At the top of the list of bullshit that writers tell themselves (along with ‘my main character is nothing like me’, and ‘I’m in this for the purity of the art’) is the following:
I wish I had more time to write.
You’ve said it. I’ve said it. The jackass on Twitter with more followers than talent has said it.
Everyone wants to write, but nobody has the time. Or so they say.
I say bullshit.
John Grisham used to work 15 or 16 hour days as a lawyer, but he resolved to write one page a day of his first novel when he got home from work.
That novel became A Time To Kill, and it afforded him the time to work on his second novel, The Firm; the book that brought him mainstream success.
Making time to write starts with setting goals. How long does it take you to write 500 words, on average; an hour? Two hours?
Make your goal to write 500 words a day.
Sure, that means you might have to skip an episode or two of the latest crap-bonanza Netflix spat up for you to binge-watch, but that’s why it’s called ‘On Demand’ not ‘Right Fucking Now’. Queue that shit for later.
Here’s the trick: They don’t even have to be good words.
Write 500 of the shittiest words you can think of. Write 500 collective crimes against language. Just write something.
Make yourself write, because a day will come when you’re really fucking inspired and you will shit out 500 words of pure solid gold. Then all those weeks of mediocrity will be more than worth it.
Can’t write 500 words? Start smaller. Write 100 words. That should take you what, 20 minutes?
If you can’t spare 20 minutes to devote to your shitty novel then you’re in the wrong circus, clown.
Here’s another trick: When you hit your limit, stop writing.
If you’ve written 500 words of A-Grade Colombian nostril dust, and suddenly feel like riding that wave until you hit a thousand, or two-thousand; stop. Fight the urge. Bring that energy back tomorrow.
Sir Ernest of Hemingway once said:
The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day … you will never be stuck. Always stop while you are going good and don’t think about it or worry about it until you start to write the next day. That way your subconscious will work on it all the time.
You can’t argue with Papa. You can try, but he’s dead so it would be a fairly pointless exercise.
Stop when you reach your goal. Make a note or two if you have to, a couple of pointers for when you return tomorrow, in case the lethal amounts of alcohol you imbibe later affect your short-term memory.
If you hit your word limit each day this week, reward yourself. Spend an extra half-hour frolicking in the digital meadows of your preferred sexual deviance before masturbating furiously and passing out.
Celebrate each milestone. Tweet your word count. Shout about your achievements. Encourage other writers to reach their goals, and be encouraged in return.
Worry about little things like spelling and grammar and plot and three-dimensional characters and dialogue and all that shit later.
Right now, it doesn’t matter what you write; just cut the bullshit and write something.