Updated: Jan 22
Have you ever experienced a time in your life when you just could not find the time to sit down at the computer and get to write? Now, I don’t mean a dry time where the ideas won’t come or the words stall at your fingertips. No, I mean a time when the stories plagued you night and day to be freed from your mind and alive on the page. The only problem is that you couldn’t find a spare moment to be alone with your computer to lay out the story.
You’re not alone.
I had this happen to me after my first son was born. While I was breastfeeding, I would read from the Kindle my husband had just given me. He saw me laboring with breastfeeding the baby and trying to read one of the Harry Potter tomes. For the sake of my sanity and to prevent brain injury to our son, he bought me the Kindle. I went from hating e-readers (and their lack of proper bookish smell) to loving the fact I could still read with my little one night or day. The unexpected outcome of being able to read voraciously again was that the wells of my imagination were suddenly full again.
I was ready to write.
But I couldn’t because there’s no way to type on a laptop while breastfeeding (again brain injury possibilities), and my little guy seemed to think the only place to take proper sleep was right with his mommy. I had a bit of an epiphany as I stared at my Kindle beside the recliner.
If I could learn to love my non-bookish smelling e-reader, if I could learn to read in a new way, I could definitely learn to write in a different way.
Now, you may not be a mom or even a parent, but maybe you are like me in having to find some way to release the story from your brain. No matter the reasons or circumstances, there is still hope for getting those words down. Here are my top hacks for writing wherever you are.
So many tell us that we must have write daily, at the same time every day, in the same place every day, etc. There’s good reason for that. Having the habit to do anything repeatedly will make you better at whatever you set your hands to.
But writing is not a one-size-fits-all kind of craft.
Do we need to write regularly? Absolutely. But your regularly and my regularly may not be the same, especially in this season of fluidity. I’m here to tell you to just get the writing in whenever you can. Squeeze it in during nap time or while waiting at a doctor’s visit or while you’re waiting for hours in the pickup line at school (safely of course). At work? Have a system that allows you to write on your break. In short, get it in where it fits in. All those little snippets of time add up. There’s a reason why writing sprints are a big thing during NaNoWriMo.
But part of this shift in mindset is also grace. If you don’t hit your goals or feel like you just can’t get more than a sentence down, give yourself grace. This is just a season that will pass. You will undoubtedly return to a normal schedule in the future, but for now, please, be gentle with yourself. Writing shouldn’t become a burden: it should be an unburdening.
Writing Space and Background Noise
One of the hardest things to get used to was not having a quiet room to write in. As an inexperienced writer, I had to teach myself to write with a noisy family. As a writing mom, I had to learn to write whenever the opportunity presented itself. My writing space has never been an ideal scenario. Yours may not be either. Again, this is where mindset will come into play. Get it in where it fits in.
My trick is simple: headphones and selective hearing. (Thank you for the life lesson, Dad.) Headphones, however, really help me focus, even when I’m alone. I like to listen to ambient noises or instrumental music. Anything with lyrics is majorly distracting for me because I love to sing along. But, listening to music through my headphones means that I can sit in the living room with my family while they watch TV and get writing time in while still snuggling with my little ones.
New modes of writing
Each item I suggest is not a one-size-fits-all kind of deal. The devices and technology you use may need to change a bit. As with any new habit or new way of doing things, there’s an adjustment period. Here’s the cool thing: after implementing these changes and a flexibility mindset, you’ll find that writing can happen anywhere.
Try a notebook and pen. I used this a lot when I worked retail and before I bought a smartphone.
Pros: No new tech that you have to learn. Plus, when you type up your drafts, you tend to do a bit of light editing as you go. It’s also portable depending on the size of your notebook and never runs out of battery.
Cons: You have to type everything into a computer later. It’s slower when the ideas are flowing. If you lose your notebook, that’s your only copy unless you have typed up your draft into the computer.
This is one of those suggestions that works well in combination with my next one. Also, it’s arguably the fastest way to write, especially if you have the proper software to transcribe your work. I have done this whilst doing the dishes. It takes practice. For me, I need to see the words and punctuation.
Pros: Fastest way to write. You can use a voice recorder or a cellphone, which could be done almost anywhere. Speaking your story helps your writing have a natural cadence or rhythm.
Cons: Learning curve (it feels unnatural at first). There are commands that you would need to integrate into your dictation to add in punctuation or paragraphs; otherwise, you’d have quite a bit to edit afterward. Dictation/transcription software is required, and anything beyond your speech-to-text feature on your phone is not free.
For me, this was the way to go. I was already accustomed to typing on my phone, so I researched my favorite writing app on my computer (Scrivener) and found that they had a mobile version. I also had to research how to make sure my novels updated on both my phone and my laptop, which meant I had to use cloud storage (Dropbox). I did not want to have to copy and paste each update into the computer (been there done that), so having my files saved on Dropbox (and Scrivener’s backup feature saving to my laptop’s hard drive) meant my files would be up-to-date on all of my devices. I merely had to sync the files to the cloud before switching between devices.
Pros: This method was the closest to seamless that I could find. If you have a smartphone, you’re already using that device regularly enough to where this idea won’t require too much of a learning curve. You could use whichever platform works best for you. GoogleDocs is another good one that has both the storage and the syncing automatically done for you. I just happen to love Scrivener. Also, because many phones have speech-to-text integrated already, you could use that dictation feature straight into your file.
Cons: You’ll need to research which apps are available to you as well as cloud storage. Also, the keyboard on most smartphones is small as is the screen, so there is strain on your body (just like with too much typing at a keyboard).
If you walk away with one thing, it's to find your own groove. Tweaking a few things can go a long way toward getting your writing fix. And don't forget: extend yourself some grace as you go through this season. It won't last forever. When you come out the other side, you might just find some tricks along the way to make your writing process more efficient.