Beyoncé’s XO wakes me up exactly at 5:30 in the morning. I drag myself out of bed, and I attempt to wake myself up with a cold shower and pot-size cup of coffee. I barely have time to enjoy the sweet scent before I am out the door and chasing the bus down the street. My commute gives me an opportunity to read my assignments for graduate school, if I am awake enough to decipher the letters in front of me.
You see, I have a stressful 9-to-5 gig (which I enjoy), and I am a part-time graduate student. I cannot afford to become a full-time student. Therefore, I make it work. I dedicated my day hours to work, and my nights to advancing my education. I am always writing, but most of my writing consists of academic essays and office reports.
Despite this constant day-to-day writing, I continue to think about writing, more specifically creative writing. My writing muscles crave the practice of creating characters and building plots from the ground up. I get jealous of others’ spare time.
Then, I realized that I had been doing it wrong all along. I cannot complain about not having time. I need to make the time. I put my creative brain to work and jotted down a few strategies to accomplish my creative writing goals. After all, no one else cares about my dreams, at least not as much I do.
These strategies are working for me:
Get Organized. Declutter your space, get a calendar, and map out your week. In my experience, a lack of organization results in little to zero time to write and de-stress. As the “to-dos” pile up, you might become overwhelmed and feel more compelled to procrastinate. Take a note from the most-published writers, many of whom still hold day jobs. Shakespeare Professor Mary Bly, also known as the romance novelist Eloisa James, attributes her success in writing to her ability to be organized. J.K Rowling finished the first three Harry Potter books while teaching English. Getting organized helps declutter the mind and promotes productivity.
Schedule Time to Write (Around Your Life). Once you have taken the time to get more organized, schedule time to write, and schedule that time around your life. Our time to write should be prioritized; schedule the time first, and then schedule everything else around it.
Create Small Goals. Anything is something. Stephen King says he writes six pages per day, and if not six pages, at least something. The practice of setting small goals can keep you motivated and strengthen your writing muscles. Weekly or quarterly goals do wonders.
Recruit a Writing Buddy. If the going gets tough, hire a friend. My friend Rosa is a poet with a heart for writing. We often set up weekly or monthly calls to discuss writing. We speak about what is inspiring us, about books we read, about our work, and about our writing goals. As a full-time employee and a part-time student, I’m often left drained by the end of the week, but at the end of our conversations, I’m often left feeling recharged and eager to get some writing done.
Practice Self-Care. Sleep! Sleep! Sleep! Arianna Huffington did not lie; sleep does help you get your way to the top. If you are getting enough sleep at night, then you should feel energized, less hungry, and happier throughout the day. A good mood makes working with people and tackling daily tasks easier. So, go to sleep.
Let Go of Perfection. You did not write anything this week. So what? The time is gone; do not think about it. Are you having “writer’s block”? I sympathize, because I am often in the same position. However, writer’s block is nothing but fear blocking your creativity. The first draft is never going to be great, and the plot line does not have to make sense right away. There will be great writing days, and there will be bad writing days. This post is not perfect, but it exists. Let go of perfection. Write.