The busy holiday season will steal your writing time. Sure, there’s a post-it note reminder on your calendar, or a big chunk of time blocked off on your Google calendar, but those are easily looked over when visiting Aunt Nancy can’t work the shower or when your daughter admits she forget to tell you about five dozen cookies that she’s supposed to bring to school tomorrow.
The holidays are a time of “giving,” but as writer, you must take a bit of time for your craft. Where do you find this time amongst all the bustle?
Let me introduce you to the magic of odd time.
Odd time (also called odd-lot time) are those moments where other tasks aren’t usually possible. Commuting to work, flying on an airplane, settling in for bed, microwaving your lunch—all these odd moments that occur throughout the day that usually leave us standing still and staring into space.
I hereby give you permission to steal these moments to write, even during the busiest of times.
Ideas to Unleash the Power of Odd Time
- Get a notebook that fits in your pocket or purse and carry it with your favorite pen or pencil. Never leave home without it. Tech wizards can also use a Notes app on their smartphone. You can’t take advantage of odd time if you have nothing to write on.
- Write during a public transportation commute. Bestselling author Scott Turow wrote his first legal thriller with only the time in which he commuted to Manhattan.
- At work, stop eating lunch 15 minutes earlier. Whether you’re out to eat or heating up steak in the staffroom, devote 15 minutes of your lunch break to writing.
- Wake up or go to bed 15 minutes earlier. Take this time, with the bedroom door closed, to write. If you have infants or small children who may interrupt, ask if a partner, roommate, or relative can agree to tend to any needs that occur during this time. Most people can be generous for 15 minutes.
- Ditch Facebook. If you have a moment to scan Facebook, that’s a moment you could be writing. On the subway, at the laundromat, or while dinner’s cooking—steal these minutes for just one more sentence written in your notebook.
- Listen to writing podcasts. Whether you’re running errands in the car or riding on the subway, listening to writing podcasts can help you improve your craft when you’d otherwise be belting out 80’s Pop Songs. Check out my previous post on the Best Writing Podcasts to Boost Your Craft.
- Know that your writing is a priority. There are many demands on our time, especially during the holidays. Others may not always understand the importance of writing every single day. You understand, however, and may need to uphold your writing practice as a priority within your family and work life. If you don’t, you’ll be the one to suffer. We all know the discomfort of having a story stuffed in the brain but not written out on paper.
As each person’s schedule and obligations are unique, you can identify more odd time by keeping a time journal for one week. Record all of your activities and the time it takes to do them. With one week’s worth of data, look back over your time. Where was odd time that you could capitalize on? Are there other tasks you could shorten to allow for a quick writing burst? Do you really, really, really need to do all of that holiday shopping? Couldn’t you steal 30 minutes or so in the mall parking lot?
In the end, establishing your writing time as a priority is up to you. Be realistic with your goals, find at least 15 minutes to write each day, and have fun within the wild world of your writer’s imagination!