Does it ever feel like there just aren’t enough hours in the day for everything that you want to accomplish?
You’d love to blog more, but you just don’t have the time?
Or you’d love to write a novel, but right now you’re just too busy with other things?
“I’m too busy” is one of the most common excuses used for not pursuing one’s dreams, but as Henry David Thoreau once wryly observed, “It is not enough to be industrious; so are the ants. What are you industrious about?”
In today’s post, I’m looking at five different ways we can carve out time for writing even when it seems there are no more hours left in our schedules.
1. Eliminate Time Sucks
When we complain that we don’t have enough time to write, it may actually be that we are wasting our time on other activities instead.
In Stephen King’s memoir On Writing, he offers the following advice:
If you’re just starting out as a writer, you could do worse than strip your television’s electric plug-wire, wrap a spike around it, and then stick it back into the wall. See what blows, and how far. Just an idea.
Movies and television shows are undoubtedly one of the biggest time sucks. This isn’t to say that writers can never watch TV (I actually find a lot of inspiration from movies and TV series).
However, if you’re finding it difficult to find time to write, then giving up the TV might be exactly what you need to do.
Maybe you don’t watch TV. In that case, look for other time sucks you might not even be aware of.
Whatever these time sucks are (spending too much time on social media, surfing the Internet for hours, not organizing time efficiently to run errands), they are being prioritized over writing time. Think of how you can reorganize your schedule.
Which of these time sucks can you eliminate completely?
Which ones can you scale back on (maybe you need to set a timer while checking social media)?
Which ones, like errands or chores, can you figure out how to complete in less time?
2. Transform Dead Time Into Planning Time
In order to complete all of our writing projects, we writers need to figure out clever ways to transform every minute of our time into writing time.
But writing time doesn’t always involve actually hammering away at the keys of our computer.
In Creating Short Fiction, Damon Knight observes,
When a writer is sitting down, looking at a wall with a blank expression on his face, it is easy for a companion to assume that he isn’t doing anything…Getting ready to write is a complex mental process and a very delicate one; what it feels like to me is that I have laboriously climbed a ladder, carrying my brushes and a can of paint.
Having time to think about our writing projects is absolutely essential before we can dive into the actual writing.
Unfortunately, if we only have a precious hour or two to devote to writing each day, we may not want to waste it in brainstorming sessions. If we already had a clear idea in our head of what we wanted to write about, those writing sessions would end up being much more productive.
So instead of staring at the wall during your writing sessions, find those minutes for brainstorming in the dead time scattered throughout your day: when the car is stuck in traffic, when waiting in line at the bank or post office or grocery store, when folding laundry or vacuuming or doing yard work.
It’s remarkable when an idea for a story can come to you, how a new plot twist or a new topic for a blog post can just pop into your head.
3. Write When Others Are Sleeping
If you are like most writers, you probably find it very difficult to write when surrounded by distractions and constant interruptions.
You sit down to start working on a sure-to-go-viral blogpost, and the phone rings. Then someone wants to ask you a question. Someone else clatters plates in the kitchen. The neighbor starts mowing his lawn.
These interruptions can completely derail your train of thought.
Your best time to write will probably be when no one else is up and about. That usually means staying up later at night or waking up earlier in the morning. Of course, it’s important to still make sure you’re getting enough sleep at night so you’re well-rested for your writing sessions.
(This also holds true if you work a full time job outside of the house and are only at home in the mornings and evenings).
In an interview with The Paris Review, Toni Morrison observed,
Writing before dawn began as a necessity–I had small children when I first began to write and I needed to use the time before they said, Mama–and that was always around five in the morning.
Ernest Hemingway also loved devoting the early morning hours to writing. In his memoir A Moveable Feast, he wrote,
When I am working on a book or story I write every morning as soon after first light as possible. There is no one to disturb you and it is cool or cold and you come to your work and warm as you write.
Unfortunately, depending on your own personal schedule, early morning hours may not work for you. In that case, you might have to write in the evening instead or find a time in the afternoon when everyone else is away with their own activities.
In an interview with NPR, Geraldine Brooks shared this strategy:
I write while my son is at school. At about 7:45 A.M., I walk him there, with the dogs, then walk them for another forty minutes or so, go home and chain myself to the desk a little before 9 A.M., and try not to be distracted until I hear my son plunge through the front door at about 3 P.M.
4. Designate A Workspace & A Writing Time
If you can’t manage to find a time to write when others are out of the house, the next best thing is to set up a place in your home and designate it as your writing workspace.
Let others know when you plan to be writing. Hopefully, when they see you are stationed there, they will know that you are at work and not to disturb you.
No matter how much time you have to write, you want to make sure you are making the most of that time. Check out my article here to learn an effective technique that will make your writing sessions more productive.
In a letter to a friend, Flannery O’Connor, who suffered from Lupus, noted,
I write only about two hours every day because that’s all the energy I have, but I don’t let anything interfere with those two hours, at the same time and the same place.
If you have small children, this can still be difficult. It might be a good idea to incorporate your writing time into their schedules (during nap time, for example). If they are old enough, they could read a book while you write or quietly draw a picture or they might even like to join you for writing time.
5. Carry A Notebook Or Portable Computer With You Everywhere
When all else fails, you might just have to carry your writing workspace with you.
Bring a notebook or a small laptop with you wherever you go. Suddenly, time will magically appear. You’ll find yourself with an hour to spare in the dentist’s waiting room or at the sidelines of your child’s soccer practice or even during your lunch break.
In an interview with The Guardian, Will Self says,
Always carry a notebook. And I mean always. The short-term memory only retains information for three minutes; unless it is committed to paper you can lose an idea forever.
If you can write much faster on a keyboard, you could invest in a laptop or a tablet computer small enough to fit into a backpack or a purse. When I travel by train into the city, I bring my iPad in a lightweight case, similar to this one, that comes equipped with a Bluetooth keyboard. It is comfortable to write on and quite portable.
The words of Garrison Keillor are very motivating:
I can write anywhere. I write in airports. I write on airplanes. I’ve written in the back seats of taxis. I write in hotel rooms. I love hotel rooms. I just write wherever I am whenever I need to write. I treasure the time right after I wake up.
In an ideal situation, we would have endless hours to devote to writing and a lovely little writing studio where we could shut ourselves away from the distractions of the world. But in many cases that just isn’t realistic.
However, if we are serious about pursuing our passion for writing, then it is possible to come up with creative solutions and find more hours in the day.
As E. B. White once said, “A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.”
What methods do you use to make time for writing even when you have a busy schedule? If you found this post helpful, be sure to leave a comment and share with someone you would like to inspire.