Who doesn’t love weekends? I mean, I sure do. They’re great. You get to go out with friends, watch TV, play videogames, do sports type things, go on dates, and so on and so forth. What about weeknights? Isn’t it great to kick back after a long day at work and read a book, play some videogames, or watch some TV? You bet it is! Of course there’s one problem with all the activities I just listed: where’s the time for writing?

I feel like this a trap a lot of writers (including myself) can easily fall into. We all have friends, social lives, and significant others. We tend to have other hobbies and interests other than just writing. All of those activities, people, and hobbies take up time. So how do you balance all of them and still find time to write? You have to learn to say no.

It’s tough; nobody wants to say no to their friends when they invite you somewhere fun. Nobody wants to force themselves to write on a night after work, when the words just aren’t flowing. But sometimes you have to.

I fell into the bad habit of putting off writing. If it was a weekday I’d tell myself, “Oh I’ll write extra tomorrow” or “Well I can always write a ton on the weekend, so go ahead, watch that episode of Top Chef.” But then it’d be Saturday and I’d get invited to go hang out with friends. I’d tell myself that I had all day Sunday to write, so once again writing would take a backseat to everything else.

Writing is a craft, and it takes practice and dedication to get better at it. I desperately want to get better because I want to get more pieces published, and eventually support myself by writing full-time. I had to take a hard look at how much (or little) time I was devoting to my craft. It was painful to finally acknowledge that I was doing myself a disservice. But in the end, it’s been worth it. Since I realized what I had to do to get better, I’ve been able to make progress on a novel WIP that had been sitting dormant for months as well as begin rough plotting for a new novel.

How do I do it? I say no to fun things. When my coworkers go out to lunch: I say no thanks (Pro tip: always be polite when you decline doing fun things). I spend many of my lunch breaks writing. (Pro tip #2: Dropbox is a lifesaver because I don’t have to take a flashdrive with my most recent WIP to and from work) When I get home I only let myself watch a limited amount of TV and I don’t let myself go to bed before I’ve hit my word count. I write more even if I’ve already hit my word count goal during my lunch break. When it comes to weekends, I try to get my writing done during the day while I’m doing laundry or something rather than just playing videogames.

It isn’t always easy. Laziness is an extremely alluring option. But if I can learn to say no to fun things and activities, you can too. It’s the only way I’m going to improve, hone my craft, and one day get to do the thing I love full time.