Writers ask themselves all the time how to find the time to write a book.
Here’s my unpopular opinion on this topic: you have all the time you need.
I know, I know…don’t shoot, okay?
I’m not going to tell you that it’s easy to find the time you need to write consistently, especially if you’re trying to finish a book.
But it can be done.
I receive a lot of emails and DMs from writers — every single one of them women — saying that their biggest challenge in their writing life is actually how to find the time to write a book.
And I can absolutely understand why.
- 89% of writers I’ve surveyed over the past year have either a full-time or a part-time job.
- 44% of writers also have children at home.
This is before we talk about the pandemic and the challenges related to it (time, motivation) over the past year. It’s before we add in doing the dishes or any volunteer work, or other family care responsibilities apart from children.
We are all stretched for time. And we all kinda need a nap right now.
These are the exact messages I’ve been sent from some recent writers:
My biggest challenge right now is finding time alongside childcare, other paid work and domestic responsibilities.
I need to stick to a schedule. I have the time, just using it for distractions currently.
When I have time, I procrastinate.
I just need to find the time and energy and just get on with it.
It’s hard to find the time to do something I love when others in my life are in need of my time.
My life is so full of other projects and learning right now.
I have no time to myself.
I feel these comments down into the soles of my feet and into the very feet of my soul. I can remember all too well when I was a working single mother also trying to finish a graduate degree part-time, while volunteering in my community.
Because I felt I had to do ALL OF THE THINGS. Like an insane person, where the definition of insanity was wanting something different but continuing to make the same choices in my daily life time and time again.
I still suffer with this, some days — though I’ve gotten so much better over the years and learned to let myself also have rest without guilt, which was a huge shift in my life.
Okay, so let’s talk about how to find the time to write a book!
Brace yourself, because I have some questions for you to help you think about your relationship to time and your writing…
Question #1: Who’s in charge of your life?
If your answer is anything less than “I AM!” or, “I AM, DAMMIT!” 🙂 then we need to talk, because this is an issue that goes far beyond your writing life.
I understand completely the desire to be there for the ones you love. But your kids will move out and the organization you work for likely won’t be delivering casseroles should you break a leg or need chemo at any point.
And I don’t want you to live your entire life without being able to express your creativity and realize your writing dreams.
Often, when people feel really called to write, they feel “not writing” quite deeply. Speaking personally, an extended period of not writing can turn into an episode of depression pretty darn easily.
Sometimes though, I wonder if the issue is actually time… or just our sense of worthiness. Does that strike a chord?
I don’t know who needs to hear this today, but…
You are worthy of time alone.
You are worthy of time to write.
You are worthy of your creative dreams and the time you need to pursue them.
If you need some support negotiating boundaries with your loved ones, try this blog post.
Question #2: How many more hours a day does a published author have?
Of course this is a bit of a cheeky trick question.
We all have the same 24 hours in a day, and most published authors I know also have day jobs (I do!) and children at home (I did!) and other commitments in their lives (heck, yes!).
To finish writing a book, you have to claim your time and adjust your schedule so that it works for you and no one else.
Feel bad because you just can’t find the time to write every day? Then organize your writing schedule on a weekly basis, so that you can find the time that works best for you. If you have a doctor’s appointment on Friday afternoon this week and that’s the time you normally write, then look at your week and find another space for your writing session.
How to find the time to write a book? That’s all it takes: organizing your writing times weekly based on what’s going on in your life and leaving the guilt and drama out of it.
Only able to write for 30 minutes this week? Oh well! That’s a few more pages than you otherwise would have had if you’d just not written at all because you felt badly that you couldn’t set aside 3 hours to write.
Here’s the truth: most published writers are fitting their writing into very busy lives and you can do the same.
Question #3: If I give you 10 more ways to find some more time to write this week, will you try them?
Okey-doke! Here are 10 ways to find some more time to write this week:
Cut back on TV, just a little bit. (You knew this one was coming, right?) You can set up TV to be a reward: write for 45 minutes and earn an episode of your latest Netflix obsession. You don’t have to cut it out completely for this approach to be effective: swap out one episode with one writing session.
Write while doing your laundry. Option #1: take your laundry out to a Laundromat that will wash, dry and fold it for you. Then take yourself off to a coffee shop to write in the hour or more that you’ve saved. Option #2: it takes 20 minutes to wash and 45-60 minutes to dry. Write while the machines are doing their thing. Clean clothes + new writing = win win!
Get up a bit earlier. You don’t have to go crazy with it to make this work – just try 30 minutes earlier a couple of times each week. Get up, grab coffee, write, then get on with your day. Try this just 1 time this week to see how it feels. If you like it, hit repeat. (Or if you’re up for it, try the #5amwritersclub.)
Stay up a wee bit later. If you get a second or third wind later at night, use it for writing. Light a candle, have some delicious tea or a glass of wine and make an enjoyable ritual of it. Then read a good book in bed afterwards. Again, it doesn't have to be every single night for this to work.
Swap baby-sitting duties. If you have kids, ask a friend or family member to swap sitting duties – they take your wee ‘uns for 1-2 hours one day, and you take theirs another day during the week.
Ask your partner to help. If you have kids and a partner, then ask them to be the parent on duty while you get a couple of hours to write. Swap off with them for something they love to do on another day in the week. (Oh, and you’re not a mean bad mommy for wanting time to write!)
Write on your lunch break and/or coffee breaks at work. (I wrote much of my second book that way.)
Order your groceries online. This can turn a 45-minute task into a 15 minute one and voila! You’ve just found 30 minutes to write. Or, do it in the car if necessary — drive to get your groceries and spend 20 minutes first writing in a notebook in the car before you go into the supermarket.
Write while waiting for appointments. (Headphones are a gift to writers!)
This isn’t that hard once you commit, I promise: it comes down to knowing that your creative dreams matter. That understanding is ultimately what will motivate you to set the time aside on a consistent basis.
You’re a smart cookie who is in charge of her own life and who has the same 24 hours in a day as every other published author with a family and a day-job. You can do this!
Look at your schedule for next week right now and identify at least 2 spaces of 15-30 minutes where you can sit down with a notebook and write.
For extra accountability, come tell me when it’s done! 🤓 You can DM me on Instagram @resilientwriters or send me a quick note in Messenger over at my Facebook page.
If you’d like a copy of my free PDF Guide The Writer’s Weekly Planner to help you with scheduling your writing sessions, you can enter your email and grab a copy here.
First Book Finish, my live 12-week program to help writers finish their books and make a plan to publish in 12 weeks or less, will open again for registration in early July. Get on the Waiting List here to be the first to hear, and receive both a discount on program tuition and a special bonus not available anywhere else!