It’s definitely tough. We tend to operate by a prioritized set of tasks, even if we don’t have them written down and officially scheduled somewhere.
The key here is to develop a habit of consistency.
Start by setting your alarm clock a little earlier. It sucks, you’ll have to fight sometimes, but get up, every time. Start by making that a habit first.
Spend the extra time writing in whatever way is comfortable to you — using a laptop, scribbling on a legal pad, dictating into your smartphone. You do you. But the target is to put some words on a page every day.
Pick a metric. Words per session, pages per day, minutes or hours spent writing, scenes or chapters completed. The only thing that matters is that you pick something that gets you excited and that you will stick to consistently. Whatever your metric, apply it every day. EVERY. DAY.
Want days off? Fine. Take them. Take the weekend, if you need it. But my advice is to make yourself get up at the same time anyway, write anyway, and then allow yourself naps or other relaxation on your “days off.” It’s perfectly possible to write every day and still be on vacation. You brush your teeth every day, you shower every day, you make meals for your family every day. This is one more self-maintenance task you can do every day, if you decide it’s a part of your life.
You can ignore this advice if you want, it’s ok. I’m giving you a path that I know will work for maybe 98% of writers, to completely make up a statistic. But you asked how to find the time. This is how you find it.
Allow yourself to feel satisfied when you hit your target (that metric we talked about). CELEBRATE when you blow the target out of the water. If you aim for 500 words per day, celebrate when you hit 2,000 in a day. Reward yourself for achieving more than your goals and you’ll start to train yourself to hit bigger goals (and thus make faster progress).
Forget about whether the writing is “good.” It’s good. It’s coming from you, isn’t it? It may need polish and it may need editing and updating and tweaking and revision and … it’s ok. It’s good. Write, and then come back later to fix anything that’s wrong.
Use “looping.” Write without editing until you hit a target (Dean Wesley Smith does this in 500-word runs, but you can use any metric that works for you), and then loop back to edit what you wrote. Then keep going. Write another 500 words (or whatever is comfortable to you), loop back, edit, feed on that momentum and write more.
Acknowledge your consistency, and celebrate when you’ve blown up your target, remember?
All of the above is good advice, but it all starts with one tiny bit of discipline that is 100% under your control: Be consistent.
Even if you think the story sucks. Even if you have no idea where it’s going. Even if you spent hours crafting an outline and now you feel like you want to go in a whole new direction. Even if you cry because it’s hard. Even if you yawn because it’s boring. Even if you had an emergency three days ago and it has eaten your life and prevented you from getting to the page. Be consistent, even though.
It’s ok to skip days, if you come right back to it at the very first opportunity. But take my advice: Don’t skip. Just because it’s ok doesn’t mean it’s good for you. You’ll have to start over. It’ll hurt more. You’ll lose momentum. You’ll be more likely to drop out and quit.
If it helps, think of time as what it is: A theoretical construct. Time isn’t real. It isn’t an actual thing. It’s a perception. That’s why you can have two clocks, perfectly in sync, and launch one into space and keep the other on the ground, and they’ll fall out of sync. Time for the astronaut is different than time for the shepherd. Time is relative (just ask Einstein). It’s something we made up to explain the universe to ourselves.
You make time, in other words. Time is something you make up as you go.
If you really want to do this (and I highly recommend it — it’s the most powerful thing in the world, to write and publish), then you’ll make the time you need. It’s that easy and that impossible. And you can do it if you’re just disciplined enough to be consistent.
Go write, and write consistently.