I used to write a lot when I was younger. I used to stay up all night and hammer out three to four chapters. When I had a week off from school, I would dedicate a few days to do nothing but write. I participated in the 3-Day Novel Writing Contest three times — and even self-published one of them, The Past In Between, just for kicks. I knew the well of my imagination and inspiration was never going to run dry. However, something else did…
It wasn’t my motivation that got depleted, it was my time. Regardless of how successful you get as a 20-year-old, eventually, as the number increases, you will find that the free time in your day to do what you want will decrease. By the time I reached my 30s, my free time to work on my own projects were sparse.
Now, I don’t want to make a rant about how busy I am, because being busy is lacking priority. If you don’t have time to do something, it is simply because it isn’t a priority. Working on my short stories or my novel isn’t a priority anymore. I have a full-time job, I have friends that I wanted to see, I have a dog I want to take on walks when the weather is nice, and I have a wife that I’d like to spend the prime of my day with.
Those days that I used to block off simply to write are few and far in between. There are zero days in the year where I can just write. Even when I don’t have any plans scheduled with, I will still need to walk the dog, cook food, and maybe do some chores in preparation for the upcoming week.
Yet, I haven’t stopped writing.
Writing is still a large part of my life. It is a critical part of my identity. I still try to fit it in whenever I can, but it is hard to do. You know the saying, “The hardest part is starting.” And it is absolutely true when you are writing. Sitting down and getting to work is the hardest part. I believe it only gets harder when you don’t have an empty schedule to commit to it.
Expectation: How I Like To Write
In my ideal world, I would have a day fully committed to writing. I would wake up with a fresh cup of coffee and hunker down and immerse myself into my work — deep work, as author Cal Newport would refer to it. I yearn to get into the flow where my writing is essentially pouring out of me like hot water from a kettle.
I enjoy having the little distractions and blocks in between. I enjoy allowing myself to mill around the apartment for a moment thinking of the direction to guide my characters in.
I would usually have a movie playing in the background, something I have seen a million times before, just to keep me company. Pulp Fiction is a good one. Honestly, anything by Tarantino will do because it’s long… and it works to track how long I’ve been writing.
This was how I wrote in my 20s. It was something I looked forward to like a vacation. But now… when I do take a vacation, writing is not what I want to do. Writing is fun, but writing is also work. When I have to prepare for a week at the office, I don’t necessarily want to put myself through a fifteen-hour write-a-thon.
Reality: How I Write Now
Today, I write the same way I do a lot of other things. I squeeze it into my schedule. There are a few days in a month where I can commit myself fully to creative writing, but they are often hijacked. I’m not sacred with those days — although I should be.
I write whenever I can, fifteen minutes before I head off to work in the morning, thirty minutes during my lunch break, or ten minutes as my dinner finishes cooking in the oven. Any spare time I have, I add it to my projects. It’s my way of making the most out of the little time that I have.
I find these little sprints incredibly hard, but with everything going on, if I don’t have them, I might not be a writer at all. So I sprint.
I used to be a writer who needs a few minutes to warm up. This can mean sitting at the desk and getting into the right mind frame or it can mean rereading some of my previous writing, which is necessary if I’m working on a longer project. When I only have fifteen minutes blocked off to write that doesn’t leave me a lot of time to get into the groove. I need to start writing. There is no time to hum and haw about where to begin. I simply need to begin.
Arguably in four scattered fifteen-minute writing sessions, I will probably get more words down on a page than in a 1-hour session, simply because of the urgency, I placed on myself. This had led me to the hypothesis that perhaps writing a first draft should best be done in a series of spurts, rather than one long marathon. This is an experiment I am curious to perform.
There May Never Be An Ideal Time to Write
What I’ve discovered through these past few years as my time has been segmented and divided between all the people love and responsibilities and obligations I have is that there will never be a perfect amount of time to write. Just like how there won’t be a perfect amount of time to work out or practice an instrument. If you want to do something, you will need to fit it into your schedule. It doesn’t mean you can’t do all the other things in your life, it simply means that when you notice an empty slot in your day — which believe me, if you look, you will find it — take advantage of it. Make the most out of it. Don’t sit there and think about doing it.
Remember, starting is the hardest part. So whenever you think that there is time to write, start. It’s that simple. Open up your project file, scroll down to the spot where you left off, and continue. Do this every time you have a break in your day and eventually, you will chip away at a project that you were waiting for a perfect time to work on.
There is no perfect time. There are no better or worst time. There is only time.
Need ideas for your next writing project, check out this article on how I deal with too many ideas.
25 thoughts on “Writing in My 20s vs Writing in My 30s”
So glad I’m not the only one who likes something on in the background while I’m writing! But seriously, time is so precious. It is important to set time aside for what you really want to do. Thanks for confirmation that I’m not the only one that struggles with this.
Glad this resonated, Kerry. Life happens and we simply need to adjust. Few hours here and there adds up. Keep at it.
You’ve done the three-day novel writing challenge three times!!! You’re my hero. I’ve thought about before, but considering the one Nanowrimo I wrote 50K in a month took two months to recover from, I’m not sure i have the chops for three days, lol. 🙂 I usually do the scattered periods of writing throughout the day, too. Sometimes I do it in 1-hour blocks, or sometimes I aim for 250 or 400 words and then take a break to do something else.
I think it’s Eugene O’Neil who said, “Writing is my vacation from life.” I thought that way about the 3-day writing contest. Finally, a vacation! But then you know how they also say, “I need a vacation after my vacation.” That is true as well. I really recommend giving it a shot. But you do need to disappear from your regular life during those 3 days.
And so cool you’re in Van. I used to live there. I’m in Winnipeg at the moment.
This was an interesting video and blog post. I’ve gotten into the habit that I have to write every morning so for me, it’s like brushing my teeth. I do it every morning, with my coffee, no matter what. And if for some reason I can’t do it or I missed my morning time — I am thinking about it all day, just as if I “forgot” to brush my teeth. Truth is, it never happens. I never forget to brush my teeth or write. I love what you wrote because it implies the need to find the time and yes, PRIORITIES! If you want to write, you will make it a priority for sure!
I believe good habits are as hard to break as bad habits. It’s all about getting it to stick. Good job on incorporating it into your coffee time. There is nothing like coffee and writing 😀
I can really relate to this.
There are a lot of things we must do (like work, and a certain amount of household chores), and there are things we need to do for our own happiness and well being (socialize, have fun), and while I believe that “simply writing” is easy, writing or editing something into a quality piece can require a lot of mental energy.
Don’t get me wrong, I believe in continuing to try, but I think there’s an underlying question that has to be addressed.
Some people prefer an all or nothing strategy, where they put everything they have into making a breakthrough, with the understanding that if they don’t break through by a certain deadline (6 months, a year, etc.) then that’s that. They fold up that dream and turn their attention to something else.
Others (myself included) prefer to keep at it, spending what little time we can scrape together to study and practice (after work, when people are busy, etc.).
Of course, learning to write when I’m tired and worn could also have merit. After all, if writing became part of my professional life, I would need to write consistently, even during times where I don’t feel 100%, or anywhere near.
At the end of the day, I think it comes down to a simple choice: do I want to keep working on writing, and how much time and effort do I want to dedicate to it?
It’s a very personal question, and I think everyone has to strike their own balance. Too little and I start getting restless and frustrated, hungry for more. Push myself too hard, and I risk burnout, and resentment.
All I can do is try, and recognize that the rest is out of my hands.
Glad this is relatable, Adam.
Writing is not easy, but editing is much harder. I don’t believe I can edit in 15 minutes daily spurts. You are right, to make anything high quality there needs to be some level of deep, focused work. Another good point with the questions we need to ask ourselves. Once we have the first draft, we need to ask ourselves, how much do we love this? Should we follow through and make this the best it can be? Should we polish it? When will it be ready? Should we get others to read it? It is indeed a personal question… and there is nothing wrong with writing simply to take yourself through that first draft journey. It can be for fun and work can be for work. And who knows what might happen from there. But it needs to be written first.
I used to write for a good few hours when my daughter was at school until my 1 year old came along last year. I have had to reassess my free time and cut back on my daily word count target, but as long as I’m still writing, I am happy.
Happy to hear that! Keep writing and surely those few hours will come back soon.
When I worked, I always wrote during my lunch break. It was my only writing time. Having too much time can be a curse as well. 🙂
Anna from elements of emaginette
Lunch breaks are the most productive hours of my day. I agree with too much time being a curse. Without a deadline, a project is often doomed.
As a mom, I can see myself in this post. Finding the few minutes every day where it’s quiet enough to work isn’t easy. I find it better to write with a show (my preference is FRIENDS) in the background than my kids asking me for a snack every ten minutes. I think I will take the advice here and squeeze in where I can. I have found that the notepad on my phone is amazing for transcribing. Pick a spot you left off on in the document, and write wherever you can on the notepad. Funny how we’re always trying to find new ways to get the words in.
Oh thanks for this comment, it reminded me of another thing I do now and then. This is especially when I have a random idea. Instead of writing it on a notepad on my phone, I send myself a text message or on some messaging app. It becomes a conversation with myself. Like something exciting just happened. I need to text myself and let future me know! It’s kind of crazy, but it works for capturing ideas or lines or even story titles that pop into my head.
I’ve honestly not looked at how my writing process has changed over the years. It’s a great idea; I remember being a lot more productive and having more of a community to write for and to than I do now. If anything, my life has slowed down a lot (I’m disabled now so I spend a lot of time at home, although that is not to say I have a lot of free time, just that it’s less hectic than it used to be). Makes you think!
I entered the writing game late in life so my process hasn’t had a chance to really evolve in the same way. In theory I have time to write, but it’s more finding the focus and it could be because I do that the time it gives me more space to procrastinate.
Procrastination is indeed a mighty challenge, but once you get started really ride the momentum. 🙂
I’m an old lady compared to you, but you are very wise. There are so many times life’s priorities interfere with writing time, but those of us who love it find those minutes. This was a great post.
Thanks for the kind words, Susan.
I’m in my twenties now, so it was really interesting to read this from that perspective. It’s like a brief window into my future. Thankfully, I’m working towards being a librarian, so I should have a decent amount of time to myself, but I’ll keep this advice in my back pocket for when I need it! https://bit.ly/30nJRbv
Enjoy your 20s, it’s a rollercoaster ride. Best of luck on your librarian journey!
I’m so glad to have come across this via the Author Toolbox! Lots of well articulated gems here. I love this first of all: “being busy is lacking priority. If you don’t have time to do something, it is simply because it isn’t a priority.” It can be hard, if you know how effective deep work can be, to settle for those shallower sprints, but you’re absolutely right: “There is no perfect time. There are no better or worst time. There is only time.”
Happy you found this helpful 🙂