When deciding to write their life story, people often worry about having the time to write. When asked why they don’t write or why they stopped writing, so many people confess they don’t have time. Time is elusive, isn’t it? We never seem to have enough. We balance family, jobs, being responsible adults with bills and such, and then adding in the things that help us feel human during every in-between moment we can. How can you find time for writing with a schedule like that?
If you can find fifteen unscheduled minutes in your day, you have found your time to write. With a little structure, fifteen minutes is all you need to get something typed or written on paper. Some points of structure that will help those ten minutes of writing add up are making a “writing appointment”, setting a timer, celebrating, and writing more. Now let’s break down each point:
1. Make a writing appointment.
Start by finding a chunk of free time in your day. It doesn’t need to be big. Fifteen to twenty minutes is plenty of time. When you find that spare time, make yourself a writing appointment. Write it down in your calendar or planner if that helps. Make it an official event that gets your time. Protect that time. Protecting your writing time is part of the discipline of creating a writing habit.
Writers are often imagined sitting for hours on end in a dark office hunched over a computer with stacks of papers and empty coffee mugs around them. While this mental image is true for some writers, many writers simply write where and when they can. There is no shame in that! Whether you’ve written before or this is your first time writing since you left school, you can write a lot in only fifteen minutes. So find your few free minutes, and make that appointment.
2. Set a timer.
Once your writing appointment time arrives, settle yourself with your computer or paper. Before you start writing, set a timer for ten to twenty minutes. You can make that decision based on how much time you have in your writing appointment. There’s no magic number for how long to write.
Press start on your timer, then start writing. Only writing. Don’t think about editing, spell checking, or erasing. Just write. If you’re writing on paper, use a pen. This will help you avoid the temptation to go back and rewrite. Edit later. This time is just for writing.
Write until your timer goes off. It doesn’t matter what you write. It doesn’t matter if it’s good or ends up being less than your favorite. The point is to write and to see where it goes.
The timer is helpful because it’s such a short amount of time. The set end time makes writing seem more manageable. It can feel like a huge task to write your whole life story, but it’s not that hard to write for ten minutes. The timer also gives you unsuspected freedom while writing. If you get to the end of your time and don’t like what you’ve written? Only ten minutes are gone! Love what you wrote? What a fantastic ten minutes!
When the timer goes off and you stop writing, I want you to take a deep breath. Sit back and relax. And celebrate! You are a writer. You are a writer. And you just wrote something. Becoming a writer is something you’ve been thinking about for a while now, and you just did it!
It takes bravery and determination to sit down and actually start something you’ve wanted to do for a long time. I know the kind of doubts or questions that swoop in when you pick up a pen or open a blank Word document. But even with all of that, you still did it. Be proud of yourself, even if you don’t like what you wrote. You started, and that is something worth celebrating.
4. Make another writing appointment.
Remember how great it felt to see your work on a page after your timer went off in your first writing appointment? Keep remembering that feeling and go make another writing appointment. Look at your schedule for tomorrow. Find another block of unscheduled time and make another writing appointment. Then look at the day after that. And the day after that. Are you catching on?
Writing every single day may not be possible for all, and that is totally understandable. But try to make and keep your writing appointments as regularly as possible. By writing regularly, writing will turn from something you want to do into something you are actively accomplishing. Writing daily will build up the habit, and it will increase your skill as a writer. The more you work out those mental muscles that string words together in your head and translate them to your pen, the stronger they will become.
Writing a little every day is also how you have the time to write your life story. You don’t need to quit your job or block off hours at a time to put in good work on your life story.
Jake Tapper, a CNN anchor and author, wrote his fifth book and second novel during a presidential election and a global pandemic. As a news anchor, both of those events left him busier than a lot of us during that time, yet he still managed to write a novel. Tapper completed a novel by simply writing fifteen minutes a day. He always had his laptop with him, so when he had free time, he dedicated that time to his book. Even on the busiest days, he gave at least fifteen minutes a day to writing. Tapper confessed that not all of his writing during those fifteen minute stretches was good. Some of it was just junk. But the act of writing, even if the writing ends up being trash, gets you somewhere.
A few minutes of writing a day adds up at the end of the week. It adds up even more at the end of the month. It can easily add up to your full life story if you stay consistent with it.
The time you need to write your life story is right in front of you, hiding in plain sight. The four points we give in the article can help you get yourself into the regular habit of writing. Making a writing appointment, setting a writing timer, celebrating, and making more writing appointments all help you write your life story, even with a busy schedule. Good writing doesn’t come from any magical formula of good coffee, a desk, and hours of writing time. Good writing comes from the discipline of writing on a regular basis. That’s how books are written. Skill and style will come the more you write. But right now, just start writing.
Do you have your timer ready?
On your mark.
Trachtenberg, Jeffrey A. “Jake Tapper on How to Write a Book in 15 Minutes a Day.” The Wall Street Journal. Last modified May 5, 2021. https://www.wsj.com/articles/jake-tapper-on-how-to-write-a-book-in-15-minutes-a-day-11620223245?reflink=desktopwebshare_permalink