How to make time to write when there is no time

times-in-my-hand-1429208-mI know it’s been a while since I’ve been able to post anything, so I figured, as I’m trying to make time to come back to blogging (and especially to working on my fiction) after starting a new teaching job, it made sense to focus on a topic that has really been on my mind this week and even for the last few months:

How do we make time to write when THERE IS NO TIME????

There are so many things that pull all writers in different directions. Some of us struggle with the stresses that come along with financial issues, or problems at work, or sick loved ones, or even personal illnesses.

So many of us have demanding jobs, especially in this economy which seems, in almost every industry, to have multiplied the demands made of workers who are, at the same time, experiencing hiring freezes and pay raise freezes at their companies.

So many have of us have young children, and thus not only the responsibility, but also the fruitful and loving joy of teaching and nurturing them, while we learn from them at the same time.

It’s easy–and some cases, justifiable and even necessary–to put writing on the back burner. It happens. I’m not talking here about situations where there is a moral responsibility to be focusing on other things.

I’m talking about those times when we are capable of making time to write, when nothing is holding us back, but it’s a difficult and daunting task to get organized. Here are some tips I have found to be helpful to me, personally.

1. STOP THE GUILT.

It is okay that you want to write. You are not wrong or selfish for wanting to take time to write. If you need to, sit down and ask yourself the important questions: If I set aside half an hour a day, or even an hour, would that be causing harm to someone else? Would it be forcing me to neglect a serious responsibility or duty? Would it negatively impact my job performance or prevent me from succeeding at work?

If the answers to these questions are NO, then there is no reason to feel guilty about writing, so shut down that voice that is whispering, “Who are you to deserve writing time?” You do deserve it.

Maybe unfounded guilt is not a struggle for you, but it can be for me. And I found it helped me to just look at the situation objectively, so that I had defenses against and responses to the accusations of that “inner editor.”

2. SET REASONABLE GOALS. AND START SMALL.

It’s important not to consider how much you’d LIKE to be writing a day, but how much is reasonable. A lot of things factor into this…. Maybe an hour a day is reasonable. Maybe half an hour is, max, but you can set a goal to squeeze in fifteen or twenty minutes. Maybe Mondays and Tuesdays are killer for you, and writing those days isn’t feasible, but you can set goals to write Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.

The key here? Work with what you have, and try not to feel like you should be able to do more. I am now trying to write for an hour a night after teaching all day and putting in a few hours worth of post-school work: preps, grading, writing tests and quizzes, etc.

This past week, for the first time since starting my new job, I felt settled enough to attempt working on my fiction. I gave myself time to feel out what my new situation was before I set writing goals. Because I set feasible ones, I’m feeling better emotionally and feeling more confident not only about writing, but also about work.

3. MAKE SURE YOU SCHEDULE YOUR WRITING TIME FOR WHAT WORKS FOR YOU.

Generally, I prefer to write in the morning. But, I was already getting up early to get things done for school, and couldn’t fathom getting up earlier.

I realized, though, that if I wrote for an hour or so before bed, I could use that time to decompress and reward myself for getting through the day. Writing at night is also good for me because of the guilt factor I personally struggle with.

If I tried to write in the morning, I would feel HORRIBLE: that should be school time. Work time. But if I teach first, and then get everything ready for the next day, then I know I’m okay to write. I don’t have that cloud of guilt hanging over me, because I have things set up for the next round of classes and I have some time built in the next morning, before classes, to look over everything and make any adjustments I feel I need to.

4. REMIND YOURSELF WHY YOU ARE WRITING.

Is writing a hobby for you? If that’s so, remember that when things get overwhelming. Remember that when you need to make a choice between writing and something that might be more important to you.

If you’re like me, and writing is a passion, a need, and a calling, then use that to find motivation on the days when you’re tired. On the days when the words won’t come. I personally hope the stories of the characters I love in Herezoth–their tales of sacrifice, perseverance, responsibility, and dignity–will, down the road, inspire or touch someone. I hope my books might remind someone of what’s really important. That’s why I write. And reminding myself of that really helped motivate me this week to get back to the keyboard.

Victoria Grefer is the author the Herezoth trilogy, which begins with “The Crimson League” and has new editions coming out next Summer.

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19 responses to “How to make time to write when there is no time

  1. One should also try not to get frustrated when unexpected events derail your schedule. It can lead to an author rushing through a scene or forcing the creative flow. I try to use outlining and small projects to give myself the feeling of progress. That helps on days that things are so chaotic that I don’t get any writing or editing done.

    • that’s fantastic advice. “What ifs” and getting frustrated won’t change the situation. When things get derailed, they get derailed and it’s not a writer’s fault. It’s life. VERY important to keep in mind!!! Thanks for the comment about outlining and small projects!!! That’s so helpful in this time of adjustment!

  2. Love the advice, and motivation. Attempting NaNoWriMo this month, just to jump start a writing pattern in my life again– separate from blogging that is– writing just for me!!

  3. Great post 🙂 thx for showing me that there is time for writing

    • glad you found it useful!!! there are so many of struggling to find those precious minutes…. it’s reassuring I think just to know that so many of us are in the same boat! it’s a normal thing….

  4. Yes, it’s rough working at another job, caring for family, and trying to write. I know; I did it for many years. On top of that, authors now have to keep up with social media, which can eat up any extra time we manage to eke out. It’s a difficult balancing act, and we can’t do everything. Our writing time should be sacrosanct, even if it is only a half hour here and there. Thanks, Victoria, for touching a nerve–or perhaps striking a chord–with all of us.

    • thanks, Linda. we all know how tough it can be, so I’m not complaining. I have it far easier than most and finding the time is something we all have to do…. as a first year teacher I am struggling to write at all, but I think just making that determination to get back to writing on a regular basis will help me a lot!

  5. I wish you every success with your plan! As much as I love teaching, I find that 1) it tires me out, and 2) it has a way of expanding to either fill all available time or making me think it SHOULD fill all available time, inspiring even more guilt than ignored writing. I still haven’t figured out this balance and do most of my first drafts during school breaks, although I have high hopes for next semester, when I will have fewer classes and fewer days on campus.
    The one thing I would say is — don’t beat yourself up if you’re really too tired after a day of teaching. It’s good work, but it’s draining. And you do deserve some time off, too!

  6. Glad to hear you are still writing when you can, Victoria. I hope in the future to read more fantasy novels by you, whether set in Herezoth or elsewhere.

    I like the idea of trying to write even if you think you might only have fifteen to twenty minutes for it. In the past, I’ve often put off trying to write on any given day because I didn’t think I’d have an hour or two for the activity. But that’s the wrong mindset. Writing for even fifteen minutes is better than not writing at all. Some progress is infinitely better than no progress.

    I’m going to spend fifteen minutes now working on my own novel, before getting ready for bed. Thanks for the motivation!

  7. Everyone’s writing style varies, but I like to write as soon as possible. In the morning, I have to get my kids ready, get them off to daycare, preschool. I have classes for the majors and then work. I have all the demands of running a household, a freelance business, designing, writing, cleaning, cooking, organizing… the list goes on and on, which I’m sure you know very well. But, I never feel more fulfilled that I after I write something… especially fiction. I live for that feeling I get after a good writing session. As soon as I write, I feel complete. The day feels complete, and there isn’t anything that can throw me off.

  8. I feel my biggest struggle is that when I get home from work I don’t even want to write. And I feel really guilty about THAT, because I do love writing very much! I have been trying to schedule myself a tiny bit of play/relax time after I get home, so that I don’t feel so bleh about the idea of writing.

  9. I need to stop playing and get with it. Thanks for posting this.

  10. I’m glad to see your blog again, as I so relate to what you write. Although I’m retired, I have many demands on my time and find it difficult to make time for writing, yet I must. Something has to be put aside in order to write, and with me, unfortunately, it’s generally housework that gets shoved to one side or postponed for a day when I have more time. Hah! When will that day come? Like you, writing is my passion, not a hobby but a necessity. I consider it my business and have to treat it accordingly.

  11. Pingback: Blogdom November 2014 | The ToiBox of Words

  12. Thank you so much Victoria for your post. Sometimes when we are alone and struggling to find the time to write, it can feel like we are the only ones that have this struggle. Everyone else is cruising along! They are organised and disciplined. Of course that’s not always the case and although I’m not rejoicing in this new adjustment of yours it really is a timely reminder that everyone has challenges to face and balls to balance in the air!

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