I've done a series of posts on lessons I've learned from NaNoWriMo and this post was almost part of that series. But NaNoWriMo didn't teach me about finding the time to write, it just gave me an opportunity to prove I could. It can be difficult, as an adult with a full-time job and responsibilities, to find the time to write. My free time is precious and in short supply, as I am sure that yours is too. During November, I built a writing practice, got in the habit of writing every day. However, like any habit, it is something which needs to be practiced with consistency and commitment.
While committing to a daily writing practice helped me, trying to force myself to adhere to a strict schedule was counterproductive. Maybe you are one of those people who gets up at 5:00am ready to take on the world and you knock out your writing before you even get to your day job. That's great, but that isn't me. I'm the person who snoozes their alarm six times in the morning. By the time I am awake enough to write, it's time to go to work. I'm a night owl instead. I need to take some time to unwind after work, eat some dinner, maybe have a glass of wine, then I set to writing. Sometimes I write for 45 minutes, sometimes 2 hours, but the point is I practice putting my butt in the chair and churning out some words.
I've been reading a bunch of books on the craft of writing and, while they may differ in approach, they all agree that you can't improve if you don't practice. Write in the morning, write at night, write on your lunch break. Just find something that works for you and your life. You won't make the progress you want to make if you aren't getting the words down.
That said, the number of words you put down is up to you. Some people write to a set number of words every day and anything beyond that is gravy. Others write for a set amount of time. For me, I try to write for at least 30 minutes, but more important than the number of minutes, I try to push myself to find a stopping point that leaves me excited to pick up again tomorrow. And I do mean tomorrow. If you can take days off without breaking your flow, that's great. Take the mental health day if you need it. Unfortunately, I have a very all or nothing personality. Skipping one day becomes skipping two, then a week, and then I find that I've fallen out of the rhythm of the story. But everyone has a different approach to writing. Play around with your writing practice and see what works for you.
The point, really, is that you do have the time. You just have to prioritize your writing. Even if you work odd hours or have a long commute or a demanding job, you can make the time for anything if you consider it important enough. You are important enough. Your writing is important enough. It felt awkward at first, to prioritize my own work, as if it weren't valid enough to warrant my undivided attention. But my work is valid, even if it isn't published, even if I haven't won any awards. To call yourself writer, you just have to write.