It can be difficult to find big chunks of time to write. No lie. And we can’t sit around waiting for languid days to fall into our laps (otherwise we’d never get any writing done), but sometimes we need more than an hour at a time to write.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this fact, as I am nearing the completion of my novel. I get up every morning to write, but to really get to the finish line, I need some focused hours all strung together. Over the years, I’ve found a few ways to carve out days for writing.
Here they are, in order from cheapest/easiest to most expensive/involved:
1. Cash in a Sick Day
This is probably the easiest way to extend your writing time. You can stretch it even further if you tack that sick day onto a weekend. Then stock up on some canned soup, set the coffee to brew, turn off your phone, and get writing.
2. Borrow a Friend’s House
If you have kids, or roommates, or even a demanding cat, simply taking a sick day may not be enough. To get away from a hectic life for a day, consider which of your friends work a lot, then call and ask if you can crash their place for a day. You’ll need someone who isn’t home for long stretches and is willing to leave a key for you under front mat.
Arrange for someone to pick your kids up from school, tell your roommates not to worry, or leave some extra food out for the cat then go to your friend’s house and write. You may want to stop at Trader Joe’s on the way and buy a few microwave burritos and a bag of cookies to keep you going.
3. Get A Room
My novel is set in the desert, so it’s great when I can get away from Los Angeles for a night or two to write in a hotel room with a window that looks out over the Mojave. The benefits of a hotel room are three-fold:
For starters, you can choose to go to an area where rooms are cheap because it’s not like you’re trying to be within walking distance of Disneyland or something. I’m talking like $60 a night for a not terrible hotel room. Worth every penny.
Second, there are no distractions in a hotel room far from home.
Third, you have time, so you can write a little, nap, write a little more, read something inspiring, write again, then sit on the porch and stare out at the horizon waiting for an idea to come. I really think that’s in important part of writing.
When I do this, I bring enough food and coffee for the whole time, hang the do-not-disturb sign on the knob and hole up like damn hermit. It’s awesome.
4. Go With A Group
Back when I had a writing group that met regularly, we would occasionally find a weekend that worked for all of us and rent a house through AirBnB for a weekend.
My favorite was a weekend we spent in Big Bear. It’s not too far from LA and we got a four bedroom place for pretty cheap (in the off season). We all agreed to more or less ignore each other during the day, hiding out in our rooms writing, and then, come evening, as we each tired out, we would slowly convene in the kitchen.
We cooked dinner together and relaxed over glasses of wine. Then we did it again the next day. It was great writing time AND a fun, relaxing girls’ weekend.
5. Apply for a Retreat
Retreats are awesome. I’ve only ever done one retreat (at Skidmore in New York) and I loved it. Ever since, I’ve been wanting to do it again, but I’ve got two kids now and it’s hard to make the time.
But that’s precisely why retreats are so great: they force you to set aside the time (usually a week is the minimum length of a retreat), and they create an environment designed to foster creativity. However, depending on the retreat, there is a cost associated. Even if the retreat itself is free (which is rare), you have to get yourself there. What’s more, you usually don’t get much say in when you go. Still, totally worth it if you can make it work.
So that’s my list. How do you carve out big chunks of time to write? Do you have a favorite retreat that you would recommend? Do you have a favorite website for finding cheap hotel rooms near you? Do share.