I am thrilled to feature a guest post by author Alyssa Palombo! Alyssa took readers by storm with her debut novel, The Violinist of Venice, when it was released last year and received wonderful praise and review attention from people and places like Roberta Rich, Shelf Awareness, Romantic Times, and more. Alyssa has a gift for writing revisionist history novels and asking “what if” about major historical figures.
Her new novel, The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence: A Story of Botticelli (St. Martin’s Griffin), is out this month. Without further delay, here’s Alyssa’s guest post…
Tips for Making the Time to Write
By Alyssa Palombo
As a writer who also has a full-time day job, a question I get a lot from readers and even family/friends/acquaintances is “How do you find the time to write?” My usual reply is that I don’t find the time, I make the time. I don’t have any more hours in the day than anyone else, and have the same things competing for my time as everyone else does: work, friends, family, laundry, errands, the desire to lie on the couch and binge-watch Netflix, etc. So it really does take a concerted effort to make the time to write, some days more than others. Writing is absolutely my favorite thing in the world to do, but that doesn’t always mean that fitting it into my day is easy. Below are some tips and strategies that I’ve found helpful in carving out my writing time, and I hope you find them useful as well!
- Designate a chunk of time as writing time and stick to it. I usually look at my upcoming week and whatever days I don’t have something scheduled to do after work I generally block off as an evening when I’m going to come home and write. Then, unless something urgent comes up, I don’t let myself make other plans so I can count on those hours as writing time. This may mean saying no to hanging out with friends or going to an event, but you’ve got to protect that writing time. As the great Lin-Manuel Miranda has said, “You’ll have to say no to things to say yes to your work, but it will be worth it”.
- Write on your lunch break. If you’re like me and also work a full-time job, then you get a certain amount of break time during the day. When I’m really rolling on a project I will bring my laptop to work with me, eat at my desk, then spend my break writing. On the surface, writing for a half-hour break almost doesn’t seem like enough time to be worth it, but let me tell you, those half-hour chunks really add up. I wrote quite a lot of The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence that way.
- Discern at what time of day you are most productive. Some people, bless them, get up super early in the morning and write before work. My brain doesn’t function at such hours, nor can I really write late into the night anymore (like I used to do in college after all my homework was done). My best writing time, I’ve found, is the few hours after dinner. It gives me time to write 1k-2k words and still unwind with some reading or TV before bed. I also write on weekend days when I don’t have other plans – especially Sunday afternoons.
- Go on a writing retreat. I highly recommend this if you have the time and money to do so. Last summer I took two days off from work for a long weekend away by myself, where I holed up in a hotel room with a nice view, my laptop, and lots of wine and snacks and hammered out the rest of the work-in-progress I was working on at the time. It was immeasurably helpful to get away and be able to immerse myself in the story without interruption, and I’ve done it again since and will do it in the future. Lots of writers also do group retreats, with everyone pitching in to rent a house or cottage and spending a few days writing together.
- Write in a new location. Similar to the retreat idea, try getting out of your house or apartment and writing in a café or bookstore. Sometimes when I write at home I get distracted by household tasks, the dog, that thing I forgot to pick up at the grocery store, etc. By the time I’ve attended to all these things I realize the time I’ve allotted for writing is gone. When I’m outside the house I find these distractions are much fewer, so if you’ve got an hour or two consider taking your writing on the road.
- Daydream. Whether it be on your commute or waiting in line at the grocery store or anything in between, keep thinking about your work-in-progress; listen to your characters talk to one another and dream up new scenes. This is work you can do when you can’t be at your desk writing and is very helpful in laying the groundwork ahead of time for what you want to get done during your next writing session. Something else I do is make playlists for all my works-in-progress, and I listen to them while I’m at my day job. This helps me keep my head in the game when I’m not writing.
Alyssa Palombo is the author of The Violins of Venice and The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence: A Story of Botticelli. She has published short fiction pieces in Black Lantern Magazine and The Great Lakes Review. She is a recent graduate of Canisius College with degrees in English and creative writing, respectively. A passionate music lover, she is a classically trained musician as well as a big fan of heavy metal. She lives in Buffalo, New York.