When I was in high school, I dreamed of the writer’s life.
I envisioned a cabin on the side of a mountain, a cool stream rushing by, and the multicolor sunset painting a masterpiece on the canvas of the sky.
I thought anyone who wrote professionally must get paid lots of money, work in the perfect environment, and feel a surge of inspiration from dawn till dusk.
That was until I actually started writing professionally.
I quickly learned that the snapshot scenes of inspiration are few and far between and that real writers find ways to be prolific in the midst of a busy life.
Today I’m a husband, father of three (with one on the way), and pastor. It’s safe to say that I’m busy. Yet, I have found this to be my most productive season. How can that be?
Productive Writing for Busy People
Here are my six keys to writing in the rhythm of a busy life:
1. Give up the ideal workspace
My workspace is the 1100 square-foot town home I share with my wife and three kids. I typically write late at night or on days off while the kids are napping.
But sometimes I write while they are jumping on the couch, listening to Dora the Explorer. Or while my wife is asking my opinions on school uniforms and baby formula.
I’ve learned to edit out the noise and get words on paper.
2. Don’t sacrifice your family
Bestselling author Jerry Jenkins told me that he wrote all of his books (over 100) while his kids were in bed. I’ve tried to copy this model, writing during the late-night hours, between 10 pm and 2 am.
This takes discipline, sacrifice, and a lot of 5-hour Energy Drink. But no book project is worth missing the important moments with your family. So keep it all in check, and find time to write in between those special moments with your loved ones.
3. Use the “write, edit, write” method (for longer pieces)
With long projects (i.e. books), I begin by editing what I wrote the day before. This stirs the creative juices. Then, I push through and write until I can’t possibly write anymore.
Then I go to bed.
The next day I begin where I left off. This method enables me to write in short, manageable chunks and still maintain a flow.
4. Self-edit (for shorter pieces)
Years of writing on deadline for a magazine taught me to write quickly and edit as I wrote.
Some say it’s important to turn off the internal editor, but with short pieces (i.e. articles) it’s vital to maximize your time by producing professional content in short bursts.
5. Know your limits
When I began as a writer, I wrote for anyone who offered a byline. As life became full, I grew more selective.
Ironically, I produce more content now than ever before, but I write only in my wheelhouse, which means guest posts, columns and articles flow out of current projects.
I also say “no” to anything that steals time and delivers no net benefit to my overall writing goals.
6. Enjoy the season
It’s easy to whine about how much you have to get done and how “nobody understands.”
I’ve found this attitude only feeds negativity, which cuts off the flow of creativity. When I begin each day with fresh inspiration and a spirit of gratitude, what needs to get done gets done.
How do you write when you’re busy? Share your own anti-insanity, productivity tips in the comments.
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*Photo credit: Daniel Morris (Creative Commons)