How Do You Find Time to Write?

March 10, 2011

Many writers struggle with the when and where of writing. I’m no exception.

Back in the days of titles and salaries and deadlines imposed by editors in chief, I slipped into my office, put in eight hours (sometimes ten with conference calls) and emerged at the end of the day. The house was a disaster. The kids were whiny. And my husband looked no better. Guilt ensued, but I rationalized the guilt with a glance at my deposit slips and a gut check—I felt proud of my contributions to the family’s bottom line and to my personal and professional development.

If I look back to the early days of my career, I remember nursing my babies in one arm and typing on deadline with one hand. I remember using my feet to rock a crying baby in a bouncy chair while I transcribed recordings of source interviews. And yet I don’t remember having any regrets.

Flash forward to no title, no salary and self-imposed deadlines that are sketchy at best, and the real struggle begins.

When I quit my job, my home office was a fatality. After all, I didn’t really need it anymore. What we really needed was another bedroom. So now, I write at the dining table while the kids are at school.

I miss my office, and someday I’ll reclaim that space. The problem with writing in common areas of the house is that I’m subject to interruption. The kitchen’s too close to the dining table. (I’m convinced I write better with a constant supply of carbohydrates.) The mailman arrives between 10 and 11 a.m. (For some reason, I feel obligated to retrieve and read the mail as soon as I see him pass my window.) And when the home phone rings, I have to fight to not answer. (After all, everyone knows I’m not actually working anymore, so I have time to chat. Right?) And then there’s the housework, the pile of haplessly discarded shoes by the front door, the unfolded blankets, the throw pillows in disarray, the empty glasses on the end tables, the laundry in the basement, the beds unmade: someone has to take care of these things. (Of course, that someone should be me, because everyone knows I’m not actually working anymore. Right?)

Wrong. I’m working harder now than I ever have. Eight hours and thousands of words can pass before I blink my way back into real life, and you know what? When I do, I’m exhausted. I’m mentally spent, and my butt hurts like I spent eight hours doing squats instead. Long after I’ve closed my laptop lid, I’m still working out scenes in my head and carrying on conversations with characters. The process is as important to me as if I were preparing for a trial or puzzling over patient care. I may not have the title or the paystubs anymore, but I have the passion.

Still, I want more than a successful fiction writing career. I want a long life and a healthy, happy family. Certain things need to happen—once and awhile—for these other things to occur. I exercise. I cook. (The people close to me are laughing hysterically. I said once and awhile. Stop and breathe.) I drive carpools and volunteer. I even pick up freelance writing gigs as time allows. SO when I’m not writing romance at the dining room table I might be:

  • Writing in the front seat of my car, waiting for one of my three children to finish practice. (Thank you iPhone Notes app and iPad Evernote app.)
  • Rambling off ideas for a scene into my iPhone voice recorder.
  • Writing late at night, in bed, while my husband sleeps next to me. (There’s something very sweet about this.)
  • Writing early in the morning before the family wakes. (There’s nothing sweet about this. I’m not a morning person.)
  • Writing on the weekends, while the family is occupied.

There’s never enough writing time, but I’ll take what I can get. Because when I don’t write, I’m miserable. And I bet my husband and kids prefer a happy woman over a spotless house any day. (Just don’t ask them on a day when there’s no clean underwear.)


5 Responses to “How Do You Find Time to Write?”

  1. KimberlyFDR Says:

    When I write for professional deadline, there’s that self-imposed “this is due TODAY and it has to be sent in TODAY.” That pressure can inspire your focus more than anything.

    When it’s me writing for the prospect of one day selling it (whether that’s my short stories or my novel as of late) I try to employ the same mindset about daily time devoted to writing. “This hour of writing is due TODAY and it has to be done TODAY.” It’s not a huge request, so my mind believes “of course I can do this!” It’s much easier for me to maintain daily progress than to lose the momentum and try to pick it up after skipped days and multiple excuses.

  2. I like that! I actually think it could help me to achieve a better balance. I do have a tendency to write more than I pay attention to the other areas of my life. With job-related deadlines, there was always a specific end point. Working on a manuscript seems to endless.


  3. Cynthia Says:

    OMG, you live at my house. I work at a desk that is in the dining room area and I would kill for a door. I’m constantly amazed by how similar we all are and it’s sad for all of us. LOL.

    • Cynthia, that’s too funny. I moved my desk to from my office to the dining room, but then I moved it to the family room, thinking I could simulate an office-like feel. I rarely use the desk. I gravitate to the dining table. I must be a glutton for punishment. 🙂

  4. taristhread Says:

    I did the same for years!! Office in the bedroom, the dining room, etc. Now I have an office/sewing room, and I write curled up on my sofa, or on the roof…..

    I’ve always wanted a “real” office, away from the house, wonder if I’d write there??

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