"The best time to plan a book is while you're doing the dishes."
- Agatha Christie
I don’t have time to write.
No, really I don’t. I stay home with two kids under three and I’m pretty sure they hold nightly meetings while my husband and I sleep to plan out just exactly how they’ll alternate naps during the day so that Mommy never gets a break. Ever.
Every night at 8:30 when they are good and asleep in their beds for at least the next few hours, I spend several minutes deciding whether I should sleep because I’m EXHAUSTED or write because I, hey, I want to! Let’s just say this blog post is brought to you by coffee. . .lots of coffee.
So, how do you write a book when your life doesn’t allow for regular chunks of uninterrupted writing time?
After wasting months (um. . . years) of writing no words at all, I stumbled on a method I like to call Drive-by Writing.
It’s pretty simple, really. I keep my computer and outline (or whatever other notes I need) in a central location that I see and pass by throughout the day – like the kitchen table or counter – and that stays out of reach of the two-year-old’s curious fingers! Throughout the day, every time I pass by or get a minute or two to walk over to the computer, I write a little bit. The first few times I tried this out, I was pleasantly surprised by my word count at the end of the day! Now, drive-by writing is my primary strategy for getting writing time when life is crazy.
So how does it work?
Aim for any words
Seriously. Any. When I have a drive-by day, my goal each time I pass my computer is five words. Just five! Sometimes that is realistically all I have time for at the moment. More often than not, five words turns into fifty or one hundred. Repeat twenty to thirty times throughout the day and you end up with a 2000 to 3000-word day! Worst case scenario: if you only get five words at each pass, you produce 100-150 words. No, that doesn’t feel like major progress, but it is progress and you can celebrate it!
I’ll be brutally honest here. I love routine. I love it so much that I flirt with the line between “functioning human being” and “frantic basket case” when I lose my sense of routine. So I resonate with the many authors I have read who advise setting aside the same time every day as official writing time and sticking to it! Let the people in your life know that it’s your writing time and it needs to be respected! Close the door, put up a sign, and unplug the phone!
Yeah. . . that conversation didn’t go over so well with my two-year-old.
|These two keep me on my toes!|
So when you find yourself in a season of life where predictable writing routines are just plain out of reach, get flexible! I wasted a couple of years producing no words while waiting for the ideal routine to be established until I realized I could write in snippets throughout my toddler-paced days. Now, that is my routine.
Write on the go
I always liked the idea of going old-school. You know, writing a novel with pen and paper – having the distinguished ink smudge on your hand that marks you as a writer. When I try that, though, I just don’t seem to be able to get a lot of words out before my hand cramps up. But when I’m drive-by writing that doesn’t matter! I can stand in line at the grocery store and write my five words. I can sit in the drive-thru teller and get ten more. Waiting room at the doctor’s office – another 30. Then after the kiddos are in bed, take thirty minutes to type them into my WIP document and hit “Save.” Progress! And depending on how my nightly dilemma between sleep and writing turns out, maybe add another paragraph – even page! – or two.
If just thinking about pen and paper still causes your hand to cramp up, utilize your smart phone. Occasionally I hear of a great new app for writers. I’ve tried a few but personally haven’t stuck with them, and usually they cost somewhere between .99 and $3. For drive-by writing, I prefer to use the basic “Notes” app that came free on my phone since I’m not dictating large chucks of text at a time or needing to sync with other programs.
Set up Writing Dates
Finally, even if drive-by writing becomes your primary way of getting words on the page, it’s still a good idea to set aside “writing dates” – larger spaces of time every once in a while that allow you to “get in the zone” and get those cathartic word sprints out. I am blessed enough to have my parents in the area, so my mom and I set up one day a week on which she gets to hang out with her grandbabies all day and I get to do whatever I want – which usually is sitting at a coffee shop and writing without a single interruption for hours, and only the occasional intentional break to get up and stretch. It might be twice a week for you or once a month, but this gives you something to look forward to while you slog through your phrase-at-a-time Drive-by days.
Could Drive-by Writing work for you? Next time you have a busy day or a crazy season of life, think about how you can fit even a few words in here and there, and go for it! You might be surprised how much more you mull over your story in between the snippets and how many words you can write when you feel like you just don’t have the time!
How about you? What strategies do you like to use to keep yourself writing when life gets crazy? I’d love to know!
Meg Brummer grew up in a world of adventure and discovery and found depth, hope, and courage in the stories of adventure, romance, and imagination of her youth and in the deeper, truer story that inspires them all. The stories of her childhood planted themselves deeply and grew into a love of storytelling and a passion for spinning her own speculative tales of beauty and wonder.
She spends her days exploring the beautiful Black Hills with her two adorable and imaginative children, living out the best romance tale she could imagine with her heroic husband, and writing down her daydreams in the naptimes, bedtimes, and cracks of a busy and beautiful life. When she has a really rare moment of free time, she indulges her sweet tooth on a morsel of chocolate and loses herself in an overly ambitious quilting project or learning some dead or obscure foreign language for fun.
Leave a comment today to get your name in the draw for a Seeker Book of Choice in honor of Meg's visit (if we can find it on Amazon, you can pick it). The winner will be announced in the Weekend Edition!