That Time I Took a Year Off from Writing

It’s been a long, strange year. And, even though I wrote every.single.day, I didn’t do writing for me. So it’s really like I took a year off from writing. But I’m ready to dive back in.

One of the biggest downsides to freelancing is that you don’t always make time to write for you. I know. I spent pretty much all of last year writing for Not Me. Clients got the lion’s share of my writing attention. Especially Student Loan Hero, a startup that hired me to write for them. (That’s right: I’ve got a W-2 and everything now. Stay tuned for a future post in which I explain why I took the step to become the ultimate sellout.)

I’m not sad that I did all this writing for other people. I enjoy it immensely. I like writing things I feel will help others — and it’s a bonus to get paid for it. Plus, I get to work with amazing people and have fantastic experiences. So it’s not a bad thing. It just was.

But after taking that year off from writing for myself, I’m ready to jump back in. I’ve got a lot of thoughts on freelancing and blogging and how to diversify your writing income. The key, though, is in making the time to write.

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How Much Time Do You Have Available for Writing?

I’m not really big into new year’s resolutions. I’ve pared down my resolution efforts over the years, changing it up from laundry lists to focusing on One Thing to embracing a theme. With the encouragement of a friend, I’m embarking on a Happiness Project (see: Gretchen Rubin) this year. It should be interesting and fun. And hopefully help me shake off the funk I feel after what, for me, was the most challenging year I can remember.

So, as I prepare for this project, I’ve also thought about time. The reality is that I let a few things distract me last year. And, judging from how unfulfilled I feel on the eve of a new year, it’s clear those distractions didn’t do anything for me. So if I’m going to work on a Happiness Project, I’m going to have to reduce the distractions and make the time to focus on what makes me happy.

One of those things is writing for my own blogs.

The last couple of days I’ve reflected on where my time went last year, and what I want to do differently this year. This has helped me identify problems in my schedule, and places where my schedule could potentially open up. And those are times I want to fill with writing.

Chances are, you have time for writing (or something else). Unfortunately, we get distracted. If you believe the American Time Use Survey, TV and the internet are major culprits. If you look at your own life, you can probably find at least an hour of each day by cutting out some of the time you spend watching TV or going down the rabbit hole on social media.

I’m facing up to the reality that if I want time to write, I have to make time to write. And that might mean cutting something else out of my day.

Track Your Time for Two Weeks

Want to avoid taking a year off from writing? Track your time for two weeks. Be brutally honest as you mark down every activity and how much time you take.

In your mind, you think you only checked Facebook “real quick” — maybe for 10 minutes or so. The reality? You probably lost 45 minutes of your day.

Track it all. Sleeping. Eating. Watching TV. Hanging out with your S.O. There is nothing wrong with any of these things. But are you spending too much time on something you don’t care about instead of writing?

There are some things that I refuse to cut from my day. I’m going to write for my clients and my employer. When my son gets home from school, I’m going to be present for him as we make and eat dinner together. I carve out time for yoga and for other exercise. These are non-negotiables.

I rarely watch TV, but I get caught up in comment sections on political posts. That’s not doing anyone (or my blood pressure) any favors. Sometimes I laze around of an afternoon. It’s so easy for a 15-minute power nap to turn into a two-hour snooze-marathon. Not only does it eat up time I could spend writing, but I also end up feeling the effects of sleep inertia and barely able to function properly. That’s no good.

I love reading and make time to read every day. But there’s no reason to extend the reading session just because Jasnah’s back and ready to kick ass (gratuitous Stormlight Archive reference). Sometimes you gotta put the book down and do writing of your own.

Track your time for two weeks and see how you’re really using your time. If you’re like me, you’ll discover that you really don’t use your time all that efficiently. Tightening up your day could be a good way to find time to write.

So, let’s start this year right. Schedule some time to write, and get to it. I know I’m looking forward to 2018.


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