How to Find Time to Write

July 18, 2019

So you really want to write a book, but you just don’t have time.

It’s something I hear ALL THE TIME from people when they find out I’m a novelist. ‘I wish I could do what you’re doing, but I just can’t find the time to write.’

Let me tell you, you have the time, it’s a matter of making writing the priority. I have written four novel manuscripts while working full-time, part time and managing all my family commitments, because I made the time.

Finding the time to write requires making hard choices, and there in lies the rub.

Just say no

No.

It’s a little word that we find oh so hard to say. No, I can’t come to your party. No, I can’t do an additional freelance job. No, I can’t go to the cafe this Sunday morning, because it’s my writing time.

Do you say yes to everything to please everyone else? Then chances are, this is the number one thing stopping you from finding time to write. If you say yes to everything, you’ll never have time to prioritise for your writing.

But it’s easier said than done. I have said yes to so many things in the effort to stay busy and make cash, but some of those things weren’t conducive to meeting my goal of writing a book.

Sure, there are things that are non-negotiable – work is a necessity, answering that call from your mother yep, sure – but binge-watching another season of that TV show you love soooo much will not help you write a book.

Time mapping your actual commitments

Part of not having time to write is feeling overwhelmed with doing too much. Writing a book is just another thing on the endless to-do list. And it drops further down the list with the pressures of everyday life.

Take a nice, quiet morning to make a cup of tea and map out your week in either a paper diary or using a calendar app. Use a highlighter to block out things you can’t move. Use a different highlighter to mark out the things that are negotiable. Do you have a gym class booked in your prime writing time? Can you move that to an evening or group activities together so you get more done in an afternoon?

Look at the white spaces you have in that diary. That’s bonafide writing time. Don’t fill it up with other stuff!

Also highlight the nothing time, the time you spend waiting on public transport, waiting for school pickup, soccer practice. Instead of scrolling on your phone, use this time to write.

I wrote my first book by hand, and later by mini-laptop, on an hour long commute on public transport. It was an hour, and my daily goal was 500 words. 500 measly words. I wrote two novels this way. It all adds up. Look at where you have large blocks of nothing time. As I write this, I’m standing in an airport waiting for a flight. I had a half-hour to spare, so I used it.

Time-blocking

Calendar for planning writing time with post-it notes
Every month I plan out the time I have to write on my calendar so I can see it.

Make the big NO easier to say by blocking out dedicated writing time.

Once you have identified the gaps in your calendar, look at how many times you can commit to writing during the week. Put it in your calendar as you would a work appointment.

This is writing time that no one, and I mean no one, is allowed book out with dentist appointments, movie viewings, gym time. Including you. You don’t have to write every day, but stay committed to your allocated writing time.

If you have a family, that means explaining to your partner and kids how important it is that you write, and that when the door is closed to your office space (if you have one), you can’t be interrupted.

This isn’t always doable. But it’s worth a shot. If you’re constantly interrupted in your space, try going off site to a library or co-working space for a couple of hours.

Make good choices about your commitments

Explain to your friends how important it is that you write a novel. I have understanding friends (also writers) who know when I say I can’t do something because that’s my writing time, they get it. We reschedule, we work around our plans. Everyone writes best at different times of day – I’m a morning person – so make sure your time works for you and not other people.

Remove distractions

So you get to your allocated writing time and oh look, squirrel! And soon enough, an hour has passed, and you’ve got to get back to all the other things you do.

Writing time is non-negotiable. If there are things on your mind, try to clear them off before the hour of your writing time. Finding time to write means sacrificing other activities. Do you need to binge watch three hours of k-dramas? By all means, relax, have fun, but if you want to be a writer, you’ll chose where to spend your time.

Use a time tracker on your phone to monitor how much time you’re spending on it. At the end of the week, assess what you’ve been doing all this time. I use a habits tracker to make sure I’m writing on a regular basis.

Make a contract with yourself

Finding the time to write is about making a contract with yourself. While you might have many reasons to write, in the end, you’re the one who is sitting in that chair. If you truly want to be a writer, you’ll find time to write. You need to want it hard enough. Write your goal on a post it note and stick it where you can see it every day.

Hopefully these tips help you. If you’ve got any hot tips on how to find time to write, share them in the comments below!

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