How much time do you need to write?
The main reason I’m given by someday writers as to why they’re not writing now is “I don’t have enough time.” Before you use that same excuse, determine how much time you really do need for to write. And I’m not talking about writing the book. I mean how much time do you need to write the next section, get a few paragraphs down, move the book forward (even a little bit).
There are three parts to your writing time:
How much time do you need to settle in physically and get your mind focused on the writing? Is it 5 minutes? 15 minutes? Or do you need to pad your writing block with 30 minutes?
You can cut down on the getting started time by finding your writing CUE so you can set up to show up. Part of getting started is getting your writing device, settling in, and getting back to where you left off or deciding where you’ll start.
Having your CUE and re-creating your writing environment (music, smells, tastes, visuals) can cut down on the time it takes you to get into the writing flow. But you still have to take that time into account.
It takes me _____ minutes to get started.
Finishing up also takes time. It could be as simple as closing up your notebook or device and heading off to your next activity. If you take 5 more minutes and identify what you’re going to write next time, you could decrease the time you’ll need to get started again.
Hemingway would stop mid-sentence because then he knew exactly what he’d write the next day. I’m not suggesting you stop midsentence, but make a note of what comes next. This is another way to set up to show up. Learn more about finding a “Bad Stopping Place".
It takes me _____ minutes to finish up.
Now, to determine the amount of time you need to actually write. Not set up to write, not finish up writing, but the time it takes to get from that first word down all the way to the last word written in a single block of time.
Do you think you need to set aside a full day for your writing? Do you picture writing as taking up a whole weekend or a week? No wonder you’re struggling to find time to write. Your expectation of the time requirement may be overwhelming you. It’s impossible to find a whole day or week to write when writing isn’t your full time job.
Don’t wait to find the perfect length of time to write. Assuming the writing is important to you—fit your writing into the rest of your life. Set aside time for your writing. Find blocks of time when you can get some writing in and move your book forward.
There are quite a few stories of published authors recounting how they wrote their book during their daily commute to and from work. Their commute might have lasted 20 minutes, 30 minutes, or maybe even an hour. Regardless of how long or short their commute was, they took advantage of that block of time and wrote. You can too.
You don’t have to commute to find that small, consistent block of time in your day. Could you write at lunch? Will that block of time give you 30 minutes to write? Maybe your perfect time is an hour of writing before work. How about carving out 45 minutes while dinner is cooking? Or is there time at the end of your day, when everyone else has gone to bed, that will work for you? I’m wandering into another topic I want to cover later (identifying your best time to write), whereas I want you to focus today on establishing how much time you need to write.
But let’s say you do have a full day or weekend to write. Does that mean you will write for eight hours straight? Or even four hours at a time? Not likely. You may write non-stop for an hour, an hour-and-a-half, maybe even two hours. I’d guess that an hour or two is probably the most common time limit.
That’s not to say that you can’t go longer when you’re on a roll, but consider that extended time more as an exception rather than the rule. Identify how long you can write before you need to get up, stretch, play with the dog, pet the cat, do the laundry, go for a bike ride, or _______ (fill in the blank with your break activity).
Maybe a writing weekend is a writing block each morning followed by some time with friends, and then another block of writing in the afternoon. A writing week could be morning writing sessions and afternoon reading sessions with some yoga and walks thrown in.
Here I go again with a morning writing schedule (which works for me but not necessarily for you). Maybe a week’s schedule that works for you is sleeping in late, a slow start to your morning with breakfast and your beverage of choice while your writing time is blocked into the afternoon or evening.
How much time can you spend productively writing at one sitting before your brain calls it quit?
_____ minutes is a good block of writing time for me.
Your Writing Time Block
Add your getting started time + finishing up time + block of writing time together. This is the amount of time you need on average to write. Now grab your calendar and schedule in your next three (or more) writing sessions.
So... how long is your Writing Time Block? Did you schedule a couple of writing sessions?