“I can’t find time to write.” It’s the single most common plaint of the creative or commercial writer, right before, “I don’t know what to write.” Today we focus on solving the first problem. Ready?
Forget about it. You’ll never find time to write.
And don’t think I’m about to say, “You must make time to write, grasshopper!” If you think you’re capable of creating time, you’ve got a bigger problem than finding time to write. (See “ grandiose adjective gran·di·ose\ˈgran-dē-ˌōs\.)
No, don’t try to find time to write. Find space to write.
Yes, I know, time and space are essentially the same thing, Einstein. But there is a substantive difference in approach. Instead of looking at the clock or the calendar, look at your home or the map.
First, start big. Where do you find yourself throughout the day? Home, office, “third place” (I’m smelling at you, Howard Schultz), library, gig-a-workspace or whatever they call those rent-a-desks, park, parents’ house... List them. How many of those spaces can conceivably contain your writing activity? How many are conducive to it? Make a commitment to having at least three places in your daily life that will include writing.
Now drill down. Pick the spaces from your list over which you have some control and power, and populate those places with writing tools. I’m not saying you need to put a Chromebook in every room of your house. But you do need to put a pad or notebook of friendly paper and delicious pens in all of those rooms in which you might even theoretically have an idea for your writing.
The fact that you carry around a notebook, laptop or even a smartphone isn’t enough. There are too many speed bumps between you and your writing on those infernal machines. Your spontaneous writing process needs to follow this workflow:
1. Pick up writing instrument.
I’m serious: no more than one step to get to writing. (That’s one of the reasons I like Post-Its and pads: no cover.) That still gives you plenty of choices. Moleskines, Field Notes, Post-Its, magic slate; Montegrappa, Parker, PaperMate, Bic, Pilot, Ticonderoga! Like technology? Tablet and stylus, digital recorder, smart speaker, smart board, whiteboard, blackboard.
If you’re a geek like me, there’s plenty of time for more gadgetry after you get down your idea. I use my smartphone to take a picture of my Post-It note (Evernote automatically recognizes and files it any which way but loose, and there are plenty of other apps that do the same). Try a Rocketbook (look it up).
The idea is twofold: saturate your environment with writing ability, and keep that ability as magical as possible. Carrying around a writing device isn’t enough! You may leave it somewhere, or not want to strain yourself by reaching all the way into your pocket... “That’s a great idea and I’ll remember it,” you’ll eventually think to yourself. Famous last words of obscure would-be writers.
Don’t know what to pick? Buy ten cheap spiral-bound notebooks from the supermarket, office supply superstore or drugstore, along with ten pens expensive enough for you to not loathe using them, but cheap enough to not mind your losing them (pens roll under sofas; notebooks do not). You’ll feel like a rich writer. Then populate the writing spaces on your list and forget about the whole plan.
Next time you have a brilliant idea, you won’t believe how lucky you’ll feel.