Eat Your Words! A Tool to Carve Out Writing Time

by Chris Mandeville

Life is fast-paced and full, and we’re all busy, even during an average month. But during the holiday season, we add all sorts of stuff to an already full schedule, making it particularly difficult to carve out writing time. For some it can be great to put writing aside and enjoy the holidays without the added pressure of finding time to write. If this appeals to you, there’s no guilt or shame in tabling your work for a bit. But if you choose to fit in some writing, or if you have no choice because you’re on a deadline, then you may have to give up something else to make room for writing.

So what do you give up? Spending time with friends and family? Making or purchasing gifts for others? Holiday celebrations?

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[caption: photo by ND Strupler, courtesy of Creative Commons]

I hate giving things up, so instead I try to find a work-around. My favorite is to do two things at the same time. For example, it can be hard to find time to read, but I can’t imagine giving it up. My work-around is to listen to audio books while doing something that I can’t give up, like laundry and dishes. Why not implement the same “double-duty” strategy with writing?

Hmmm, what necessary tasks can I accomplish while writing?

As I mentioned in my last blog post, some writers dictate stories while they hike or exercise. That’s a great way to combine writing with another activity, but I don’t dictate (or hike or exercise) so that’s not an option for me. I need to find an activity I can do while I type. That means I can’t double-up writing with shopping, household chores, driving, or anything else that requires use of my hands. So what does that leave?

Mealtime.

Yep, everyone stops at some point during the day to eat. Some people even do this three times a day. Could it work to write while I eat? I gave it a try, and yes! I can eat and type at the same time. Granted I am not able to type continuously unless I hook up one of those beer-dispensing hats and fill it with a “protein shake.”

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[caption: photo by Martin Locraft, courtesy of Creative Commons]

But let’s face it: there are only so many times that drinking my dinner will be awesome. Fortunately I’ve found that I can eat solid food while I write if I pause for just a moment to fork in a bite, and then type while I chew.

By using one mealtime each day to write, I can usually rack up a respectable word count over the course of a week. But even if I only manage to write a few hundred words, that’s a whole lot better than a “zero” word count.

So during this busy holiday season, here’s my gift to you: have your cake and eat it too.

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[caption: photo by Jeffrey W, courtesy of Creative Commons]

In other words, when you have no other time to write, make mealtime do double-duty.  Simply excuse yourself from the family table at dinner, or spend your lunch hour alone in your office, and write while you eat.

A bonus tip:

If you’re normally the one preparing your meal, you can gain even more writing time by ordering in, reheating leftovers, or microwaving a frozen dinner.

Here’s to a happy and productive holiday season! I’ll be back in the new year with more tips and tools for writing. In the meantime, eat your words!

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Chris Mandeville writes science fiction and fantasy, as well as nonfiction for writers. Her books include Seeds: a post-apocalyptic adventure and 52 Ways to Get Unstuck: Exercises to Break Through Writer’s Block. You can find out more about her at chrismandeville.com

Photo by Jared Hagan

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