How writers find time to write
Thoughts on time from writer Jenny Odell, four approaches to finding time to write, audiobook giveaway, and inspiration from 'part-time' writer Martin Amis RIP.
I’ve just finished reading Jenny Odell’s brilliant book Saving Time: Discovering a Life Beyond the Clock. She opens her introduction with the research I quoted a couple of weeks ago, saying that people who feel in control of their time are more relaxed, creative and productive.
While I found it in a book on finance, her source was on slowness which she linked to an episode of The Simpsons.
Practical and conceptual approaches to time
Odell and I view time from very different perspectives.
As an artist her objective is to explore ‘ways of seeing’. That means her book is not, by her own admission, a practical how-to that will help you make more time, but instead offers conceptual tools for thinking about what your time has to do with the time you live in.
As someone who works in the productivity field, reading it was often uncomfortable (as I shared on Instagram), but it gave me greater empathy and understanding. We might all have the same number of hours in the day, but our access to them is not equal.
So what does that mean for those of us who want to write, when time and our control of it is limited?
How to find time to write
Finding out how other people write (and live) can be helpful - as long as we do it in a way that doesn’t lead to a spiral of comparison and self-flagellation. Over the years, Chris and I have asked writers how they find time to write. With over 3,500 responses we identified four pattens of writing time. You might find one of these approaches helps:
Writing daily. Often considered the gold standard, this is the writing routine that people really want. All about habit formation, it normally involves writing at the same time and place, for a similar amount of time each day (or the five working days of the week). It can work well, but it doesn’t suit everyone’s lives, commitments and unpredictable schedules.
Time boxing. This super pragmatic approach involves booking time to write - this can be the same time each week or different times depending on how busy your schedule is. Put it in your calendar and show up like you would for any other appointment. Great for making writing a priority.
Binge writing. This often has a bad reputation due to its tendency to be used in a last minute panic but it might be perfect for you. It involves blocking out long chunks of time to write over several days or sometimes, weeks. Brilliant for going deep on a project.
Spontaneous. When you do this you make use of snippets of time for your writing that might otherwise be wasted. These 5, 10 or 20 minute opportunities could be between meetings, when children are sleeping, or when trains are delayed. Grab them for writing.
Understanding these four approaches can help you find time in your life right now. They can be used in different combinations, at different stages of your writing life, or even across a writing project. Experiment and try new approaches - you might surprise yourself.
And remember, no approach is better than the other - it’s just what works for you right now. If you’d like to read more, here’s an article from the Prolifiko blog and Chapter 3 of Written shares stories and examples of how people use them.
Keep writing, Bec
Image © Graphic Change from #WrittenTheBook
Words taken from the Guardian, Martin Amis - a life in quotes, May 20th 2023.
We have two free audiobooks of our book Written: How to Keep Writing and Build a Habit that Lasts to give away. The book was expertly narrated by voiceover pro Russell Bentley and rather less expertly by Bec and Chris.
Want a copy? Need to write? Tell us in the comments below why you or a writing friend needs to listen to it.
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NEWS JUST IN: The hardback edition of Written is now just £10.03 (RRP £16.99) on Amazon UK so if you haven’t got a copy - grab one fast! That extra thruppence makes all the difference (nope, no idea how Amazon pricing works).
Live from Pasadena - TONIGHT!
While we’d love to visit California in person we’ll have to make do by being there virtually. Tonight, we’re delivering a free webinar for the amazing Vroman’s - southern California’s oldest and largest indie bookstore.
⌚ 1pm PDT
🗓️ 24th May 2023
I am thinking of writing a blog with some of my favourite time management books. Is that the sort of thing you'd like to read? Would it be helpful? Let me know and I can pull one together (gives me an excuse to tidy bookshelves and revisit some recommended reads).
Great post, I’ve been curious about the new Jenny Odell book and how she approaches time. My preference is daily writing but I’m just about to start a contract which will mean I have to travel to an office 2 days a week so won’t be able to join The London Writers Salon session I usually do everyday. I’m worried about falling out of the daily habit.