Carving out Time to Write

No matter what the stage of your writing career; no matter in what stage of life you are, finding time to write is difficult. I started writing when my children were three, five, and seven. Finding time meant 10 PM to 3 AM. I thought once they went to high school I’d have more time. Then it was when they left for college. They long ago established their own lives and I still have trouble carving out writing time. Now it’s my mother instead of my children. It’s health problems instead of different sports every night of the week. Life changes every day but the one constant is lack of time. Sometimes it’s like the graphic I’ve used to illustrate this post: Chisel five minute here, chisel fifteen minutes there. So what is a writer to do?

I offer a couple of basics that experience and research have corroborated for me.
1. Set your writing time at the top of the list of things to do. If it’s not important to you, it won’t get done. There will always be the lure of something else that needs done. Writing has to take precedence.

Does that mean you must do it first in your day to make sure it gets done? Not necessarily. You and your experience will answer that one. I suggest you follow your natural body rhythm. An early riser? Get up earlier than usual and write. A night owl? Carve your writing block there. Everyone’s day is different. Only you can know where best to take the time to write.

2. Organize your day so there is time. This is never easy. I seldom followed my written (who has time to write a plan you ask!) schedules exactly. Some days I wondered why I had ever bothered to think I could organize time with three kids in different school, teaching full time, wife, mother, chauffeur, etc. Murphy’s Law (What can go wrong, will) seemed to rule. But I found over the long haul that having a schedule and discipline helped. Sometimes we have to use tough love on ourselves. Email, blogs, Facebook and Twitter are all time gobblers. Set up boundaries for their use even if that means setting a timer. Also limit how many games of solitaire or spider solitaire or Free cell you play or if you play at all until page(s) are written. Tough love indeed when applied to ourselves but it will help carve out more writing time.

Writing success is 90% persistence. BITHOK—Butt in chair; Hands on keyboard. I make time for what is important to me. REALLY important. Family vies for time, the house vies for it, work gulps time, and all of these are important. But writing is a part of you. A part that demands expression and makes you whole.

Here are a few sites with some interesting perspectives on carving out writing time.

Please share with us the “tricks” you use to ferret out writing time in your day. Maybe one of them will help us “carve out” more writing time than we now do!


Reese Mobley said...

It is so easy to make excuses for not getting the job done, but you're right. We make time for what is important to us. Since I started working I try to write some in the morning and then again in the evening. Doesn't always work that way, but I try. Thanks for a great post, Joan.

Joan Vincent said...

There is always something that will come in the way of writing time be it excuse or emergency and especially when you have a job on top of everything else. My choices over what is important at a given moment sometimes surprise me and, usually in hindsight, depress me. I find hitting the writing first makes it more certain I'll get it done but if I'm on track I'll write late when a day gets eatten out from under me--like yesterday!

Becky A said...

I struggle with finding enough writing time too. For a while I convinced myself that if I didn't have a chunk of time to sit down with, then I wouldn't accomplish anything. I have come to realize though that my mind was tricking me out of writing at all. If I sit down and start, even if I only have 10 minutes, I'll come back again and again over the days course and get quite a bit accomplished. Waiting for that elusive larger chunk of time only kept me from writing at all. Now I try to grab what I can, when I can, and have surprised myself with what gets done. I find I am now coming back when I do have more time, when before I wasn't even writing. Did that make sense?? And even though I don't always get to write every day, at least now I'm making progress and that keeps me plugging along. Thanks for the encouraging words, Joan. It's always nice to hear new ideas and to know that we're not alone with our struggles.

ps: my verification word is phita. That means we will live to phit-a nother day!

Rox Delaney said...

The key is not to find time, it's to make time. Finding time offers many more excuses not to write. Making time gives a window for doing...and excuse to others when they come around to infringe on it. (I plan to whine about that later today on my blog.)

Never fear, I've had my share of the Finding Time Blues. I'm guilty of having long periods of time when I didn't write, making it hard to get back into when I had to.

Once you sell, you'll be expected by agents, editors, publishers, friends and family to write more. That doesn't mean they'll give you the time to do it, but it's good to prepare in advance for the "have to" write times that will come in the future.

Rox Delaney said...

If you're finding it hard to make time to write, ask yourself some questions.

1. Is it me or others taking up my time?

2. If it's others, talk with them and explain that you need X amount of time for writing. After that, they'll have your full attention.

3. If it's you, ask yourself why. Do you love the story you're writing? The characters? The plot? Or is there something about it that you don't like and need to fix? Either figure out what it is and fix it, or move on to another project. Often the answer will come to you when involved in something else.

Is it because you're afraid you lack the skills needed? Get them!

Is it because you fear failure? Not doing it for that reason IS failure.

Is it because you're afraid of success? Some people are! Don't be. There are pros and cons to everything in life. Success is only one of those things.

Joan Vincent said...

You are so right Becky. Short amounts of time accumulate and you are keeping your hand in so to speak, so it's easier to continue writing. Stopping for a long period of time makes getting the discipline harder to get back.

Joan Vincent said...

Rox, you rock as usual! People and events do infringe and you are right about it being good to be able to say that you have to write. If you don't treat it like a job other's won't either.
Your questions hit the nail on the head too. Thanks for sharing.

Starla Kaye said...

Life can be so demanding and learning to say "NO!" is probably the hardest thing many of us have to learn. Me in particular. I'm a people pleaser and at times a natural leader. So many people want a piece of me or parts of my time. I don't like disappointing anyone. Which often means I disappoint myself, because I let the writer inside of me down.

Over the last year I have been trying to change all of that. I'm more choosy about who I say "YES" to now, can even now say "NO" to some people or some groups. And the writer in me is blossoming.

Jeannie said...

I'm also one of the queens of the procrastinators. =:-) A long time follower of the credo, "Put everything off to tomorrow in the hopes that tomorrow might not come."

I have struggled with family, work and finance problems. Right now for me, it's health. I agree with the rest of you. There is no surer way to kill a writing project than to not make the time. Once you've fallen off the time horse, it's a killer to get back on.

BICHOK is the only way I've found to do it. Sometimes when faced with a larger span of time, I freeze up. A kitchen timer helps jump start me. I set it for 15 minutes. It's not as scary as an hour, or two, or four. By the end of that short period, I'm warmed up and can keep going for longer stretches.

Penny Rader said...

Terrific post, Joan. And thanks for the links. I especially liked the rocks in the jar story. I've heard it before, but had forgotten it.