Probably the most common question I hear from writers is “How do I find the time to write?”
In this video and the article below, I'm going to talk more about some tips on how to find the time to write. You can also find the video on YouTube here.
We all have the same number of hours in the day and there are always competing priorities for your time:
- The day job – because we all have to pay the bills!
- Family and life – dealing with kids, partner, parents
- Staying fit and exercising, sleeping well
- Writing conferences, classes, books to read, author platform to build, social media to keep up with …
- The list goes on …
I think the best tip comes from Toni Morrison “Write at the edges of the day.”
Where are the edges of your day?
I wrote my first four books when I was working full-time as a consultant in Brisbane, Australia. I would get up at 5 a.m and write before I went to work because once I was at work, I didn't have any brain space left for anything creative.
I would get up at 5:00, write for an hour and then get ready for work. I would do that three times a week because I like my sleep!
Writing before doing anything else was very effective for me as I'm a morning person. But if you're a night person, you might find that you write in the evening, or after the kids have gone to bed, maybe even after your partner has gone to bed. I certainly know a lot of writers who are night owls.
What are you going to give up in order to make time to write?
Because if you're like most people, you have already filled the edges of your day with other things, so what can you give up?
Back when I started to write (pre-Netflix!) we decided to give up TV. If you love your TV and it's your relaxation time, maybe instead of watching two hours, you just watch for one hour and then spend the other hour writing.
Or consider the lunch hour at work. Of course, the lunch hour is a myth these days in that most people will eat on the run or at their desk. But this is where you have to decide what's more important.
Could you go out of the office a couple of times per week, find a coffee shop away from where your colleagues might be and write? Or could you go to a library? Could you find a space or even book a meeting room if that's your situation?
I have a friend who has a lot of children and she keeps her laptop in the kitchen because she spends a lot of time in the kitchen. She's writing one line at a time in between the kids running around like crazy.
So these are ways that you can start to edge in writing time.
What about the commute?
The commute can be a fantastic time for writing. My friend Mark Dawson, a very successful indie author, wrote his first nine books commuting on the train. He commuted two hours each way every day into London, and you can get a lot of books written if you write on your commute.
Of course, if you're driving, then dictation is a really good option. Obviously, if you're not actively speeding down the motorway but stuck in traffic.
But there are certainly ways you can incorporate writing into your day. Maybe try to get in early, spend 10-15 minutes in the car just recording a bit.
Have a look at your schedule and figure out where you can make time.
You don't need to have a four-hour block of time in order to work on your book. If you have 15 minutes, or half an hour, get some words down.
It's all about scheduling.
You need to actively schedule the time to write.
Now, I know for some people that might be difficult, but do you schedule your doctor's appointments? Do you schedule your business meetings? Do you schedule your kid's parties at their friend's house? Do you schedule that gym class or that tennis match or whatever?
We make time in our lives for what's important to us. You get what you focus on. So what are you focusing on?
Is writing important enough for you to make time and plan it in advance?
If you don't make the time, your book won't happen.
I have a recurring schedule in the morning. I go to a local cafe and write. And that's really important time for me. I schedule it in and I do it.
You have to turn up for that appointment with yourself. You have to take it seriously.
How much do you really want this?
Many people say they want to write a book. But very few finish one.
So do you really want to write a book? Do you really want to finish it, hold it up and say, “I made this?”
If you do, then you will give up other things in order to make that time.
Decide on a deadline
If you don't set some kind of deadline, then this writing process may go on for way too long. You will frequently meet people who have been writing the same book for years. But if you set a deadline and stay accountable, you will have a goal to aim for.
When I first started writing my first novel, I decided to have my book out by my birthday in March 2011. I started writing 18 months before that. I made it by April 2011, so I slightly missed it, but hey, at least I got it done 🙂
Once I set the finish goal, I worked backwards. If you want to write a 70,000-word novel and you can write 1,000 words in an hour, it's going to take 70 hours to write a rough draft (not including thinking time!).
How will you fit in those 70 hours? One hour every day for 70 days which is around two and a half months. Or will you need more time?
Then you also need to schedule in editing and the other parts of the process, but if you don't have a first draft, you can't get to the next steps. Once you figure out how long things are going to take and schedule your time, you'll be able to see the steps that will get you towards your goal.
Finally, it really comes back to the reason behind why you're writing.
What is the “why” that is driving you to the page?
What is the pain that you're running from or the hope and the dream that will get you to the writing desk at 5 a.m in the morning or late at night or before work?
For me, I was just so miserable in my day job and I desperately needed to change my life. I had this burning need to be creative, to put something out in the world and not have everything I did disappear into the wind.
It really was this desperate need to reinvent myself as a creative, an author, to live a life I really wanted.
And I can tell you now, years after I made that decision, that you can change your life.
Start by setting some time in your schedule, then sit down and write. For me, making time to write has been the most worthwhile thing. I couldn't be living a creative author life without it.
So, I hope that's motivated you. Go ahead and schedule some time in right now!
For more tips, check out The Successful Author Mindset, available in ebook, print and audiobook formats.
How do you find time to write? What are you struggling with in terms of making time? Please leave a comment below and join the conversation.
Finding time to write can be really difficult and although I would love to spend most of the day writing, it just isn’t practical. I used to write first thing in the morning but that practice isn’t working at the moment. Instead yesterday I sat down to write a short story for a competition I want to enter whilst I was cooking tea! Yes, I burnt the burgers and had to redo something else but I actually managed to write 1200 words. You just have to find those gaps and be committed.
J.P. Choquette says
Agree with everything you said here, Joanna. This part really stuck out for me:
“Many people say they want to write a book. But very few finish one…If you do, then you will give up other things in order to make that time.”
When I teach writing classes I hear (again and again) how people “want to write this book,” or “want to start this novel,” or “want to finish one of the five first drafts I have going.” Yet very few ever do. Not because they are lazy or incompetent, but because they a) don’t want it badly enough to taste it and b) don’t have a workable plan.
Like you, I wrote my first book while working full-time. It CAN be done…I used a 15-minute writing method for my first five books. Who can’t find just 15 minutes to write? 🙂 I would do it in the early morning (also like you!) and feel so good the rest of the day.
Now that I have more time to write, I use longer blocks of time. But for anyone struggling, I agree that getting into the practice or habit of writing is a hugely important step. It’s amazing how much one can accomplish in just small but regular chunks of time.
I love this article. I agree to finding time to write could be difficult with all the different hats we wear.
I write in the mornings before my family wakes up or during my lunch break at work. I also find little time in between the chores of life.
Hannah Ross says
A week ago I had given birth to my fourth baby. We homeschool, life is a happy, busy mess, and to top it off, I only recently got the privilege of my own laptop.
So yes, finding time to write can be a challenge. But nevertheless, I released four books in 2017. I did it by being really, really focused and eliminating all frills – shows, movies, superficial friendships. Basically, my life is family and writing. It might sound austere, but it all boils down to the question, how badly do you want this?
Rather than scheduling, which is pretty impossible with so many kids around 24/7, I just grab the chance to write whenever I can, if only on my phone in Gmail drafts for 15 minutes. It works. I practically wrote a whole first draft of a novel this way, just lying down next to my toddler and trying to get him to sleep.
I also wrote a nonprofit ebook titled Writing Tips for Busy People, to support fellow authors who are starved for time.