On The Table Read, “The Best Book Reader Magazine in UK“, JJ Barnes wrote about how to fit writing into a stressful schedule, and why it matters for you to prioritise your writing time.
Written by JJ Barnes
When I tell people I’m a writer, I am often met with the comment that they have always wanted to write, but they don’t have time. They can’t possibly fit writing into their busy lives, so they never managed to do it. I’ll be exploring that belief and my recommendations for how to fit writing into a stressful schedule.
The first thing I would say is; you need to value writing. It is implied in the statement that you can’t fit writing into a stressful schedule that writing doesn’t matter very much. It suggests writing is a hobby that can only be pursued by people who have nothing better to do. And it is simply not true.
Value writing. Writing is a powerful thing and it accomplishes so much. It can be a tool of comfort for those in distress. Writing can challenge authority and inspire rebellion against those abusing power. It can entertain and bring joy in times of sadness. And it can help us find humanity in those we have been told are our enemies.
If you convince yourself that writing can only be done by people with nothing better to do, you will never be a writer. You’ll never forge a space in your life for writing if it doesn’t feel worth it. If you truly want to write, the first thing you have to do is accept that writing matters.
Don’t Set Yourself Unrealistic Expectations
One of the biggest problems with fitting writing into a stressful schedule will be how much you expect of yourself. If you’re pressuring yourself to write thousands of words in a sitting, you’ll fail. The more often you fail, the bigger the belief that you can’t fit it in will be. Unrealistic expectations of what you can accomplish are your enemy. Banish them.
Instead, accept you’re busy. Accept that you’re stressed. Set yourself tiny expectations at first. Decide you’ll create the name of your Protagonist. Maybe you’ll work out what they want and why they want it. But don’t do more than that. Accept that you have accomplished and then leave it. If you set out going great guns, powering through with writing because you’re so excited to start, you’re setting yourself up to fall. You won’t live up to that again. You’ll feel like you’re going backwards. So don’t do it.
Work out something small, and then put it down. Let your brain work on it with some space. Then the next day, work out the Antagonist and what they want. The day after, work out some setting details. Gradually, as you do a bit more and a bit more, start growing how much you do in one sitting. As you start finding space in your day for tiny amounts, your ideas will have space. Your story will grow in your brain without being pressured to write. The space in your day to write something down will start small. But once that space is there, it’s easy to start growing it. Write a little more each time and soon, you’ll be writing regularly.
Make Others Respect Your Writing Time
When you have a stressful schedule, a lot of that will be dominated by the demands of others. Other people have routines that they expect you to fit into. And when you try and break that routine, it can be met with negativity. They have things they want and are resistant to change. This adds pressure to you.
However, you matter. You are important. You are important for who you are, not just for what you can do for others. Writing is not selfish, it’s not indulgent. What you’re taking is a small chunk of your life just for you and for what matters to you. And the people around you will learn to accept it.
When you first demand that time, it might be met with hostility. Do it anyway. Establish a pattern where you write every day. As I say, a small amount. Nothing massive. Just enough to start getting ideas down. But that is your time and you’re not going to give up. If you stick to it, it will soon become normal. You need to establish a new part of your busy routine. A new space in your stressful schedule. Once it’s established it will become normal. When it’s normal it will become accepted. That’s your writing time.
Embrace The Mess Of A First Draft
The pressure to create a first draft will not help you when already you’re facing the pressure of writing. If you expect perfection, you will be disappointed. If you’re disappointed with your accomplishments, you won’t feel as able to make the space for it. First drafts are allowed to be messy. They’re allowed to be chaotic. Even experienced writers can create a first draft that needs a lot of work to clean it up, so if you’re just starting out, you need to expect it. Don’t be put off by the fact it will need more work. If things don’t quite line up how you expect and don’t look perfect, embrace it.
One of the most important things about writing is editing. So your writing schedule will move from writing into editing smoothly. Writing is how you get the ideas down. Editing is how you turn those idea into a story. It’s an old saying but it’s a good one; you can’t edit a blank page.
Don’t pressure yourself to be perfect. Just pressure yourself to value yourself and your voice enough to write.
A Stressful Schedule Can Sometimes Win
The last thing to remember is that a stressful schedule sometimes won’t make room. If you have too much going on that you really cannot write your story, be kind to yourself. Life isn’t always fair and sometimes you have to prioritise other things.
If you give yourself a hard time every time you’re too busy to write, you’ll start associating writing with self loathing. Don’t punish yourself. You haven’t failed, you’ve just hit some obstacles along the way.
Consume the creativity of others to keep your own imagination flowing. Make notes on your phone or in a notebook whenever the opportunity presents itself. Then, when life is more accommodating, start your process again. Force your writing time in, value yourself, and write your story. But be kind to yourself along the way.
More From JJ Barnes:
I am an author, filmmaker, artist and youtuber, and I am the creator and editor of The Table Read.
You can find links to all my work and social media on my website: www.jjbarnes.co.uk
Buy my books: www.sirenstories.co.uk/books
Follow me on Twitter: @JudieannRose
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