How to Make Time to Practice Writing Every Day

practice writing

Practice writing to become a true master of the craft.

By now, most of you have heard of the 10,000-hour rule, which was made famous in the book Outliers. The rule states that in order to become an expert at something, you need to put in 10,000 hours of practice.

In other words, a master writer has already spent 10,000 hours writing.

Working at it for 40 hours per week, it would take 250 weeks (or almost five years) to become an expert. If you can only spend half that time, or 20 hours per week, on your craft, it would take ten years to master. For people with busy lives and responsibilities (like full-time jobs and families to care for), it could take a couple of decades to master the craft of writing.

And why shouldn’t it? After all, an expert is someone who has put in the time to become proficient. And while some writers are born with talent, which gives them an advantage (maybe they only need 8,000 hours of practice to become an expert), even the most talented among us must practice writing in order to become true wizards of word craft.




Tips to Help You Practice Writing Every Day

These days, we’re all crunched for time. You’d think technology would give us more time for leisure and personal pursuits, but it seems to have the opposite effect. The world just keeps getting busier and busier.

Finding time to practice writing might seem like an impossibility, but if you know where to look, you’ll find precious pockets of minutes and hours that you can use to your advantage.

  1. Write in the morning. Many accomplished writers have done their work in the wee hours before dawn. This might cut into your beauty rest, but it’s a small sacrifice to make. Get up 30-60 minutes earlier each day and use the time to practice writing.
  2. Write during breaks and meals. The ideal mealtime is spent eating, not nibbling your food between sentences. But if your schedule is jam packed, you might find that a couple of ten-minute breaks and a lunch hour each day add up quite nicely over the course of a year.
  3. Make a trade: Give up your favorite TV show, your knitting club, or weekend parties. Somewhere in your leisure time, it’s likely you’ll find something less important than writing. And when you find it, make the trade. Scale back on your hobbies and focus on your passion.
  4. Balance the necessities. There are things we all need to do: clean, exercise, prepare and eat meals. But if you’re spending ten hours a week cleaning the house, you can probably put up with a little extra dust and give two of those hours over to your writing practice. Make bigger meals and serve leftovers a couple nights of week. Go to the gym five days instead of seven. You’ve just carved out a few hours for your writing.
  5. Multi-tasking. It’s impossible for most of us to write while we’re doing other things, but we can certainly plot and plan while we’re cooking, showering, and commuting. While it’s not technically writing, planning a project is an integral step in the writing process.
  6. Speaking of multi-tasking, don’t forget to read. Nothing will improve your writing more quickly or thoroughly than prolific reading. And while you may not be able to ogle at a book while you’re busy with other tasks, you can certainly listen to audiobooks while you’re driving, bathing, cooking, and cleaning.
  7. Be a night writer. I always find my best (and most sacred) writing time late at night, just before I go to sleep. If you can stay awake an extra 30-60 minutes each night, you could get quite a bit of writing done in a week.

It’s Your Time: Use it to Practice Writing

Not every writer strives to be a master writer. Some just want to get published or eke out a living. But most writers strive to produce better writing over time, and the only way to do that is to practice writing as much as possible.

I think the 10,000-hour rule is a good one, although I doubt it’s 100% accurate for all of us. Some will need to put in 12,000 hours before they can produce a masterpiece. Others may only need to invest 8,000 hours to become true experts at the craft.

And while perfection is, as always, an impossible dream, we can certainly do our best to make our writing as close to perfect as we can, each in our own time and in the way that best suits us. Well, you know the saying: practice makes perfect. So what are you waiting for? Go practice writing!

10 Core Practices for Better Writing

About Melissa Donovan
Melissa Donovan is a website designer and copywriter. She writes fiction and poetry and is the founder and editor of Writing Forward, a blog packed with creative writing tips and ideas.

Comments

22 Responses to “How to Make Time to Practice Writing Every Day”

  1. Sarah Allen says:

    Such great ideas here. I’ve heard this rule before. I figure I’m just going to keep at it until something good happens 🙂

    Sarah Allen

  2. Linda says:

    Excellent tips. Thanks for today’s inspiration.

    Linda

  3. Kristy @PampersandPinot says:

    It really takes making a conscious effort to carve out some time. I am always amazed at how much better I write, even just compared to the year before!

    • I’m always struck by how much my writing has improved over the years. On the other hand, sometimes I read essays, stories, and poems that I wrote when I was much younger and am surprised at how good they are. It really is important to prioritize writing (if you’re serious about it) and make time for it every day 🙂

  4. Yvonne Root says:

    As always Melissa, you’ve given great advice and information.

    On this point,

    “Make a trade: your favorite TV show, your knitting club, weekend parties. Somewhere in your leisure time, it’s quite possible you’ll find something less important than writing. And when you find it, make the trade. Scale back on your hobbies and focus on your passion,”

    I would add — stop playing Angry Birds, Tetrus, Spider Solitaire or other time wasting self-absorbed game.

    And, yes, I’ve found myself wasting tons of time on those or other games when I could be writing. 😉

    • Ah, thanks for adding computer games to the mix, Yvonne. I rarely play them these days, so I forgot to include them in the list, but they definitely warrant a mention.

  5. Shyxter says:

    I totally agree that to be good in the craft of writing, a writer must make writing a regular habit. Practice makes perfect. There is no question on that. For me, I find the early mornings to be my best time for writing. I feel so peaceful and relaxed during this time of the day. Waking up earlier was really a struggle for me at first but when my body and mind got used to it, it became natural for me :))

    • I have always wished that I was a morning writer, but my creativity reaches its peak late at night. I definitely agree that daily writing is essential. We don’t necessarily have to write the same thing every day (or work on the same project) but to spend some time writing each day makes a huge difference.

  6. Monica says:

    Thanks for this article. It’s hard to find time to write every day, but I know it’ll be worth it since it’ll help build my writing chops. As a novice, I’m always looking for tips.

  7. Faaiza says:

    I’m usualy a silent reader here. Still figuring out what exactly I want to write… I was wondering where do you write, I mean what nedium do you use, computer, typewriter, paper, iPad ? I love writing with a pen but again on any electronic medium I don’t have to worry about my pathetic spelling mistakes. 🙂

    • It depends what I’m writing. I usually brainstorm, do freewrites, and write poetry in a paper notebook. I do my blog posts and copywriting on the computer. I don’t use a typewriter, iPad, or smart phone for writing. However, I don’t have an iPad, so I’m not sure how comfortable it would be for me. I will make notes on my phone if I get an idea that I want to remember. With regard to spelling mistakes, I would say that if you’re more comfortable using pen and paper, you can worry about the spelling mistakes when you transfer your work to the computer, which is something you’ll have to do in order to submit or publish it. Great question, Faaiza!

  8. Ilse Watson says:

    Fantastic tips and I’m so glad I found this blog (site) today. I’m going to explore more of your articles. Thank you, I’m inspired again to write every day – practice every day and do some of your suggested writing prompts.
    Kind regards
    Ilse

  9. Kate says:

    I love when people refrence the works of Malcom Gladwell.

  10. Marcy McKay says:

    Wonderful tips, Melissa. One that I might respectfully add as a writer – wife – mom is DELEGATE. My precious children do a LAME job of unloading the dishwasher (meaning they don’t put everything up in the perfect spots for everything), but them doing a LAME job at it is 15 more minutes for me to write. Delegate more household chores and you can squeeze out at least another 60-90 minutes per week. You just have to give up your perfectionism.

  11. AnnB says:

    You and others have mentioned making notes at various opportune times. I am having a hard time getting into that habit, mostly I think because I’m afraid they will all become disorganized and somewhat useless. I’ve seen movies where writers will scribble on anything from an index card to a matchbook cover. It seems I am engrained in keeping my notes and ideas in my head which I realize is risky. Are there any suggestions that might help. Thanks. I am waiting for 10 Core Practices to arrive in the mail next week.

    • The trick is to develop a system for note-taking. If you carry a smart phone, you can use a text application for your notes (on the iPhone, you can use Notes or Evernote), and they will all be stored in one convenient location that is also accessible via the cloud. Another option is to jot down those notes wherever you can and set aside a few minutes each week to type them and file them on your computer. Yet another approach is to designate a single notebook (or app) that you keep with you at all times or create a document on your computer (“writing ideas”) so all your random thoughts and ideas are in one place.

      As you take material from these notes and move the material into a project, you can check them or cross them off or simply copy and paste an idea from your “writing ideas” document to your project document.

      I also included a writing exercise in 101 Creative Writing Exercises where you create a vessel for your ideas–a box, a jar, or some other container. You write your ideas on index cards and scrap paper (or matchbooks!) and drop them in the vessel. You can either go through and organize it periodically or use it as an exercise repository where you pull out an idea randomly and tackle it.

      The idea is to figure out which system would work best for your style of thinking, writing, and productivity. Good luck!