Buddy, can you spare some time?

Writing a book takes up a good chunk of your time, something that’s always in short supply. With the busy lives we lead it’s a wonder any books get written at all, but someone is finding the time to slap some words down because new books pop up every day.

Most articles about writing suggest I write a page a day. That would give me 365 pages at the end of a year– a whole novel, which would be fine if I wasn’t usually juggling several writing projects at once: editing one novel while drafting an outline for another, writing a blog on writing, crafting a short story for an anthology. And let’s not forget all the associated marketing on-and-off-line that comes with a writer’s career.

I long for great chunks of free time to immerse myself in a plot without being interrupted. As it is, I’m sneaking moments to tap away at my computer or scratch some notes between sleeping and working and eating and chores.

And when I do have a moment to sneak back to my stories, I waste most of it sorting through them and trying to prioritize so I can decide which one to work on. Depending on how close deadlines are for immediate writing commitments, I may not get to work on the more exciting projects as often as I’d like, and when I do it’s for snippets of time where I barely get reacquainted before it’s time to say goodbye. I know…boo hoo.

I can’t believe how often I’ve looked back and realized I could have been writing instead of (insert your favorite time-wasting activity here), so I’ve made a handy list of all the times in an ordinary day when I could be writing.

1. First thing in the morning: I know writers who get up before the sun and slam out a couple of thousand words before anyone else is up. I’ll say it up front – I am not a morning writer. Any time I’ve gotten out of bed before my usual time, my mind has gone straight to the work day ahead and I wasn’t any good for fiction crafting. Even on a day off, mornings at my house are for lazing around.

2. On public transit: The bus is one of those places where we accept being packed in like cattle…with strangers, and much too closely for polite comfort. Many people hold books (whether they’re reading them or not) or some digital gadgetry to avoid eye contact with others. Seems like it would be a great place to write with everyone trying so hard not to acknowledge one another. My bus ride to-and-from my job is seven minutes long and only good for jotting down quick notes or new ideas to try out later. I almost envy those with long commutes, but even for them scribbling on the bus isn’t easy when you’re on a roll and your stop is coming up.

3. During my lunch hour: A whole hour!! You’d think that I’d get a lot more writing done. There’s plenty of space in the office lunch room for my food and my notebook, and I’ve occasionally lucked out and had the whole place to myself for more than ten minutes at a time. But coworkers just can’t resist interrupting to ask if I’m writing. When I say yes, they’ll keep chatting at me as if writing were just a distraction to spice up my break until they showed up to relieve my boredom. I’ve found that particular hour to be best for working on shorter pieces, like these blogs.

4. During those few short hours between dinner and bed: My favorite writing time but usually shared with chores, errands, and classes. And let’s not forget the ubiquitous black hole that we call social media. I’m not sure when or how it happened, but my virtual social life is richer and busier than my real life has ever been.

5. On the weekend: This is when I’ll actually make a list of writing tasks to accomplish. I’ll prioritize them so I don’t ignore the more dreaded tasks – like updating the bio page on my website, yet more marketing, or researching agents online. I could spend all weekend working on a novel – my favorite thing – but then I’d never manage to write any short pieces, blogs or letters.

6. When I retire: Hahahaha! I haven’t had the opportunity to test this one yet, but a girl can dream. I’ll keep you posted. My guess is that retirement gives you all the time you could ever want for writing – until the garden beckons. In other words, there’s always another chore, errand or phone call to make, and we can fill up our days with endless reasons to put off writing.

So how do the professionals manage it? I’m always amazed by those author bios that speak of a writer who still works as a doctor/lawyer/mom and who’s published twelve bestsellers in as many years. Where do they find the time?

I imagine they keep a strict literary schedule and maybe employ an editorial team or someone to watch the kids so they can get some writing done. But I suspect it’s the same for them as any other writer: if you want to be a writer, you write.

You find the time. You rearrange your schedule. You get the hell off Facebook. You make the time; otherwise, you may find that when you finally do sit down to write you have nothing interesting to say.

“The muse whispers to you when she chooses, and you can’t tell her to
come back later, because you quickly learn in this business that
she might not come back at all.”
– Terry Brooks

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  1. It's funny, even when you're like me and only have part-time employment, there are endless reasons to put off writing. Chores are a biggie, but nothing is a worse time-suck than the internet! It's so distracting! I have reverted to writing in a notebook or on a typewriter to avoid the lure of social media. I wonder if we'll lose a whole generation of writers to the Information Age….

    1. Hi Morgana! Scary thought that we could lose a whole generation of writers because they're too busy playing WoW or stalking their friends on facebook, though that would leave more shelf space for those writers who are really serious about their craft. 🙂

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