The Fundamental Secret to Finding Time to Write

by Ruthanne Reid | 11 comments

Hey, you. Yes, you—the one with the storied dreams and the demanding imagination. You need to TAKE the time to write.

The Fundamental Secret to Finding Time to Write

I'm sorry to say this, but that time will never materialize on its own.

You Will Never Find Time to Write

I know how hard it is. You have a family. A job. Responsibilities. You have Important Things to Do and Tasks That Must Be Done.

You won't find time to write between those things.

You have children crying and a needful beloved, a house that needs cleaning or a desperate desire for time with your friends to unwind. There's nothing wrong with that.

You won't find time to write between those things.

Maybe you have a chronic illness that leaves you listless and exhausted and fearful you'll never make it as a writer. Maybe you may have a Day Jobbe (to quote Jay Lake) so brutal that you almost feel like time with your loved ones is rented.

I know. I get it. I HAVE a chronic illness. I can tell you truly that you won't find time to write. Here's the secret: you will have to take it.

You Must TAKE Time to Write

By this point in your life, you know there's no such thing as free time. It's always filled with things before you even get there—good things, mostly, things that have a valid reason for eating those minutes. This is where the rubber meets the road: if you want to be a writer, you must take time from other things—yes, other good things—and devote it to your writing.

This means taking time from your family. This means taking time from your friends. This means taking time from other hobbies, no matter how awesome they are. This means calculating how much energy you'll have at the end of the day and budgeting writing time.

You have to take the time to write because it will never materialize on its own. 

Be ruthless about protecting writing days. […] Some people do not seem to grasp that I still have to sit down in peace and write the books, apparently believing that they pop up like mushrooms without my connivance. I must therefore guard the time allotted to writing as a Hungarian Horntail guards its firstborn egg.”
—J.K. Rowling

Let's make this practical.

  • Is everyone together for the holidays? Wonderful! Take fifteen minutes from family time and go work on your novel.
  • Are you an exercise fanatic? Good for you! Cut fifteen minutes from your usual daily 10k run and go work on your novel.
  • Do you jealously protect your evening Netflix-and-red-wine time? Darn right! But take fifteen minutes before your Doctor Who marathon and go work on your novel.
  • Does your body have its own ideas about what may or may not be possible? Plan in advance so you have fifteen minutes of energy to go work on your novel.

Taking Time to Write Is Worth It

This is difficult, I know. Our days are so packed full of good and important activities that it feels like we don't have time to write, but that isn't true. The truth is we have 1,440 minutes to use every single day.

Good golly, that's a lot. Maybe carving 15 out to write isn't so extreme after all.

You can do this, beleaguered writer. Take a look at your day and make the call. Take the time. Write.

What have you taken time from to write? Let us know in the comments!

PRACTICE

It's your chance to put this into practice. Today, I want you to consciously take fifteen minutes away from something else and write like you're being chased by hounds. Write without hesitation; don't give yourself time to question or self-edit. Take that stolen time and use it well.

Write, then post whatever you wrote the comments. Your fellow writers are taking time from good things, too! Don't forget to leave comments on one another's work.

Best-Selling author Ruthanne Reid has led a convention panel on world-building, taught courses on plot and character development, and was keynote speaker for The Write Practice 2021 Spring Retreat.

Author of two series with five books and fifty short stories, Ruthanne has lived in her head since childhood, when she wrote her first story about a pony princess and a genocidal snake-kingdom, using up her mom’s red typewriter ribbon.

When she isn’t reading, writing, or reading about writing, Ruthanne enjoys old cartoons with her husband and two cats, and dreams of living on an island beach far, far away.

P.S. Red is still her favorite color.

11 Comments

  1. Sebastian Halifax

    For me it’s not a matter of time; it’s a matter of focus. Also I have Blank Page Syndrome.

    Reply
  2. Nwamaka Ophelia Patrick

    Useful tips but i personally find it difficult getting the ideas for my work. i have to write new stories every three weeks for a blog and its so stressful. each story must have 24 episodes not less than 1500 words. in five months, i have written five stories like that. thinking of the next one which is not forthcoming of which I must have my story ready in two week time. any idea on how to generate ideas for new stories?

    Reply
  3. Menu

    I have a question. Where do you start pasting your 15 minute written piece?

    Reply
  4. Peggy Ernest

    Setting the expectation in the 100 Day Novel Challenge turned out to be my best tool in making time to write. I’m continuing the discipline in the rewrite phase. “Fail to plan, plan to fail,” is certainly true. Plant it. Write it down. Do it!

    Reply
  5. Andy

    I love this. It definitely makes finding time seem more attainable. And 1440 minutes, wow! Makes me feel lazy. I think I’m going to start writing while I’m pumping at work. Might as well since I have a free hand. Thanks for the motivation!

    Reply
  6. Azure Darkness Yugi

    My problem is that I get distracted and lose my motivation easily.

    Reply
  7. Sefton

    Chores take the hit for me. I clean when I absolutely have to and not before. I also eat at my desk so I can use my whole lunch break for writing.

    “There is no need to do any housework at all. After the first four years the dirt doesn’t get any worse.” Quentin Crisp

    Reply
  8. Sarah

    Any good advice out there about where to draw the line between plotting/world building and jumping into the actual writing?

    I am eager to get started on the actual writing of my fantasy novel, but feel that there is so much about my world I don’t yet know. A year ago, I decided to jump in with the writing before really knowing my world well, and I didn’t like where my writing took me. This time around, I’ve invested much more time into the world building, but don’t know when to stop. A world could keep growing forever if you let it!

    Reply
  9. Jason Bougger

    What works best for me is to set a daily goal. It might be a word-count, a blog post, finishing a short story or a scene from a longer piece. But whatever it is, set that one goal and get it done. After it’s complete, move on to a few more secondary daily or weekly goals.

    It also helps that we don’t have a TV in our living room anymore, but that’s a step most are afraid to take 🙂

    Reply
  10. Sheila B

    I’m taking time right now to write this. I’m taking this time from time I was spending on social media, which I just took from reading, which I was stealing from my morning contemplation. Writing this brings me back to that contemplation.

    I’m newly unemployed, but people tell me I’m retired even though that was not my plan and I was actually laid off. My former boss used the phrase, “I’m releasing you.” Until that moment I didn’t realize I was a well compensated but indentured servant!
    I’m adjusting to 9 extra hours a day of freedom to choose how I use my time. And mostly I am flummoxed by how I fill that time up so easily and quickly.
    Because my writing group was meeting this past Thursday, I stole some time I might have otherwise used cleaning up the yard to write an essay on what I wanted versus what I choose to do. And the first thing i stated I want is to write. But I qualified that I want it to come easily, like a compulsion.
    I wrote about my compulsion and obsessions around other activities, but now I’ve read this article about rhe neceaaoty to “take time” rather than make time. Now that this truth has been put before me, I can’t deny it.
    I am always making the choice NOT to write by choosing other things. I may make those choices so quickly and stay with them so long they seem like compulsions and obsessions, but they are my choices. My other activities are me choosing in every moment.
    A friend suggested I discover my joy and do that. She doesn’t know me well enough to know that I have my joy in being, just being. My challenge is how I spend my time. No matter what I do, I am in my joy, my bliss, my contentment, which therefor doesn’t drive me elsewhere. I think I am choosing to do what I must do without realizing all my must do”s were created by past choices.
    What I’ve been lacking is being conscious of choice making. I want to feel compelled or obligated so as not to be responsible for the life I am creating in each moment.
    It is a new awareness and yes responsibility, knowing I’ve always been the Creator of my own life. It is easy to unconsciously create and feel to some degree victimized by life, believing it’s all outside my control.
    It’s an awesome power and no small thing to consciously create.
    I recall a time a therapist friend would often ask me, “What do you really want?” I would immediately get nervous, irritated, afraid to even explore the question.
    I do now know what I really want and I am on the road to achieving it each day via my daily spiritual exercises. But I’ve still not become comfortable with answering the next question which is “What do I really want to do?”
    I am going to act as if the answer to that question is “I want to write.” I am going to at least explore what it feels like to write, to choose to write every day, as I have just chosen by writing this today.

    Reply
  11. yahaira gallegos

    I used to be one of many that would give the excuse of not having time to write, or i would simply not want to write something bad. The best time for me to write now is early in the morning before my 3 kids wake up, and late at night when everyone is asleep. I always carry a small notebook with me, because you will be surprised when you get a great idea for a story or you get some character or dialogue ideas. At first my family especially my sisters though it weird, but now its quite normal for me to say, “Hey guys let me just jot this down real quick.” My current issue though is taking all of my ideas and sorting through them to create something worth sharing.

    Reply

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