The number one question I get asked the most is: how do you find the time to write?? (or pursue any passion, for that matter.) I wanted to address it in a very honest way here in hopes that maybe it’ll encourage others as well.
If you’re a stay-at-home-mom, a corporate professional, entrepreneur, a student—my answer is the same for you no matter what roles you fill. I don’t care what phase in life you’re in because it’s truly all the same—we all have 24 hours a day to make the most out of this life and every stage has demands and varying priorities.
This is a fact about time that can be scary to think about when you don’t have a thorough understanding of it: you will never, ever, ever, ever, ever find the time to do what you want. Never. If you are living in modern day society, it’s a true story for most people.
How’s that for some sunshine for your day?
This is the simple truth and the ultimate twist: you have to MAKE the time. You will not find time unless you make the time.
I knew I wanted to write since I was six years old, yet I spent thirty years doing anything other than what my heart desired because there was always something else to do. I also spent an unnecessary amount of time saying words like, “well, if I had their life, I’d have the energy or the time or the ability to do what I really want”- does that sound familiar? How many times do we say it’s easier for someone else to do the desires on our heart than to take responsibility for the fact that we simply aren’t using our time the way we could be?
I warned you this was going to be pretty straight to the core speaking from personal revelations.
My life changed the moment I took responsibility for where my energy was being divided each day. I stopped making comments that my time was out of my control when that wasn’t the truth. The more you tell yourself those lies, the easier it is to believe the disillusioned condolences for why life isn’t going as you planned, and then guess what? Nothing changes. However, once you seize the reins and change your mindset, which in turn, greatly influences your beliefs and actions, you’ll finally take the steps needed to change your circumstances.
This goes for anything that you want badly enough in life. You say you don’t have time to exercise but yet there’s time for all four seasons of that show on Netflix that you’re about to binge watch. You claim you’re too tired to read a book, yet you can spend 30 minutes scrolling through Facebook. You say it’s too time-consuming to make dinner yet you spend 30 minutes trying to figure out what to order instead of being in the kitchen and cooking (guilty!).
(Side Note: Listen, I understand that things come up. You won’t have control over EVERY minute of the day. Besides, this is coming from someone who has toddlers taking over most planned minutes of the day. But the point is to not relinquish ALL of your minutes and chalk it up to never being able to do anything for you.)
It’s easy to look back at my life and question how I spent my time. Even as a mom today, I wonder what I did with all that “free time” with one child because it definitely doesn’t exist with two! So what did I do with no kids? And what did I do before I had to earn a living? How did I waste so much time in college? Hindsight always presents more available options that are no longer possible due to moving forward in life. (P.S. Looking back in that way is also a complete waste of valuable energy.)
Since I stay at home with the kids, people assume that’s how I write. And I get it since I left the corporate world to do that exact thing. (See? There it is: if I stayed home with the kids, I’d have all the energy and time in the world to write! That’s surely the suggestion!) Anyone who is a stay at home mom with needy little toddlers knows how big of a joke that is and you’re probably snorting from laughing. There’s no downtime, no chance to be with your own thoughts for even thirty seconds, and that was something I never once put into consideration.
But this is my situation now and I’m grateful for it. So, instead of wishing things were different, I do what I have to and MAKE time. Because I want to write books.
No- I need to write. And if you’re a writer, you get it.
So this is my advice for anyone look to pursue writing or any goal whatsoever:
You have to 1) dedicate yourself and 2) break down the goal into realistic chunks. That’ll be the only way you survive.
For years, I went through large droughts of writing because I was caught up in the grueling details of how to get from point A to point Z and the 80-100,000 words recommended for my genre of choice. 80,000 words minimum when one intelligent word wasn’t even coming to me? Really? Then the anxiety would kick in, I’d feel overwhelmed, and I’d walk away from it and lose all desire because it felt like too much.
Lo and behold- I realized the power of chunking it which changed the playing field.
But if you noticed my steps above, you’ll see that step 1 is dedicating yourself first. Y’all, that is KEY. No goal will be completed if you don’t dedicate yourself. That’s something that no one else can help you with except for you. If you can’t stay committed, your dream will never be realized.
So step 1: come to realize how badly you want something. Realize that dreaming about it day after day won’t get you anywhere if you don’t take action.
It is frightening on many levels to chase your dreams- there’s a level of vulnerability that rides on it because it’s publicly intimate on many realms. You’re basically announcing to the universe (whether screaming it or just a silent acknowledgement) that you are pursuing this thing that means so much to you on a level that you aren’t even fully sure of yet and you know it could shatter you but you also know it’s going to elevate your life because you’re coming into what you were fully meant to do.
Whew. Yeah, this is intense.
Pursuing your passion will be the best thing you ever do, yet hard if done right– and there’s beauty in the refinement process.
For me, my give-this-everything-I-have motivation came after my second baby was born. I realized that life wouldn’t be getting easier anytime soon, and yet I wanted to prove to my boys the importance of having big dreams and seeing them come into reality. I want that more than anything else in this world. So the times when I’m exhausted and not sure I can go on, those boys and proving to them how important having passion is, is exactly what keeps me pushing through the low periods (because those exist in EVERYTHING- even as glorious as dream-chasing sounds).
Know why you want to write. Know why you NEED to pursue your passion. Let that guide you and maintain your dedication.
So, on to the next step: CHUNKING the process. (Anyone else think of Goonies when I say Chunk?)
This is what I mean: Break down your goals. Celebrate every little win. Get through one piece at a time.
This is going to look a little different for everyone, and sometimes you have to experiment what will work best for you.
For example, once I understood I’d have to chunk the process to survive, I started off focusing on writing chapter by chapter. I would give myself one week to finish a chapter before moving onto the next. I wouldn’t think about chapter 2 until chapter 1 was done.
You have to give yourself a hard deadline and be accountable to it. For me, my weeks ran Monday through Sunday since I knew if the weekdays were crazy, I had a better chance of catching up on the weekend and finishing, even if last minute, on a Sunday deadline. If I happened to finish early, I could either take the time to relax or dive in early to my next chapter.
Then I tried the time technique where I shut off all internet devices (because we all know the internet is a blackhole) and focused on 45 minutes of nonstop writing. It didn’t matter how much I got done, as long as those 45 minutes were spent productive.
For another book, I worked based off word count. I started by aiming for 500 words a day. then I bumped it up to 1,000 words. Each time I got comfortable with a goal and proved to myself that reaching it was possible, I bumped up the count. For this last book, I gave myself one month to complete the rough draft, which means I hammered out 3,000 words a day and on some days, I even managed 5,000 words.
This is the thing, your first draft will never be a genius copy. The goal is to simply write, to make progress. There were many days I sat down in front of my computer, pounding at the keys because I didn’t want to be writing and I felt like I was forcing every painful word out. But you know what? Some of my best ideas came out of those moments of resistance even though I didn’t realize it until later. Writing is so emotionally-intensive that your genius zone could be coming out even if you feel like you’re writing the worst sentence that is bound to bring centuries of shame to your name.
Make sure to celebrate every single time you hit a goal. I’m serious– find the enjoyment in it. You hit 1k words today? Jump up and down, tell your best friend, find JOY in it because it’s huge and gets you one step closer! And when you feel that excitement, it’ll motivate you for the next day, and the next day, until your book is complete. If you don’t celebrate enough, you’ll find the momentum is hard to maintain. So celebrate even if you have to force it through exhaustion! Your brain feeds off those endorphins.
This is something else that’s important to realize: although there are a billion of books out there, the number of people who actually finish writing a book is a rarity. It’s true. If you have the ability to complete a story from beginning to end, that alone is such an incredible accomplishment that you need to celebrate. I didn’t fully understand this until I completed my first book, a piece that took me ten years of agonizing over, then I sat back and thought… wow. I did it. I actually did it. Recognizing that and allowing a moment to appreciate the accomplishment is what made it possible for me to finish my last book within a month, which was a far cry from the 10-year journey of the first.
Here’s a fun fact for nerdy minds like mine:
Spending only 30 minutes a day on writing (or any dream) is 182.5 hours total in a year. That equates to 23 eight-hour work days which is the same as ONE FULL MONTH of a full-time job where you are 100% focused on one goal! How much could you accomplish in a full-time job for a full month??? And that’s only 30 minutes a day for a year. Pretty incredible facts and proof to how much you could get done by taking action to your dream, even only 30 minutes a day.
If you’re looking for more practical examples, this is my approach to finding time to complete my goal:
There are periods when I fully dedicate myself to whatever the current goal is (time, chapter, word count- whatever it is I have set). I won’t watch TV or read or get on social media for a week or a month or however long it is. Basically, if I know my time is already maxed out daily, I make sure to use the minutes I do have wisely because I don’t want to stay stagnant when I know there’s an opportunity to progress toward my goal.
15 minutes in the school pickup line? I’m writing on the notes app on my phone. 30 minutes after the kids go to bed? I’m hammering away on my laptop. What are you doing in those downtime moments? We all have them. Even if a 15 minute chunk. Are you entering a mindless vortex or are you using those minutes to benefit your dream?
Although my boys are my motivation, the only person who can hold me accountable is me. By not hitting my goals, I’m not benefiting anyone or anything. When it comes to being tired at night and I’m in an intense inner debate about watching TV instead of writing for an hour, I challenge myself: “What will add more value to my life?” It’s a no-brainer then.
I also make sure to celebrate to add joy regularly and reward myself for meeting those goals. You want to keep it fun as much as possible!
Every commitment you make is short-term, remember that. Can you avoid Netflix for one full month to spend that time to write instead? Yes. How much better will you feel after one month of writing vs. one month of watching TV? These are the things to keep in mind. Each choice you make is yours, no one else’s, so you must find the reasons to choose wisely.
If you want to write, write. That’s truly what it comes down to.
No excuse can compete with the dreams of your heart.