On Making Time to Write

You may have noticed that I haven't posted on this blog since before Thanksgiving. I have had a myriad of obligations keeping me away - I was sick, there was the holiday, I got very busy with some freelance editing work, and I was asked by my agent for some revisions to a manuscript.

But through it all - sickness, editing, revisions - I still spent SOME time every day writing. Yes, revisions count as writing, but in this case, since I'd already started a new work-in-progress, I felt that I needed to keep working steadily on that draft. So as I pondered this neglected blog, I realized a perfect topic for a post would be how to make time for writing when you can't seem to make time for anything else.

(This will be a short post; as you know, I SWAMPED!)

1.) Decide that your "writing career" is your first priority. This may sound like an impossible dream, and if you make sure the laundry hamper is never overflowing or that every PTA meeting is attended, then, yes, it will be an impossible dream. I use the word "priority" because priorities are our own choices. Granted, that day job that expects your attendance isn't a negotiable priority, but the laundry, the dusting, the PTA meetings - they all need to be weighed against your need to write. Sometimes, you just have to let the hamper overflow for one more day. That's a decision you are entitled to make, because you are a writer.

2.) Make sure that your family understands that writers can't spend all their time in the kitchen or the family room. This is one of the toughest ones for me to follow. When my husband comes home, sometimes he wants to watch TV. (Shocking, I know!) Depending on the program, in some cases he'll watch with the set on "mute" so I can work. Other times, I pick up the laptop and retreat to the bedroom to work. Does this make me feel like a bad wife? Sometimes it does. Sometimes I think I should be more attentive to my spouse. But when my son has homework to do, I don't feel "neglected" because he retreats to his bedroom to get away from the TV. After all, homework is a priority. So is my writing.

3.) Learn to work in short bursts. Every one of us would love to have eight uninterrupted hours to spend getting that problematic chapter just right. Unfortunately, sometimes thirty minutes is all you can steal from the day. One way to get the most out of that thirty minutes is to think about your writing even when you are not actually writing. That way you don't spend the first half of your thirty minutes figuring out where you left off. Keep your novel in your head. Work through that plot twist while you fill the dishwasher. Then, head to the computer, and get a full thirty minutes of meaningful work done. It may not seem like much, but you have moved the manuscript forward.

What methods do you use to carve out a piece of your life to write? Please share them in the comments!


  1. Great post, Julie! Learning to work in short bursts is key, I think! I actually find that I am more productive if I only have a limited number of hours to work, as opposed to the whole day.

  2. Point #3 is such a good lesson--especially writing when you're not writing. A lot of the nonnegotiables you're up against as mentioned point #1 aren't necessarily so contentious if you think of sorting the laundry or working out as time to hash out character development or tweak a plot twist.

    Point #1 is really hard for me--I tend to feel guilty if I don't keep up on the things I expect myself to keep up on (like cleaning and homemade dinner every day--who am I, Donna Reed?). I have to learn to own it :)

  3. @Lo - I always think I want the whole day to write, but, like you, I'm better under pressure. Have you ever noticed that often you get the same amount of writing done, whether you have four hours or just two? I think I spend a lot of time "thinking" about the plot. I'm more of a "planner" than a "pantser." :) Thanks for the comment!

  4. @Rowenna - I'm so glad you liked #3! I forgot to mention time in the shower! ;) I think through my plot a lot in there!
    As for #1, I just made a decision one day that I'd rather be remembered for my books than for how clean my house was. :) Thanks for your comment!

  5. Great post, busy woman! And good luck with the continuing revision. Yep, I've learned to write in even small snippets of time--tho I prefer longer, because I just get into the "flow" of the scene and have to quit, otherwise.

    I need to make sure I do my writing BEFORE my social networking though, because I want to write when I'm fresher. Working on that!

  6. @Carol - I had to smile at what you said about "social networking." I'm sure you've seen the quote going around on twitter - "Writing is 3% talent and 97% staying off the internet." LOL that I saw that on Twitter! ;) Thanks for the comment!

  7. Great Post.
    I keep a pen and notepad in front of me while on the treadmill.

    Some of the best scenes strike when I'm running and I take advantage by scribbling like mad while I workout.

    I've found it works best at 3.5 mph but when the passion hits, I can translate my wavering script @ 4.5.

    This is safer than answering the muse while driving :)

  8. @Huntress - I love the mental picture I get from your comment... Getting that physical and creative workout all at the same time! :) Thanks for your comment!

  9. This is great advice, I couldn't agree more. My bedroom's been a mess for weeks, but I'm getting writing done! My husband understands that sometimes I need to run away and hide. No different to when he wants to play a video game!

    Like you I'm a planner, so another thing I do is I grab the short moments I can and do whatever task is suited to that time/place/situation. Whether it's reading back over what I just wrote, writing something new, looking up an image or researching something--I do what I can with each moment I have.

  10. @Amie - It sounds like our methods are very similar, all the way down to the messy bedroom! I love your "grab the short moments" plan. Those spaces in between other activities can be very valuable. Thanks for the comment!