Are you too busy to write?

When I saw this piece from Writer’s Digest about finding time to write when we’re all so busy, it struck a chord with me. I love seeing the spreadsheet for planned writing days and goals laid out on the page. It appeals to the organized side of my brain. The problem is that that side is always fighting it out with the other, less organized, lower tech sphere, and sometimes for me the spreadsheet doesn’t come out ahead.

Of course, I’m not a writer. I represent writers. But we all have obligations, goals, deadlines (I’m late for my blog deadline today as a matter of fact), and we need to keep it straight. Sometimes things come up that take us away from the task at hand. Especially in our digital world (see my recent post about this) where we’re pulled in a lot of directions each day.

So, I’d love to hear from our readers. How do you fit in writing time in your busy life? Does it take priority over other things? Do you work late at night or early in the morning? Do you write in your head while you’re driving to work? Or do you, like the author of this blog post, create spreadsheets outlining your short and long term goals? Please let us know, and enlighten us about what you’ve found to be the most effective methods of writing. I’m sure there are lessons to be learned for other writers, as well as the rest of us.

10 Responses to Are you too busy to write?

  1. I try to write in the evenings most of the time, after I’m home from work, although it can be a bit of a challenge if work is especially busy and my brain is tireder than usual. I believe little bits at a time add up, though. The biggest help for me has been setting a weekly quota instead of a daily one, because then when I have a bad day, I have a short amount of time to make up for it. It helps relieve some of the pressure and makes me more productive overall.

    I’m also a pretty detailed outliner, so a good portion of the story is laid out before I start the first draft. Of course, things change as I go along, but it lets me keep things organized, and also plan out how those changes will affect the other characters, storylines, and so on to come.

    If you want to do this professionally, writing has to take priority over other things. That’s not to say that you can’t ever DO other things; in fact, you probably should, in order to give yourself a break and prevent your work from getting stale. But you have to carve out time in your schedule and sometimes you have to give up other things to get the writing done, especially trivial things like TV or video games. Sometimes I don’t get to read as much as I’d like because I’m dedicated to getting my own words down. I tend to keep many of my meals simple because I don’t want to spend hours of my limited after-work time cooking. And so on.

    Speaking of driving to work, it’s either then or in the shower that most of my epiphanies come. Keeping paper close by to jot down notes is a good idea, but sometimes I think those ideas are waiting until it’s most inconvenient for you to write them down.

  2. When I wrote my first novel, I forced myself to write for one hour a day/about 500 words. One hour was a good start for me. I stay home with my kids and am running around like a maniac all day, so I found it fairly easy to say to myself, “Tonight after the kids go to bed I can get in just one teeny tiny hour.” I could mentally handle that rather than, “I have to finish ch. 5 by Saturday or I am the worst failure of a writer EVER!” Five months later I had written a book.

    Now that the kids are a little older, I can put in a couple more hours here and there. Most of the time I write on my laptop while they’re in soccer/gymnastics/swimming/whatever practice. You know how doctors become able to sleep anywhere? Well, I’ve become skilled at writing anywhere and can zone out screaming kids. I find that if I want to get anything done, I need to work during these small pockets of time.

  3. Heather says:

    I want to write professionally but I also write and study full time. As the end of semester approaches, I’m finding it almost impossible to find time to write. And when I don’t write, I get stressed out. It’s so frustrating but at least it’s given me time to put some distant between myself and my current MS.

    Usually though, I’ll try to get at least two chapters out a week and a bunch of planning. I need complete silence to write though, and I generally only get that during the day.

  4. I drive 70 miles round trip everyday to work, and of course I’ll get a lot of ideas for my writing along the way, when it’s least convenient (and most dangerous) to write anything down. For that reason, I got a small digital recorder which I keep in the cupholder closest to me. I don’t often compose text that way, but it is a good way to capture ideas before they disappear, and just the act of speaking them aloud helps them to stick a bit better than they otherwise might. It’s also good to be able to train yourself to write pretty much anywhere, at anytime, capitalizing on those “pockets of time” mentioned above. I’ve written scenes on a netbook, a smartphone’s keyboard, and a couple sheets of notebook paper I keep with me at all times, or even the occasional bar napkin. I remind myself that even when the conditions aren’t ideal, that whatever I write will still be better than writing nothing at all, and may very well be the necessary pupa phase along the way to something great.

  5. I write from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. every weekday. I only answer my phone if it’s the school calling about my kids. I’m a freelance writers, so if I have all my “paid” writing done for that day, I’ll write in the afternoons, as well, until the kiddos are home from school. I hear a lot about people who say they don’t have time to write and I get that. But a lot of people, if they think about it, are able to carve out two hours of their day to write if they make it a priority. It might involve sacrificing sleep (argh) or maybe refusing to watch TV.
    However, with that said, I was physically, emotionally, and mentally unable to write when I had two kids under two. It would have been impossible for me, although I know others do it. I was too exhausted in every sense of the word to even contemplate writing. It took the youngest starting kindergarten (coinciding with me getting eight hours of sleep each night) for any writing to happen!

  6. emeraldcite says:

    When I think about making time for writing, I always think about this Bukowski poem which I have hanging above my desk…of course, I still have trouble finding time to write.

    air and light and time and space

    “–you know, I’ve either had a family, a job,
    something has always been in the
    but now
    I’ve sold my house, I’ve found this
    place, a large studio, you should see the space and
    the light.
    for the first time in my life I’m going to have
    a place and the time to

    no baby, if you’re going to create
    you’re going to create whether you work
    16 hours a day in a coal mine
    you’re going to create in a small room with 3 children
    while you’re on
    you’re going to create with part of your mind and your body blown
    you’re going to create blind
    you’re going to create with a cat crawling up your
    back while
    the whole city trembles in earthquake, bombardment,
    flood and fire.

    baby, air and light and time and space
    have nothing to do with it
    and don’t create anything
    except maybe a longer life to find
    new excuses

    © Charles Bukowski, Black Sparrow Press

  7. I’m a stay-at-home mom and part time student, so I find it difficult (like a lot of people) to find time for writing. I’ve fallen into the routine of staying up half the night and living on caffeine during the day. I don’t create spread sheets, but I do write in my head while driving, doing the dishes, or even taking a shower. I do make writing a priority, more so than I used to, and other things get left behind in the dust now. But I’m happiest when writing.

  8. Janice says:

    I wonder if the spreadsheet writer is more successful at completing work in a timely fashion than a person who writes on-the-fly. And, is it about getting the words down or on completing a good work? Just wondering.
    I am an obsessive writer. I am tired at night and racing around too many mornings, so I subsequently write in day-long marathons. I write while watching television, too.

  9. Stacey says:

    Thanks for the great comments. It’s so interesting to hear all of your stories and compare them. Writing is such a unique experience. I love the Bukowski poem. Whenever and however you find the time to write, keep writing!

  10. Great post. Thank you.


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