The Time to Write

April 20, 2011 at 9:00 am (Writing) (, , )

One of the most frequent, and perhaps frustrating, pieces of advice out there for would-be writers is to just make the time to write. Whatever it is you want to do, it’s not going to happen if you keep putting it off; just make the time.

But wait! you say. I have work/errands/husband/chores/children/this baffling need to sleep! There IS no time!

There is, though, if you really sit down and look and you’re willing to make a few sacrifices.

Do you normally sit and chat with others on your lunch break? Two or three times a week, hole yourself up during your lunch break and use it to write. If you can make them the same days each week (i.e.- Tuesdays and Thursdays become your anti-social I’m a writer days) you can actually get into the routine. Your brain starts expecting that time to write, and will start automatically switching over into writing mode. The first few times, when you’re sitting staring at the clock or trying to write in a new environment, may not be especially productive, but if you keep with it, you’ll find that your brain repays you for the discipline by making it work.

Wake up/stay up: By the time we’re finally ready to crawl into bed each night, we do NOT want to look at staying up another half hour or hour to get some writing in. Same with the morning; if we’re sleeping, why on earth would we want to get up any earlier than we already have to? Sleep is precious, people! But, this is why it’s called making choices. If you want to be serious about writing, you need to make the time for it. Staying up late or waking up early creates as much time as you’re willing to give it, and if you can do it every day (or at least every work day where you have to get up anyway) that’s a lot of writing time that opens up.

Give it a day. I work retail, which means my schedule bounces all over the place. I very rarely have weekends, or even two days off in a row that I could call a fake weekend. I might be working in the morning, in the evening, or even an awkward mid shift where I feel like I can’t get anything productive done. The only truly predictable aspect is that I (almost always) have off two days a week. They may or may not be the same two days each week, but there will be two days. One of these days I assign to any errands I have to run. The other is for writing. I pack up my stuff, go somewhere else, and give as much of the day as my brain can stand to writing. Maybe some days I only get a thousand words or so- but maybe some days I’m on a roll and I get almost 20K. But I give the writing that day every single week; every single week, I’m making progress on my novels and getting closer to where I want to be.

Schedule it. If you’re someone who writes your entire life into your planner/agenda, schedule in time to write, wherever you can fit it in. Maybe it’s only a half hour on this Monday, but look at this Thursday, you could get in a whole two hours. And, because it’s right there in your planner book, your brain starts expecting it. Your mind looks forward to it, your characters start stepping up, and whatever time you have to devote to the writing, whether it’s half an hour or the two hours of whatever, becomes more productive and efficient.

Have kids? Give yourself an evening- maybe once a week, maybe every other week- where you hire a babysitter and just go out and write. Obviously this one is a little more budget dependant, but you can make a neighborhood teenager very happy and still manage to get a lot of writing done. Kids are lovely, but they are time consuming and distracting; this is a safe way to get away for a few hours and get stuff done.

One of the retorts I see pretty frequently to the “just make time” advice is that it’s all well and good for professional authors to say that, because they can afford to sit and write full time. Making time isn’t an issue for them.

Actually? Yes, it is.

Once you’re an author (as opposed to a writer), you have a lot of demands on your time. It isn’t as easy as just sitting back and letting magic flow from your hands. You have your revisions, your agent’s revisions, your editor’s revisions, sometimes multiple rounds at each level. You have publicity schtuff to do. You have tours and book signings. It’s a standard, if not an out and out necessity these days, for authors to have a website/blog, so you have to put time into keeping up with that. You have interviews to take care of. You have a CRAPTON of emails, and sometimes even old-fashioned fan letters. And, oh by the way, most of them still have family/school/errands/chores/that baffling need to sleep, AND some of them still keep their traditional jobs. (Andrea Cremer, for instance, is a history professor at Macalester College.)

The discipline of MAKING TIME TO WRITE doesn’t stop when you get published. It can’t stop, because now in addition to your own expectations of getting things done, you have the expectations of a lot of other people on you as well. Agents and editors remind you of deadlines, fans (we all want those, right?) will beg for more information, for release dates, for teasers and snippets and spoilers and anything else they think they can wheedle out of you because they just want to know. Money is actually riding on you making the time to write, and not just your money. A lot of people are suddenly relying on you to have that discipline and that work ethic.

So make it a little easier on yourself: get in the habit now. Whatever you have to do to give yourself that time to write can only help you in the long run. Sure, when you look at everything you have stacked up in your life, the idea of squeezing in one more thing can seem absolutley overwhelming, BUT: if you want it badly enough, you’ll do it.

How badly do you want the time to write?

If you want it, make it. There are ways.

Until next time~


  1. hawleywood40 said,

    Good reminders and new suggestions too. One thing I haven’t tried is actually scheduling writing in the same way meetings or work tasks show up on my electronically office calendar. I find the writing time, but don’t record it the way I do other things. I think I’ll try that and see if it helps me carve out even more time!

  2. GladElf said,

    I’m definitely one of those who has to schedule time to write. I actually pencil it when I go over my week. Otherwise I know I’ll keep putting it off. Once a week I pack up and spend a good few hours working (let’s face it, even when it’s fun, write is work).
    I also try to write any other time I can find a spare minute–part of the reason I like to use the old fashioned handwritten method. I always have my notebook with me and whenever I get a break between classes I try to pull that sucker out and at least get a few sentences on the page (sometimes I’m lucky and i get more). Yes, I seem anti-social, but I doubt my friends will be complaining when all my hard work gets me on the best-seller list. =D
    I am definitely linking this to my blog.

  3. More in Your Week–Or why your planner is your best friend. « Musings of the GladElf said,

    […] write” and “make time to write” deal, here’s a post from my friend Dot’s blog. Check it out, she’s got some useful […]

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