When There Is No Time

So, I haven’t posted anything here in a while. The title of this post might be a hint as to why that is. So many things have been eating into my time as of late, primarily general college stuff like coursework and applying to Masters Programs, as well as the Passover holiday, which eats a lot of time preparing for it, and then on much of the holiday itself we can’t do things considered work, which includes writing as well as school work (which of course means I have to do it all afterward).

But the point of this post was not to complain about how life is busy, because that’s something we can say about any stage of life. And seeing as most of us are not writing full time (yet) there are even more things competing with writing for our time. But as we all know, writing is the best way to improve one’s writing. Different strategies will work for different people, but I’d like to share a couple of things I do to write when I have little time.

1: Brainstorming, worldbuilding and outlining. I always am working on plans for future projects, which all hover at different stages of progress, be it the basic brainstorming, the outlining, or even the worldbuilding stages. These individually smaller tasks that I can do for a few minutes at a time, be it between different assignments, between classes, or even during (some) classes. I often use pen and paper for this, which makes it easier to do on the go, and for the early brainstorming I can do it completely mentally. (Handwritten notes can later be transferred to my rapidly growing WikidPad information storage base.)

2: Writing on the go.  I always carry a copy of my current outline with me, along with blank papers and a couple pens. Even when I don’t have time to sit and write for a sustained period, I can do little bits here and there, in between things. Again, writing a little during school is an option, but more useful to me (though it might not be an option for everyone) is writing on the subway. I live in New York City, and I use the subways or buses to get to most places in the city that aren’t right near me. While I’m not riding them every day, it’s often enough that I gain a good hour or so a week while on the train or bus to write a little (old-school style, by hand–it’s doable) or to use the time to do number 1 as well, and do some story prep work. This, of course, is easier if I get a seat, but it’s not impossible to do standing. And I get to feel like I’m making better use of my time than all the people around me playing games on their smartphones. And of course, you can also use your tablets or smartphones to type if you’ve mastered touch screen typing. (I haven’t, or I might do that.)

3: Writing sprints. This is something I’m relatively new to. I was originally introduced to the idea of writing sprints through twitter, where sci-fi/fantasy author Mary Robinette Kowal occasionally does 15 minute writing sprints with anyone who wants to participate. A writing sprint is exactly what it sounds like. You set a timer (I’ve generally done 15 minute ones, but obviously you can make them as long or short as you want/need) and write as many word as you can in that set time (and when done on twitter, everyone reports their word total at the end). I first joined in on one of her writing sprints because it sounded interesting, and I found I both enjoyed it and was productive during it, writing over 200 words during the sprint, keeping up with everyone, published authors included. So I did another, ending up being late for a class. Then I realized I could do it during class, and since then I’ve done 1 or 2 sprints during the class(es) where I felt I could afford to not take notes for 15 minutes. These I did by hand as well, and I’ve been able to consistently keep up a good word count, and it has definitely helped me get a lot of writing done for time spent.

Of course, you don’t need to do them during class or other things as I do. In fact it’s probably better not to, if you can. No matter how busy we are, we can find 15 minutes to simply write.


So that’s it for now. (I may also be out of time again.) Those are the things I do most often to get myself to get writing done when there’s  very little time. I hope you find at least some of them useful, and if anyone’s ever in the mood for a writing sprint, feel free to contact me at Twitter (@yakovmerkin). Now that I have a smartphone, I’m on Twitter most of the time, so I’ll be available to do sprints with people online, whatever else I might be doing. I know it’s more useful than listening to lectures, a lot of the time.

So until next time, which hopefully won’t be too long from now, keep writing–however little time you might have. A little writing is infinitely more useful than no writing.


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