Friday, November 16, 2012

Help! I Can't Find Time to Write

For the past two weeks, this blog has been focused on finding time to write. My buddy, James Garcia Jr., shared how he finds time to write, and I shared some great blog links from other writers who have some good time management tips. (Links to both posts are below.)

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles
Today, I thought I'd take a look at the things that busy writers can do when they feel like they can't find time to write...because I think a lot of us feel that way. Sometimes it's as though the whole world conspires against us to keep us from putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. There is definitely a battle that happens for each of us, no matter who we are, to do what we feel most passionate about in the midst of situations that want to drag us away from our life's calling, whatever it may be.

For me, I work a day job where I write and edit all day long. As a copywriter for a nonprofit, I'm busy penning words for other people. That can be tiring if I allow it to be. Part of my personal battle is to maintain balance and keep myself refreshed and in a good place mentally daily, so that I have the energy to write my own work in the evenings.

But even when I take care of myself, life has a way of getting in the way. At the moment, I have set the goal of finishing Nanowrimo with 50,000 words by November 30, to finish my novel draft by end of December, and to edit and get it out to publishers/agents in March. This is a reasonable goal for where I'm at in my novel right now. Yet life has rolled in with an outpatient procedure for me that pushed some of my other projects into backlog, a broken cell phone that took hours to resolve, unexpected day job deadlines that required me to put in extra hours, a trip to the ER with a sick friend, a planned outpatient procedure for that friend, some freelance deadlines that I expected to have met by now...

You get it. I'm not complaining. I'm just saying that even the best of planners are forced to pants sometimes because life is fond of forcing you to pants. And I mean in every area of your life, not just writing.

So, how do we resist the tide that pulls us away from our writing shore?

  1. It starts with attitude and determination. Do we want to write so much that we can't let it go? Hunger to write is vital. And it's something we have to maintain daily. If you're reading this blog, you probably consider yourself a writer. So, take a little time each day to think about your passion for writing. Remind yourself how much you love it, why you want to do it, where you want to end up, and how it felt the last time you wrote something that made you feel proud and satisfied with your gift. Let that drive you to find time to write today. And then repeat the process tomorrow. And tomorrow. And tomorrow.
  2. Know what you do with your time. We all find time to do things we don't necessarily have to do, like watching TV or getting up for a second cup of coffee. And it is all too easy to waste time without even thinking about it. Half the battle is just to be aware of where your time is being spent. Get into the habit of asking yourself what you want to do with your next hour. Check in mentally with your daily goals every so often and ask yourself what really needs to get done today and what can wait until tomorrow. When I make that evaluation, I often realize that tomorrow is an even better day to get that errand done, so I really do have time to write today.
  3. Be prepared to write anytime, anywhere. I have a friend, Kristin Nador, whose blog title is Write Anywhere. I'll link to her blog below. Her idea is to write in different places as a challenge to herself, but you can adopt the idea as a tool to fitting in time to write in a busy schedule. I do it by taking at least a small pad of paper with me everywhere I go, plus I carry a flash drive with copies of my current projects on it. If it's a slow hour at work, out comes the flash drive. If I get an idea while driving, I jot it down at the next stop light. You can even use your smart phone to capture notes or an actual piece of writing and then email it to yourself.
  4. Don't beat yourself up if all you could do was fit in 15 minutes, or 100 words. Personally, I've had to learn to pace myself. Writing a novel is a long-term goal. Short-term goals of finishing a chapter a week or 1500 words a day may be helpful, but there will be days when you can't make it happen. Instead of looking at it negatively, look at it positively. On a particularly tough day, if you managed to get 500 words down in spite of everything that conspired against you, it's an achievement. Enjoy it as a victory, because it is. And the positive outlook will help you be energized to write the next day.
Well, those are some things that are working for me. Have you tried any of these ideas before? How well have they worked for you? Let me know in the comments below, or chat with me on The Chipper Muse on Facebook or Twitter about it. I'd love to hear from you!

Links I mentioned above:
Managing Your Time When You're Busy
Finding Time to Write: Guest Post by James Garcia Jr.
Kristin Nador Writes Anywhere blog

Copyright (c) 2012 by M.A. Chiappetta. All rights reserved.


  1. This is awesome. I had a conversation about exactly this on twitter this morning. I like how James Scott Bell in first section of The Art of War for Writers, puts it. He calls it the "mental game of writing because what happens in your head affects everything else." I'm learning to be flexible, shoot from the hip, roll with punches so to speak when it comes to grabbing time to write, and knowing what "season" I'm in as well and balancing that with my dream. I think being able to write down your goals helps to pull us through the fog, through the desires of vegging, and other time wasters, so that when we do sit down we are focused and not procrastinating. Excellent post. Will have to bookmark. :-)

    1. Thanks so much for your kind words, Jennette! Yes, so much of writing is a mental game/attitude. I'll be tackling that some more soon, because it's so key to success. And I agree that formal goals, especially in written form, can help us stay on track. Good tip!

  2. Thanks for the tips, Michele. I don't write every day, but I do think about writing every day, and work on the business of writing. The only thing that I have refused to give up in my pursuit of writing is my treadmill. I'm pushing 44, so if I want to stay in shape, I'm going to have to put in the work. However, because it is that important to me, I don't watch television anymore, rarely sit down for sports events as I used to, have practically given up golf, etc., etc. A lot of things that I used to think were important have had to be cleared away, but that's okay. We do need to make certain that we don't lose ourselves as we seemingly give up everything in this pursuit. With as much time as we spend alone, good mental health cannot be understated.
    Have a great Thanksgiving week, my friend.


    1. Jimmy, so glad you added that emphasis on not giving up everything to write. We writers DO need to take care of ourselves. I actually find that when I take care of myself, I'm more energized when I write and I'm more open to creativity. In fact, I'm going to write about that in the next week or two because I think it's so important to our effectiveness in writing and everything else we do. (And happy Thanksgiving to you too!)

  3. Great post, and thanks for the shout-out. Love this list, I think #2 is all important, because you may think you know what you spend your time on, but just like a financial budget, until you really examine it, you may have just convinced yourself you devote more time to writing than you really do, and so many little things can come in and steal away those minutes. Excellent tips!

    1. You bet, Kristin. I love your blog. And the whole idea of writing anywhere is one great tool to steal those minutes back and use them toward writing and our other creative endeavors. :)


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