Struggling To Find Time To Write? Here’s How You Can Get Better.
This topic is very close to my heart because I experienced this at the start of last year and occasionally this year as well. So, I would like to share some of my struggles and how I got better at balancing my passion and profession.
I was working as a full-time primary school teacher early last year and by mid-year, I was questioning my career pathway and whether I was happy at where I am now. So, in the middle of a pandemic, I decided to switch my career to become a copywriter, until now. However, before starting a full-time job, I truly enjoyed writing for my blog and submitting pieces to other platforms. I would produce content frequently — this includes full pieces like 1000-word short stories, 10 to 15 stanzas of poems, lifestyle-related tips and more.
Once I started working full-time — both as a teacher and a copywriter — I began struggling to find time to write, not only for my blog but also to participate in external contributions. Upon self-reflection, here are two main reasons why I struggled to find time to write after getting a full-time job — lack of energy and low creative juices.
Lack of energy.
When I was working as a teacher, I’d wake up at 5 AM, head to school and teach from 8 AM to 4 PM. Then, I’d continue doing other work (either in school or at home) such as admin work, marking books, preparing lessons, researching teaching materials, and more. My free time was usually any time after 7.30 PM. Now, as a copywriter by profession, I find myself in the same loophole (i.e., working 9 AM-5 PM and reaching home by 7 PM since I travel by train).
In both situations, not only do I suffer from time constraints — due to the travel arrangements and working full-time — but I always lack the energy to do more “work” after leaving the office. From writing as a past-time or favourite hobby, it became a chore that I had to do.
Low creative juices.
In addition to the time constraints and constant depletion of energy in my body, another reason why I was struggling to find time to write was that I realised my brain had begun to become less creative over time. I felt uninspired and empty to produce a new blog post, a thrilling story, or even a simple poem. The more I pushed myself to write something other than for work, the more my mind pushed back to stop doing so — in others words, a terrible writer’s block. This made me feel frustrated and useless because I couldn’t write anything. I also felt terrified at the same time that I may lose touch with the very part of myself I love.
Sometime during the end of last year, I decided to change things around because if I don’t, I might end up disliking writing — whether as a job or a hobby. Writing has been my creative outlet to express myself, my emotions and thoughts since I was a teenager, and I would never want to lose that part of myself. I’m sure you would not want to lose that part of yourself if you are a writer, too.
Don’t worry, I’ve got you! Here are some tips on how to get better at handling adulting and writing at the same time:
1. Make time to write.
Yes, I know this may sound contradicting to the above explanation about having no time to write, but this is the main tip! You have to find time somehow in your day or week in order to start or continue your passion for writing.
Personally, I reduced my time scrolling through social media and watching movies to squeeze in some writing time. I’m not saying eliminate other activities in your lifestyle. Rather, cut down on the ones that do not really add value to your life. Even an extra 20 minutes every day can make a whole difference to your writing habit!
For instance, you can try the “5-Minute Rule” where you trick your brain into doing work for just five minutes. Whether you continue or stop writing is another subject, but at least you’ve hurdled through the hardest part of this — to start writing!
2. Set writing goals.
Other than setting goals to lose weight, to hit the gym, to drink eight glasses of water and to get seven hours of sleep, you should also set goals for your writing habit. These goals could vary according to individuals and depending on what you’d like to achieve by the end of your writing spree.
For me, I set two goals at the beginning of this year: a) to publish content every week on my blog, and b) to submit at least one Crunch piece per month. I’ve had hiccups along the way — such as forgetting (or sometimes ignoring) the deadlines I’ve set for myself and being weighed down by work deadlines — but I think generally, I did pretty good in achieving 90% of my goals. I did feel upset and disheartened when I missed out on achieving my weekly goal a couple of times, but I always comfort myself with the prospect of a new goal every other day and week.
3. Stay motivated in writing.
Whether you’re a seasoned writer or just starting, this is a great motivator — try participating in writing competitions and submitting pieces to other platforms. Although rejections may come frequently, winning monetary success or gaining victory by having published work is a great motivator for any writer.
I, for one, love to see my name published on various platforms (regardless of monetary value). I’ve had published work on Crunch, Anak Sastra, Eksentrika, saya magazine, my own self-published book and an upcoming poetry compilation (Malaysian Poetry Writing Competition 2021). Feel free to explore what encourages you to write and do just that!
There are some tips that you can keep in mind when joining writing competitions or submitting pieces — Keep yourselves updated on the latest writing projects through newsletters and notifications. Submit as many pieces as you can to various writing platforms. Lastly, compile your winnings and publishing in a portfolio so you can look back on your writing journey and celebrate how far you’ve come. Celebrating your small wins can be very rewarding and motivating for us as writers too!
4. Love and enjoy writing.
Always make sure that writing does not become a chore to you (like how it happened to me). There’s plenty of enjoyment to be found in writing — it’s exciting, challenging and always rewarding. I’m also pretty sure there’s a good reason(s) why we started writing in the first place. For instance, I love and enjoy writing because it’s a creative outlet for all of my imagination, hence I enjoy writing short stories. So, make sure you look at writing as a treat to your mind. Enjoy the process!
In a nutshell, writing is just like any other hobby or activity that we do in life. If it’s something that means a lot to you and you’re struggling to find time and energy to do it, find some ways to help you out. Remember — when there is a will, there is a way!
For further reading, check out this article one of Crunch’s writers wrote about how consistency and persistence helped them improve their writing! If you’d like, you can also check out this article on how to develop confidence as a creative.