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How To Make More Time for Your Writing

Tuesday, January 02, 2024 8:26 AM | Erica Holthausen

None of us have enough time, so we’ve got to make the best use of the time we’ve got. If you want to make more time for your writing, you’ve got to be intentional — both with the time you set aside and how you use it.

Writing abides by Parkinson’s Law. In a 1955 essay in The Economist, British naval historian Cyril Northcote Parkinson wrote: “It is a commonplace observation that work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” He wrote the essay as a criticism of the British Civil Service, but that first line resonated deeply with his audience and became the basis of several articles, a book, and a robust speaking career.

Parkinson’s Law is well known to writers because we’ve all experienced it. That simple article you’re writing? Well, it will take up as much time as you allow. 

That’s good news and bad news.

The bad news is that if you set aside an entire day to write a 1,000-word article, it will take the entire day to write it. The good news is that if you only have an hour, you’ll get the piece written in an hour. So how can we use Parkinson’s Law to our advantage? 

Five steps to developing a robust and sustainable writing practice.

One of the best ways to take advantage of Parkinson’s Law is to start a writing practice. Developing a writing practice will get you used to writing quickly, imperfectly, and on a tight deadline. Your writing practice is a practice. It must become part of your routine to be effective. Sticking to your practice is the only way to make it part of your routine. Set yourself up to succeed by following these five steps:  

1. Start small. If you don’t already have a writing practice, start with something easy — something that fits in with how you work best. Don’t start by promising to write at least an hour a day because you’ll get frustrated with yourself and quit. Instead, start with a 10-minute writing session every day or a 30-minute writing session once a week.

2. Experiment to figure out your natural writing style. Some writers do best when they have big chunks of time set aside for writing. Others prefer short, intensive sprints scattered throughout their day. Others adopt a hybrid approach. Take the time to discover what works for you and build your writing practice around your writing style.

3. Honor your schedule. What other responsibilities do you have to make time for? Which are most important? If your writing practice interferes with another commitment, you won’t stick to it. Build a practice that fits into your life, whether you’re writing first thing in the morning, late at night, or on your lunch break.

4. Keep your commitment. Once you’ve scheduled your writing practice, stick to it. It’s much more important that you show up for yourself and your writing when you say you will than that you produce a certain number of pages. And if you feel a lot of resistance, know that it’s normal. Sit with the resistance and refuse to give up, even if that’s all you do that day.

5. Forgive yourself when you miss a session. Even the most disciplined writers miss a writing practice. When that happens, forgive yourself and pick up where you left off. You don’t have to make up the missed practice — that can snowball out of control quickly and add unnecessary pressure to your writing practice. Just get back to work and remind yourself why you chose to do this. 

Give yourself the time and space you need to make your writing practice a part of your routine. As you get comfortable with a short practice, you can build upon it and start adding structure and definition to each writing session.

Make the most of the time you have.

To make the most of the time you have available for your writing practice, embrace the shitty first draft. Not only will this make you a faster writer, but it will make you a better writer and a deeper thinker. 

By writing your first draft as quickly as possible, you get all your ideas out on the page without interrupting yourself and stopping the flow of your thoughts. Once you capture your ideas on the page, you can refine and polish them until they are ready to be shared publicly.

The key to establishing a writing practice is to be intentional and create a practice that fits your schedule and suits your writing style. The more you write, the easier it will be, and the more you will enjoy the process. 

To get started, schedule some time on your calendar right now. Commit to writing a shitty first draft of an article, email, or LinkedIn post. And then keep that commitment to yourself and your writing.

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Erica Holthausen is the founder of Catchline Communications and a strategic thought partner to consultants who wish to build their authority and increase their visibility by publishing articles in industry trade journals and business magazines like Harvard Business Review, Inc., and Entrepreneur. To learn how to raise your profile, register for Pitched to Published, a free monthly Q+A focused on writing, pitching, and publishing articles.

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