Many freelance writers wish they had more time for personal writing. Here's how to make time to write for yourself.
My writing goals for this year include making time to write for my rant blog and to write more fiction. Not only do I have these personal writing goals, but I also have websites of my own that I am not immediately paid for. These are properties that I hope to build up over time so that they are profitable. Making time for this writing is also a challenge.
Part of the problem with personal writing is that many freelance writers are used to being paid. It's hard to switch gears and do something that you know you won't be paid for immediately — or ever.
For most of us, personal writing is something that we hope will pay off in some way down the road, whether it's in monetary terms or whether it yields emotional dividends. However, this state of affairs often means that personal writing ends up neglected. It's pushed aside for the writing that pays the bills.
As I've worked toward my writing goals this year, I've learned a little bit about how to make time for personal writing.
Make Personal Writing a Priority
First of all, you have to make personal writing a priority. That can be difficult with so many other things clamoring for your time. Periodically, I take stock of what I'm doing with my time. I'll keep a time diary for a week, and write down everything I do — and how long I do it. This helps me identify when I'm wasting time.
Keeping a time diary forces you to stop and acknowledge what you're doing. I find that, every two or three months, my time use tends to drift. I spend more time on Facebook, or I find reasons to read one more chapter in a novel, or I watch yet another YouTube video. Relaxation is important, but there are other things I could be doing. My time diary draws my attention to the fact that I just spent an hour going down the Facebook rabbit hole, rather than doing personal writing.
In fact, one of the problems I've had the last couple of weeks is that I use the fact that I include “research” in my personal writing time. Sometimes, I'll start off with research as a goal but get distracted by something else. Pretty soon, an hour is gone and I need to get ready for my son to come home from school, or I need to interview someone on the phone.
Personal writing needs to be a priority if you expect to keep with it, so make it a priority. If you feel like you don't have time to fit in your personal writing, examine what else you're doing with your time. I'm getting back on track after my latest time use examination, since I'd rather engage in personal writing than read more comments on an online article that doesn't really matter in the grand scheme of things.
Stop Writing for Money After You've Kept the Lights On
The other day, while recording a podcast episode for The Money Tree Investing Podcast, one of the panelists, Joe from Stacking Benjamins, mentioned that he works on his own stuff once he's done what needs doing to keep the lights on. I have a rough idea of how much money I need to make each day in order to ensure that the bills are paid and my family eats.
I have a rough idea of how much money I need to make each day in order to ensure that the bills are paid and my family eats. Once I hit that magic number, it makes sense to stop working on client stuff (unless I've procrastinated and am on a deadline) and work on my own stuff. Whether it's writing for this website, working on my other projects, or squeezing in half an hour of personal writing, that's what I should be doing once I hit the daily minimum.
It's difficult, as a freelance writer, to stop writing for money. If you are serious about figuring out how to make time for your personal projects and personal writing, you have to make yourself stop with client work.
Remember: Your personal projects and personal writing is designed to build you up for the future. It's great that your freelance writing can pay the bills and allow you some freedom in your life. However, the reality is that your client work builds up someone else's future, rather than yours. Make sure that you spend time investing in your future, too.