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How to Find Time to Write During a Hectic Schedule by Sara Furlong Burr


Alas, like many indie authors, it's required of me to hold down a day job to pay those pesky bills. For me--and I'm sure the same is true for most people--my job doesn't end after I put in my forty hours each week. When I get home, I have to put on so many hats that I feel like I'm literally turning into the Mad Hatter. From mother to wife to dry cleaner to housekeeper to accountant to plumber to groundskeeper to chef to ninja (okay, maybe I'm exaggerating slightly on the ninja role in a futile attempt to feel cool), I always feel as though I'm too busy to keep my head on straight, let alone write.  So how does one balance such precious little time during the day between their jobs, family and dreams? Well, I'm glad you asked because, if the title hasn't already tipped you off, it's the subject of this post.

1.  Take notes:  Most of the time, for me anyway, the best ideas arise at the most inopportune of moments (while on the phone with clients, typing letters, driving home, fighting crime, etc.).  In order to accommodate for these sudden sparks of genius (or so I like to think) I've made it a habit of carrying around a writing utensil and something upon which said utensil can be used to write. For instance, in my proudest moment, I've made use of a tube of lipstick and a utility bill. I wouldn't recommend that method.

While I'm at work, I have a year supply of post-it notes at my disposal of which I use to write down sudden ideas that pop into my head to use when I can actually devote time to writing,  When busy at home, I've been known to use the nearest random piece of paper (including my daughter's coloring book pages, napkins, "to do" lists, and, if I'm lucky, a discarded piece of notebook paper). Fortunately, I've been lucky enough not to have to resort to the toilet paper...yet.  

The point is, when you find yourself consumed with absolutely no time to sit down to hammer out an idea, make use of those items available nearest to you (traditional paper, post-its, children's building blocks or smoke signals) to jot down your thought nuggets for further use and exploration later.

2.  Carry a recorder: Most of the attorneys at my firm have recorders ready to roll at a moment’s notice. Recorders are convenient if you have a sudden idea that you want to rattle off right away. Doing this saves time as, unless you're the Speedy Gonzales of the keyboard, most of us speak faster than we’re able to write. Use your recorder to record random thoughts, plot epiphanies, dialogue, or even complete pages of material.  They're handy, cheap, and can be used darn near anywhere (although I would recommend avoiding the bathroom).

3.  Use your head:  If you absolutely cannot find something to write on, try to find creative ways to remember your ideas. For me, music is a huge inspiration for my writing.  A few of the "scenes" in my first manuscript were inspired by various pieces of music. Perhaps there's a poem that has helped inspire a story for you, a location, a memory or a certain person.  Equate your ideas with something that is familiar to you.  It will help you retain them until you can actually write them down.

4.  Bring your laptop with you-While writing my first novel, I would, on my lunch hour, whip out my handy dandy netbook (oh God that sounded a little too Blues-Clusey) and use my one hour of sanctity to crank out sentences, paragraphs and pages.  That's one good thing about netbooks, the little buggers are tiny and easily portable. If you don't own a laptop but have access to a computer where you work, use a word (or whatever) program to write and then e-mail what you've written to yourself.  Use any break or opportunity you can get to write.  You'll be surprised by how much you'll be able to accomplish if you do.

5.  While the kids are out cold-I used to cherish nap times for more reasons than just the sudden silence that came with them. I'm big on being productive and capitalizing on opportunities when they arise. Therefore, nap times and Dora times were like Christmas in my house.  Now, getting my daughter to take a nap is like trying to fight a lion with dental floss and I have to make use of random five-minute blocks of time when she's occupying herself (and I literally mean five minutes as, if she's quiet for longer than that, I know I'm in for a mess to clean up).

6.   Become nocturnal:  Not surprisingly, I do most of my writing pretty late at night and I drag ass the next morning because of it. Usually, I'm unable to begin writing hardcore until after 9 or 10 at night.  Most of the time, I'm writing until around midnight or one in the morning. As writers, we need to adapt even if that means burning the midnight oil or writing at the butt crack of dawn--if, of course, it doesn't have any negative impacts on your family or employment.

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