wunderlist app (awesome to do list app). I have several to do lists that are continuous. For example, I have a blogging to do list and it has stuff like figure out how to get more Google juice for the site or check out such and such’s blog.  Usually these don’t have due dates, I get them done as I have spare time like the commercials in shows or the time it takes to brew coffee.

3.) I read. A lot. At least I try to. 

Good writing comes from good reading so I try to get my hands on as much stuff to read as possible. That is to the determent of my sagging bookshelf unfortunately. Ironically, I have more difficulty trying to find time to read than write. (Don’t tell Stephen I said that.) But, I do force myself to even if it’s during my writing times. Lately this has been easy since I’ve been focusing a lot on the short story which means I can probably read something in about 20 minutes, depending on the length of the story. For novels, I take it one chapter at a time.

When I read, I get inspired to write and I also get ideas. This is such a crucial part of my process that I feel guilty when I don’t read.

That’s it. This plan isn’t foolproof but it works for me and it allows me to write a lot and stay sane. Through this entire thing I have to remember that I’m a person and not a machine so I will make mistakes. I may do more writing than reading or may not put that great idea into Evernote right away. When that happens, I have to forgive myself and keep going because writing is a process. There are goals but never a destination.

Question: How do you find time to write? What tips do you use for craving out writing time.

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5 thoughts on “How to write a lot and still keep your sanity

  1. OMG … A link to my blog! Awww thx : > .. I will post to it in honor. I wrote a post about blogging more like a year ago and I’ve been wanting to do another post on how lame my advise was in it… I know so much more now than I did a year ago.

    One thing you mention here is taking advantage of your own timing and rhythms. This is great advise. I always think I’m going to write a post after dinner… Never happens! I go mildly catatonic for the evening around 8:30 or 9:00 and there’s nothing that can be done about this.(except realizing like you mention that I’m not a machine) I will need to find an little time earlier in the day if I ever want to blog for real .. (which I do!)

    As for planning … I always think of blogging (and working on my own site for that matter) to be outside of my normal work day. I absolutely need to PLAN it as part of my work day sometimes. I will try this next week. I suppose it’s a matter of prioritizing writing. Some of my clients solve this problem by having me write their blog for them.

    I like to write but for people who don’t hiring someone like you or me is a great idea. People give me rough copy and ideas and I whip something together.

    I’m curious .. do you read fiction or non-fiction as inspiration? Both? Is there an author or type of writing and that you find particularly inspires you to write?

    ps.. I’m downloading the Wunderlist App right now. ; >

    1. Good question. I read everything I can get my hands on. I was reading non-fiction there for a bit (travel anthologies, Wild, which is awesome, essays). Now I’m reading short stories. Just finished reading The Killers by Hemingway and I’ll be writing something about it and some of his other stories soon.

      I essentially read what I’m curious about and lately it’s short stories and how to write them well.

      My inspiration is Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Isabel Allende. I love their writing, the style, the layers of it. But I also like reading some really good narrative writing (I’m a newspaper gal) and that inspires me to do good work. I love noir Raymond Chandler is my DUDE! I’ve recently suggested Graham Greene’s The Pride and the Fury to a friend and he LOVED, LOVED, it

      Wunderlist = awesomeness. They also have a Chrome app that is fantastic and it syncs across everything.

  2. I really appreciate this post. I have nothing but time, and except for my intermittent disability issues I should write! I’m not working, so I should be writing! I’ve made a goal to write 5 blogs a week with a pre-set theme for each blog. I failed today, but with any luck, I’ll write 2 blogs tomorrow.

    Thanks again!
    Deborah

  3. Thank you for this post. You are right the best posts come while reading or doing something unrelated. I am trying to figure out my writing schedule! I think I like to write either early or late.

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