As a writer, I long for extended, uninterrupted periods of free time when I can just sit quietly, alone, in my office and write for hours. With this sort of time, I can really focus and prod my creativity out of slumber and into action. With this sort of time, I can get a lot done. Eventually. Soufflés don’t rise in the spur of the moment, and neither does most people’s creativity.
But I don’t have that sort of time. Or at least, not very often. Long uninterrupted hours of focusing solely on my fiction is a luxury that happens only two or three times of years—and even when it does happen, it’s not always easy to capitalize on it.
If I just waited for these luxurious writing sojourns, I wouldn’t get any writing done. Whole months would pass with little to no progress. And I think that’s where a lot of aspiring writers find themselves.
So where does one find the time to write?
The non-intuitive answer is: everywhere. Or perhaps more accurately, everywhen. In the five minutes between one phone call and the next. While sitting in the back seat of the cab on the way to the airport. While on the bus en route to work or school. While waiting for your spouse to finish getting ready for church. While waiting for the eggs to finish cooking. While waiting for your lunch order to arrive.
Five minutes here, five minutes there… it adds up. Entire books can be written—and have been written—in the in-between moments of life.
Writing also doesn’t need to happen at a desk. If you mainly write at your desk, that’s great—try to find as much time to sit behind your desk as possible—but don’t chain yourself to it. Learn to write everywhere, not necessarily in a designated workspace. I know of at least one very successful author who has written over a hundred published novels while hiking through the mountains of Colorado; he has mastered the skill of dictating his work into a recorder while he’s on the move. It’s a genius use of time.
Personally, I’ve tried the dictation method and haven’t gotten far with it. However, I have gotten a lot of mileage out of dictating story notes to myself when I’m out and about and can’t sit down with a paper to jot things down. The other day I was in the car when I randomly came up with the solution to a plot problem in my current book. I didn’t want to forget it, so I pulled over to the side of the road (note the importance of this step), pulled out my phone, tapped on my dictation app (they’re free and readily available), and recorded my idea.
Isn’t this always when the best ideas occur to you, at strange times when you can’t actually get around to writing them down?
The next day, I had a fifteen-minute break between appointments. I sat down in front of my computer and opened my document. Instead of wasting several minutes trying to work myself up to writing, by listening to that recorded note from the day before I was able to start instantly where I had left off.
As writers, we need to train ourselves to activate our creativity quickly and on cue instead of being slaves to the muse. The muse, after all, is notoriously fickle and unreliable. Be free of the muse.
As the old saying goes, “Wherever you go, there you are.” I would alter this for the occasion to read, “Wherever you go, there your creativity is.” Let’s take advantage!
Evan Braun is a full-time author and editor. He has authored three novels, the first of which, The Book of Creation, was shortlisted in two categories at the 2012 Word Awards. He has released two sequels, The City of Darkness (2013) and The Law of Radiance (2015), completing the series. As a professional editor, Braun has seven years of experience working with Word Alive Press authors. He is also a regular contributor at The Fictorians, a popular writing blog.