3. Finding Time to Write

You know what? Sometimes we just don’t have time to write. If you’re caregiving, working, and all the rest of it, sometimes even 10 minutes to write those 50 words is too much to build into your day.

But I think when we complain about not having time to write (and we all do), what we really mean, most of the time, is not having energy, not having a brain that doesn’t feel like a withered turnip from everything else we have to do in our lives. In the last section, I talked about how an average of 250 words every day means a novel draft within a year. It’s hard to say how long it takes to write 250 words; sometimes I get that in five minutes, and sometimes it takes me an hour of hard brain-cudgeling. Most often, I get it in five minutes after spending 55 minutes browsing Twitter, texting a family member, putting a load of laundry in, yelling at myself for being such a bad writer, petting the cat and replying to some email.

So the way I carve out time, usually, is to set myself a timer. Ten minutes in which I can’t do anything else. Wifi off. Phone across the room. It’s amazing what can happen in 10 minutes.

Most of my writing life has been in conjunction with a day job. For a while, I tried to wake up at 5 a.m., to write before work, because I knew of other writers who did that and I thought I should emulate them. It turns out that my brain doesn’t really function before 9 a.m. It doesn’t matter how early I went to bed the night before. I am just Not a Morning Person.

So instead, I wrote in the evenings, long after my child was asleep. I wrote while I was eating lunch. I thought my way through plot problems on my commute. There are little bits of time in the day. The trick, for me, was learning when I was most likely to have the brain-energy.


What’s the best time of day for you to write? How much time can you, realistically, carve out for yourself at that time? Write it down.


“So be it! See to it!” Octavia Butler’s notes to herself.

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