Time to Write: Discipline or Muse?

finding the time to write

Perhaps one of our biggest struggles as writers is finding the time to write despite the fact that we love our craft. It’s easy to push aside the task when life —or holiday season— gets in the way. In my experience, writers approach this in one of two ways: discipline or muse.

Those who choose discipline, treat writing like they would any other job: they set aside time in their schedule to write, no matter what. Those who treat it as muse, prefer to write when the mood is right. Both work for different people and different situations. And people are usually naturally drawn to one or the other. 

But there’s a third alternative: combining them. That means setting aside time to write but also writing when the muse strikes. To combine them, you can do some planning first.

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Choosing Discipline or Muse When it’s Time to Write

If you want to try the disciplined approach, look at your daily routine and identify a time slot that you can devote to writing. As little as 15 minutes is enough to get you started and once you get started, it is likely you will spend more time writing. It is good to set a writing goal for the session in terms of time or word count so that you can measure your progress.

If you prefer to write when the muse strikes, you need to capture ideas as soon as they start flowing. #timetowrite Click To Tweet

If you prefer to write when the muse strikes, prepare for it. Have a document ready so that when ideas come to you, you know exactly where to write them. You can also have alternatives on-hand such as the notes on your cell phone, voice recordings, a dictation app, or a notebook. The idea here is not to waste time looking for where to write. You want to capture ideas as soon as they start flowing. 

In both cases, it helps if you do some prewriting exercises that allow you to think about what you would like to write. Prewriting exercises can include brainstorming, lists, outlines, summaries, and keywords, to name a few. Writing a list of words you like, taking the time to think about your message, who you are writing for, and what your writing purpose is, serve as prewriting as well. The purpose of completing these exercises is to have those ideas remain in the back of your mind so that when you least expect it, you may be inspired to write.

Take Advantage of Short Periods of Time

And back to the matter of finding the time to write, take advantage of pockets of time. For instance:

  1. Write while you have your morning coffee.
  2. Use any waiting time for writing. Are you waiting for the cookies to come out of the oven? Write. Are you waiting at a doctor’s appointment? Write. 
  3. Write for 15 minutes before you start your day or just before bed.

Every session will contribute words to your writing project and, even if it is a bit at a time, you will be progressing.

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Vigimaris Nadal-Ramos, E.d.D
Vigimaris Nadal-Ramos is an English-Spanish editor, translator, blogger, and professor. She has business experience and a doctorate in education, with a concentration in curriculum and teaching of English as a second language.
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