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Hemingway's TypewriterI’ve heard it a million times: “I can’t find time to write.” Often, that was me speaking. To some extent it still is me, though it lacks the credibility it had back when I was working a full-time consulting job (with commute). Somehow even with the consulting long in the past I’ve still managed to fill my daily calendar with activities that keep me “too busy to write.” The first part is a good thing; I suspect it will be many years before I get bored. The second part is getting harder and harder to say with a straight face.

Being busy is different now, of course. I actually do a lot of writing, so I suppose “too busy to write” depends on identifying what writing should be getting priority. I have my author’s website, this creative writing blog, and a science policy blog that I contribute to more or less regularly. I also write periodically for several newsletters, including one focused on science and two focused on Abraham Lincoln. I’m also now working on an ebook, a publisher-contracted book, a book proposal, and a half dozen other book ideas. All told, these add up to a lot of writing.

So it isn’t so much “too busy to write” as it is “writing so much I can’t write all the other things I want to write.”

Which gets us to prioritization and routine.

Prioritization is critical. What needs to be written now? This is a complicated topic so I’ll go into it more in the future.

But if prioritization is critical, developing a writing routine is essential. In “On Writing,” Stephen King notes that his routine is to sit down in the morning and write 2000 words. If it takes him an hour he has the rest of the day to do whatever else he wants to do. If it takes him all day, it takes him all day. Either way he produces 2000 words every single day. Ernest Hemingway’s routine was by the clock – up at 6 am and write until 12 noon – which usually produced about 500-700 words a day.

Whether you set your routine by number of words a day or by time of day, the important thing is to have the routine. Start with 15 minutes at 10 am every day if that works for you, or you’ll write from 10 pm to midnight, or start writing at 6 am until you have 1000 words. The key is to choose a routine that works for you and that you can stick to – then stick to it without excuses.

If you can’t figure out how to come up with 15 minutes or 1 hour or 500 words a day, try recording how much time you spend on Facebook or Candy Crush each day. Eliminate that. You now have plenty of time to write.

© David J. Kent 2015

David J. Kent (David K) is the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity and Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time. His next book is on Thomas Edison, due in 2016.

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