What you should (or shouldn’t) sacrifice for writing

When you are new to writing, your work tends to fill up the time you have available. But, when you become more experienced and want to work on longer projects, you start to need more time.

When you reach this point, you have to start looking at your day-to-day schedule and see where you can make time. And notice that I’m using the word “make” and not “find”. As I’m sure I’ve said before, you will never find time, you can only make it. At this point, therefore, you’re going to need to make sacrifices. I’m not talking about big things like ditching your job – that may come later – but looking at the little things that you can tweak to create space in your day-to-day life for writing.

Here are some areas where you can/should make sacrifices:

  • Watching TV – watching TV is a big time drain. I’m as bad as the next person for flopping on the sofa for the whole evening when I’m tired after a long day at work. I then spend a lot of time thinking about the time I’ve wasted when I could have been writing. With all the recording technology available and online streaming services you’re really able to control when you watch your favourite programmes rather than having to watch them live. This means you can choose when you watch TV. So, if you were to watch one hour less of TV a day, what difference would that make to your writing? What could you achieve in that time?
  • Reading – now I know this sounds controversial because as writers we are all voracious readers. But I’ve noticed recently that I’ve been spending more time reading other people’s work, than actually working on my own. And then I complain that I’m not getting anywhere. Yes, you do need to read in the genre that you’re writing in but not if it leaves you with no time for your own writing. So while reading is important, you need to strike the right balance.
  • Household chores – I know for most people completing household chores is a necessary evil but it can take up a lot of time. If you’d rather be writing then find a way to divide up the household chores, or outsource them. From me, cleaning is a real bugbear, and so I pay for a cleaner. She puts in three hours of work on a Saturday, and during that time I’m confined to the home office to keep out of her way. This means that I put in three hours of work on Saturday. So if you find yourself spending more time on cleaning, ironing or cooking than you want to, consider ways to outsource whether that’s persuading family members to take on a bigger role or calling on outside help. This will leave you free from or writing.

That said, I believe that there are some key areas where you should not make sacrifices:

  • Family: No one ever said on their deathbed “I wish I’d done more work”. Instead they think of all the fun times that they’ve had with family and friends. I hear from parents about how quickly their children grow and change and I don’t think you’d want to miss that. By all means cut back or control these activities if you have to, but please don’t cut them out altogether. Family time is important and can help keep you sane.
  • Health: this is another area where you must not scrimp. As writers we spend a lot of time sitting in potentially uncomfortable chairs working on a computer or laptop. This can lead to an achy body and sore eyes. It’s important that you make time to take a break and also to get some exercise as well as writing. This can be a tough balancing act, but a necessary one.
  • Sleep: I know that there are schools of thought which say you should get up an hour earlier to create writing time. However, sleep is a very important way for your body to rejuvenate itself. You need to assess what the impact will be of having less sleep. If you decide to go this way, then consider going to bed an hour earlier to make up for it. If your body really does need more sleep then give your body what it wants. Don’t feel guilty for resting, in the long run it will give you a better body and a better mind which can only be beneficial to your writing.

As writers we all want to put in our best work and we know that this takes time. So what I would say is make the most of the time that you have available, make sacrifices where you want to and try not to feel guilty when you’re not writing.

My sacrificial pledge, if such a thing exists, is to cut back on the amount of television I watch. It’s easy to get sucked into watching two or three hours of TV back to back without really thinking about it. So on three nights a week I will do an hour of writing, or work that will contribute to writing (and by that I mean for example sourcing a proofreader or book cover designer). That will leave my Saturday and Sunday writing slots just for writing. Hopefully that will help to build up my body of work more quickly.

What do you sacrifice your writing? And what would you absolutely not give up even if it created more time for writing? Answers in the comments section below please.

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