I wrote a lot of my doctoral dissertation in airports, on planes, and in the car as my husband drove. The photo you see above was taken when I settled in to write for a few hours during a layover. Although I am finished with my doctoral work, writing on the go is nothing new and something I’ve always done and will do for life.
Statistics show that very few of them actually succeed.
Clearly, 81 percent of Americans are not writing a book even if they believe they have it in them. Intention and action are two different things.
The majority of people who say they are going to write a book never will, but for someone who truly has a passion and more importantly, a calling to write, it doesn’t feel like work. If you really want to write a book, absolutely nothing will stop you.
A lot people ask me when I find the time to write. People see the busy schedule I keep and that in addition to writing, I have a family, job/ministry, speaking engagements, consulting/coaching and more. And all those people and activities are very important to me. For those who wonder how I do it, here’s the deal…
First, I manage my time well. So many people have asked me, “How do you do it all?” that I finally wrote a book to answer the question. You can get it here.
Second, I am not a full time writer, but I know I am called to do it. I have understood this call from my earliest recollection. I cannot remember a time when I did not sense a call to write. It was a mantle I felt the weight of since I could first pick up a pencil. So writing must fit within the framework of the rest of my life. If I did not write, I would feel as if I was suffocating, as if I could not even breathe.
I give up a lot of what people would call “free time” to write books, articles and chapters for books that I am invited to be a contributing writer for. I don’t have a plethora of down time but what I do have, I sacrifice in order to write.
A young mom recently asked me if I wrote when my kids were young and if so how I managed it. When my children were babies and they would go down for their naps, I desperately wanted to nap with them. I was so tired. And most people advised, “Nap when the baby naps.” On rare occasions I would do that but most days, I would use their nap time to write.
When the boys were babies the internet didn’t exist and I didn’t own a computer. We had a typewriter that I kept near the dining room table. As soon as they took a nap, I sat at the dining room table and typed articles to submit for publication. I still remember having to type them over and over to make sure they were error free before I mailed (yes, snail mailed!) them. My first ministry article that was published back when the boys were babies was a piece called, “Surviving the Sunday Morning Crunch,” for Jill Briscoe’s Just Between Us magazine for ministry wives.
Right now my writing times are very early in the morning or late at night. When I am getting writing done for my job, I do it as soon as I arrive at the office, for those are my best hours and when I have maximum energy. For personal writing outside of my job, I write during significant blocks of time on days off, and on vacations, during the times my family is not doing something together. One year Larry rented a house on a lake for a week. Each day I set my alarm and woke up several hours earlier than the rest of the family, fixed a cup of coffee, and wrote the first draft of the book I was working on at the time. Once everyone was awake, I dedicated the rest of my time to spending time together as a family.
By now you see why many people don’t write a book. Who wants to set an alarm on vacation? If you are a writer who doesn’t have the luxury of writing full time — you might not want to, but you probably will.
My laptop goes with me everywhere, in case I have a span of even 15-30 minutes to write. I have my laptop with me when Larry and I go on cruises whether alone or with others. Normally I’ll go to the ship library if they have one, or another quiet nook I can find for a bit of writing each day. My goal is to write at least an hour a day even on a cruise.
I utilize drive time (when I am not the driver, of course!) on road trips or even a 30 minute drive or more around town. In a short spurt of time I can do an edit on a chapter, write a blog post or short article. When I was on my masters and doctoral journey, Larry and I would drive to see our kids in Atlanta and I could usually get one research paper done on the seven hour trip there and another research paper done on the seven hour trip back.
I am careful to do personal projects outside of my office at PF Women, as I am mindful of the need to focus on what I call “work-work” when I’m there. I don’t know when I started using this “work-work” term but it was a while back and denotes what I get paid for full time, from what I do that I also consider work that I am just as called to do, but most often do not get paid for, or at least not as much. I always keep my personal writing on my personal computer and not the one at my workplace, and hold a boundary line with that. I’ve never been asked to do that, it’s just something that was important to me.
Something I believe is important to note is not just finding time to write, but to study the art of writing. Like anything else in life that is worthwhile, as a writer you are not automatically given readers — you earn them, one-by-one. One way that happens is by improving the quality of your writing, even if you are a seasoned writer.
I carve out time each week reading or listening to podcasts about how to improve as a writer as well as discovering the keys to reaching various writing goals from the experts. A lot of people ask for my advice on writing and publishing, but I do not consider myself an expert. I refer them to others who are. The main expert I refer people to is Mary DeMuth. Mary is always my first go-to and has been for many years, even before she was my literary agent. Read anything you can get your hands on that Mary has written regarding writing. You won’t be sorry. just Google “Mary DeMuth Writing” and articles and resources will come up. Also, I have studied memoir writing specifically as I have written two memoirs, Worthy to Be Found, and Restored, and am working on my third entitled, Finding Mr. Greek. Resources I have utilized in learning more about Memoir writing are Joyce Maynard’s podcast, Telling Your Story and Ronit Plank’s podcast, Let’s Talk Memoir.
As far as classics, I enjoy reading Ernest Hemingway’s advice on writing. My favorite book of Hemingway’s wisdom is Ernest Hemingway on Writing by Larry W. Phillips. Speaking of Hemingway, the photo here was taken by me in his personal writing studio in Key West. This is his actual desk and typewriter that he utilized to write several of his books in this locationSome. The photo was taken when I went to tour his estate, which is one of my favorite places.(Highly recommend it!)
I hope this very basic advice helps those who are truly called to write projects but don’t know where the time will come from.
There are no shortcuts. These tips will not make anyone giddy with excitement. Sacrifice seldom gets people whipped up.
To be a writer and really take your writing somewhere typically involves giving up something else you would also like to do for something you have deemed more important– writing. If you are a true writer who is called to write, the time always goes by too fast and it doesn’t seem like work although it most certainly is.