Writing a book: Where do you find the time to write?

    Categories: Writing

OLD POST ALERT! This is an older post and although you might find some useful tips, any technical or publishing information is likely to be out of date. Please click on Start Here on the menu bar above to find links to my most useful articles, videos and podcast. Thanks and happy writing! – Joanna Penn

Many people say they are waiting for the right time to write their book.

“If I take a year off I could write it” or “when the kids have left home and I have more time”

But by focusing on the time involved, you are creating a block in your mind.

Life happens, but you can still fulfill your dream of writing a book.

There is a myth of creativity, that you need some perfect space and perfect time to create, that you can’t do it where you are. But what you write is real life, so you have to be in real life to create it in words.

That perfect time may never come, so just start where you are, one tiny bit at a time.

Only you know the detail of your life, so only you can make the decision on when to write.

But you need to make a decision about when and where you will write. Here are some ideas.

  • Get up an hour earlier and write before the household gets up
  • On the commute (train/bus)
  • On the commute while driving. Buy a small voice recorder and speak ideas into the machine.
  • For 2 hours every evening, instead of watching TV
  • Saturday mornings when the kids are doing sport
  • At weekends when I am not doing household chores. I will get a cleaner to do the household cleaning and use that time to write.
  • Take a lunch hour at work several times a week, find a room and write then.
  • Organise working 4 days a week and use the 5th for writing

Find some way of earning money that is not selling your books until you make it, otherwise your writing becomes stressful and there is pressure to write the next piece that will make a few dollars, as opposed to focusing on your magnum opus every morning and night in between working.

In Stephen King’s On Writing he talks of when he was working in a commercial laundry and his wife Tabby was working second shift at Dunkin Donuts while they tried to raise two kids. He wrote short stories when he could and sometimes got a cheque in the mail. But he persisted – and you can too.

“Write at the edges of the day.”

Toni Morrison, author of “Beloved”

My personal story: I once decided that I needed time to write my book. I had some money from the sale of my house, took 3 months off and tried to write every day. It didn’t work. I didn’t have anything to show for it, and went back to work disheartened at my inability to write. It was 4 years until I actually decided to try again.

Then I wrote ‘Career Change’ in 9 months of evenings, weekends and days off while working full-time.

You can find the time – you just need to re-prioritise!

Joanna Penn :

View Comments (13)

  • well im also writing a book and im 18 years old i cant seem to find the time to write my book becaues of school chores studying for tests and dance and i have a twin brother who has cerebal palsy and needs my help 24/7 and my mom and dad are sick to so i cant really seem to find time except sometimes on weekends but i never really think of doing so but in my heart i really want to write a book i just need the time support and motavation to write it. :)

    • You ARE a strong young lady and I give you props! I am 51 and just starting on my lifelong dream to be a writer. I am dedicating 15 minutes a day to research, learn and put my esoteric novel! You have great and valuable stories to write and more in the future because of your life experiences! You can do it! Don't give up and never stop! Blessings to you!

  • I've had to change my writing schedule several times due to life changes, but I keep at it. Mostly it's about snatching a moment here and there. However, when life throws a curveball and I'm forced to adjust my schedule again, I admit to feeling like I should just give up. What keeps me going is knowing I'm doing something I love. If you truly love writing, eventually you find a way to do it. Thanks for reminding me that sometimes you just have to get creative in making time for my passion.

  • I have recently started writing my first book. It still feels odd to say I am writing a book, but I am determined to actually do it. I started writing several times as a child thinking I would write a book but always stopped shortly after starting. Here I am, married with six little boys under the age of 11, and I am just now starting to write. I had to read your blog post about finding the time to write as that is something I obviously struggle with. I work part-time, have responsibilities as a pastor's wife and of course, am a mother with six children who need me.

    I found that I write in the evenings as I start to slow down from a long day. It is then that my mind seems to be the most creative so I use that time to either write in Scrivener whatever comes to me or even just write down scenes that I will eventually write about. I also go to my job a bit earlier and while I only get about 20 minutes before my work begins, I use that time again to jot down anything that may have come to mind on the drive in.

    The more I've tried to fit writing in, the more natural writing during the day seems to become. I don't have to fight to squeeze in the time or get my thoughts flowing. It all just fits with life.

    Anyways, thank you Joanna for your blog. I have been going through several posts and most likely will be re-reading all of them as I go along. :)

    • That's great Cheryl, fitting it in, even in small bursts, is the difficult part! But you get there over time.

  • This is a great article. But still it's hard to write if you have a full-time job. I have to get up at 6 AM to get to my job on time. I just can't imagine getting up at 5 AM. At lunch? I am trying to just get out of the office, because as is I spend 8 hours sitting in front of the computer. In the evening I feel so drained that even an idea of sitting down and writing makes me want to cry. I think having a job and writing is possible only if the job doesn't suck out life out of you. I don't know how it's possible to feel refreshed and full of ideas at the end of a work day...

    • I do understand. Maybe you can do it on your days off even if it's just for an hour and have a small notebook/pad with you that you can scribble fast when you have an idea or a thought. Baby steps! Sending you thoughts of encouragement and pockets of time!

  • I like what Toni Morrison said. Write at the edges of the day. I usually write in the evening. Now that it is summer and I'm off because I'm a teacher, I have all day to write. What a blast! Takes discipline or butt glue, but I could get used to this. When I'm watching TV, I usually come to my senses and choose to write instead.

  • I write in the evening, as soon as I get home from work. I am still in work mode, so I can carry on. But I do not write for long. I aim for around 1,000 words, which takes me about an hour and then I stop dead when I get to that point. The temptation is there to write for longer or to get to the "exciting bit", but this way, the excitement is still there for the next day and keeps me going after a long slog at the day shift. Plus, when I'm not feeling it and want to watch TV or go to bed, 1,000 words is enough to do quickly, so I can still write every day. My girlfriend also hides my video games and phone until I've hit 1,000 words, so I definitely have to write every day if I want any fun!!

  • I love the Morrison quote above: "Write at the edges of the day." It reminds of the phrase "the space between". The older I get, the more important it seems to recognizes not only that there are spaces between activities and interactions but that I can use them. What's more, when I do choose not to use them consciously, that empty space can do some good, too. Thanks for the interesting ideas above:)

  • I liked the Toni Morrison's quote! I haven't fit any writing routine in my daily schedule yet, but I think that would be a foundamental change for my book development.

  • I have found that I approach writing like I did redoing my house. I do a little bit here and do a little bit there and then have to live in it for a while before I can decide if I it works for me or not. Sometimes I get inspiration as I go through out the day doing other chores, I have my "ah, ha"moment and it fits in perfectly when I can get back to my project. Turning off the mindless, intellectually-insulting television is revolutionary to going forward with my passion.

  • Thanks for sharing this insigtful article on how to find time to write as I guess this is very important really. Most of us are so busy that we hardly find time to do anything creative we think....Enjoyed reading and will be implementing it soon :)