Six Tips for finding Time to Write

“Write every day,” is standard advice from published writers, but how do you do it around a job, family and finding time to read? Here’s tips for finding time to write:-

1. When are you most creative?

Are you a lark or an owl, ie are you most creative in the morning or evening? If the former, consider shifting your sleeping hours so you go to bed earlier and wake earlier rather than just setting the alarm clock sooner as no one starved of sleep is creative. Shift morning chores to the night before or delegate to other family members – any school aged child can dress themselves and remember bribery is a parent’s best ally. If you’re an owl, reverse the advice.

2. Do you break projects into smaller tasks and work steadily towards a deadline or do you procrastinate and work eighteen hour days when the deadline looms?

If the former, then even writing for just half an hour a day will make a huge difference if you do your usual advanced planning and break your book down into half hour tasks. If the latter, then procrastinate by doing double chores until a self-inflicted deadline looms and clear your diary for a solid block of writing (minus the guilt as you’ve already done all your chores and arranged appointments so you can have a solid block of writing time).

3. Organise.

You may not have a filing cabinet and may have to keep reference books in a room other than the one you use for writing, but create a system were you can lay your fingers on anything you need – whether it’s that cruical note to plot development you scribbled on the back of an envelope or an editor’s email address. Time spent looking for things is time not spent writing. And you’re hard enough pressed for time to write as it is.

4. Dump the work count targets.

Word count’s a useful guide if you’re on a book-length project, but useless for poetry or short stories. A better guide is to target finishing a scene or getting to a certain point in the plot or drafting a new poem and editing an earlier draft of another. “Write 2000 words a day” could turn into 2000 words of rubbish a day. Think quality not quantity.

5. Stretch your definition of writing.

No one likes taking minutes of a meeting, so volunteer. Treat reports, letters, memos and emails as if they’re another writing project. OK, don’t break out into verse or elegantly nuance something that needs to be in plain, non jargon English. But do use it as an opportunity to hone those skills of writing in concise, clear, direct language in as few words as possible. However, don’t become a nuisance – none of your colleagues will thank you for contributing to every single staff newsletter or disrupting an established minute taking rota.

6. Set the mood

Plan ahead, don’t waste precious time trying to work out what the next scene was going to be or trying to remember which poems you were going to submit to which editor. Train family members to accept that writing time is not to be disturbed, even if it means more initial bribery. By all means play music, light candles, sharpen pencils, pour yourself a drink, stick up a ‘do not disturb’ sign if it helps the transistion from being a parent or rocket scientist to a writer, but don’t let it impinge on your writing time. Get into the habit of writing and you’ll asking yourself where will you find the time to do chores, run a parental taxi service or go on holiday instead.

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8 Responses to “Six Tips for finding Time to Write”

  1. Dick Says:

    I have no formulae or strategies at all. I carry a notebook everywhere – and I mean everywhere; it’s always a reach away – and in every nook and cranny of a day I pull it out. I may stare solemnly at a blank page, waiting for nature to abhor the vacuum and thus provoke a word or two to occupy the emptiness. Or I may rummage around amongst the words already there, muttering alternatives and scribbling them in until a barely decipherable format emerges. If nothing happens, I will, in the first instance, sneak a look into a favoured slim volume or anthology, not to plagiarise but to stimulate form from the inchoate mess that is always awaiting attention. Or I’ll give up and wait, sometimes for months at a time. I’m not afraid of writer’s block; I know that it will clear the sooner for calm detachment.

    Thus it has always been, with brief periods during which I have tried various disciplines, such as those proposed in the excellent list above. Different strokes for different folks, I guess, although I wish I could employ a more prescriptive approach. (Sorry – this has turned into a mini-post. I’ll get my coat…)

  2. A. Fulkerson Says:

    These are great. I especially like number 4. I set my goals per story rather than by word count.

  3. emmalee1 Says:

    Thanks both for dropping by. The key thing is to find a method that suits you so writing becomes such an ingrained habit, you’re too busy writing to work out how to find time to do it.

  4. Courtney Vail Says:

    Great tips. i definitely work better at night. Sometimes 2 AM. Are you ever bitten by inspiration when you’re asleep and then find you have to get up right away and write down your thoughts? Happens to me sometimes. I actually had to do the opposite as 4 and pick up a word count target, to get myself back into a writing rhythm. 🙂

  5. emmalee1 Says:

    Hi Courtney. Thanks for dropping by and glad you liked the tips. I’m more of a lark than an owl.

    Word count targets can be useful to get into a rhythm, and I’m not saying ditch them altogether, but find a target that’s meaningful to what you’re doing. A word count target is completely useless in poetry where the aim is rather to cut words out. I once cut down a 127 page report into an eight line poem. Whatever target you use, it has to get you focused on writing and the quality of the writing too. Better 50 words of poetry than 2000 words of waffle.

  6. cocoyea Says:

    This is very helpful. I’m very much an owl that wishes she was a lark. Thanks!

  7. Creative Writing Courses – are they worthwhile? « Emma Lee’s Blog Says:

    […] Six tips for finding time to write Posted in Uncategorized. No Comments » […]


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