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Author Topic: Finding time to write
Member # 9183

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I was curious if hatrackers had any tips about finding time to write. I read about Mary Higgins Clark writing early in her career from 5am - 7am before getting her kids off to school. That time is currently occupied for me.

In particular, I am curious about aspiring writers who may have a spouse, children and a full-time job.

I get about 3 hrs in a week, but would like to get this bumped up to 8+ hours. Any tricks I'm missing?

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Member # 9196

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I am in exactly the situation you describe (spouse, full-time job, and father). My solution is very close to Mary Higgins Clark's: I go to work very early to write from 7am to 9am every morning. It works well because none of my coworkers are in that early, and I am away from the distractions of home. That gives me roughly 8-10 hours of writing per week, plus anything I can squeeze in on the evenings and weekends.

I think it really boils down to having the will more so than having the time. I found that once I had the will and the seriousness, I made the time. My wife has been supportive, so that helps.

If you can't do that, can you ask your spouse for two hours per day to your own to work on writing?

[This message has been edited by Osiris (edited December 15, 2010).]

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Member # 3112

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I had to literally unplug the TV. You'd be amazed at how much time that frees up...
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Member # 9072

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15 minute breaks.
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I don't have family, but I made changes to be able to write each night.

I write a story idea every night. I shortened what I wrote each night, and skipped posting them on five boards every night. I now will post several on one night, and skip one or two nights of visiting boards.

Of course, some things don't get done that should be or done less often.

My TV is in view and I always am on computer while the TV is on. It is more background, little full attention unless smething special is happening at the moment.

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I write after I put the kids down for the night. My wife works overnights, so I have a window in there. In my job, I sometimes have time freed up between clients, and I use that too. I pretty much take my laptop everywhere I go, and if I have time I write. If I couldn't bring my laptop around with me, I'd bring a small pad and scribble notes and loglines in every spare moment--doctor's office, restaurant, hell, any longer bathroom visit.
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I go to sleep later. When I do NaNoWriMo, I end up staying up. I sit down to write about 9:00 pm and write until I'm tired. That gives me two to three hours when I have a lot of volume to do (such as NaNoWriMo)

I'm an empty nester, so that makes things significantly easier.

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Robert Nowall
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Lately, when I do find the time to write, it's usually the last thing I do before getting ready to go to bed. That puts it behind internet surfing and TV watching, which are both well after working-for-a-job-that-pays-me-the-good-coin.

I do, however, listen to music or listen to (but not watch) the TV while all this is going on. Multitasking? Not really...if I get well into the story I don't hear any of it...once I came up for air only to find the TV news channel going wall-to-wall about a plane crash, news of which broke hours before. Such is concentration.

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Member # 8617

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I try to shoot for a word goal, not a time goal. I have a daily goal that I try to hit by writing 100 words at a time. If I get the hundred words in I can quit or if I have more time I can continue. I then just have to make my goal before I go to bed.

This way, I don't have to worry about having a chunk of time. I can write a hundred words in about five to ten minutes. I can squeeze that in several times a day to hit my overall word goal. If you write 1000 words a day, you have 4-5 pages a day written. That's a novel in less than a year.

I also like this approach because 100 words is an easy goal. I get to accomplish mini-goals all day and it keeps me thinking about the story.

Stop waiting for a CHUNK of time. What's the phrase, small strokes fell great oaks?

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Member # 9218

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Married, with 3 kids and a full time job

I usually write on a night time after 8pm when the youngest has gone to bed. The other two are old enough not to bother me.

I also take a USB stick to work and write during lunch and use it to make notes, sometimes sneak a bit in if its a slow day.

I usually manage between 500-1000 words a day, sometimes more. I find the better a story's going the more I write.

The idea is to make time.

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I share your pain.

I'm actually down to 50-60 hours a week at my regular occupation, instead of the 80 I used to put in.
And my wife and I are now empty nesters.

Unfortunately, I do not have the energy I once did when I was young, and the nature of my work is almost exclusively "left-brain". I found it took me a few days of vacation to recover and awake my "right brain" and get the creative juices really flowing.

This is not conducive to being "a writer".

Thus, I am trying to retrain myself and write or rewrite or plot 1 hour per day, four to five days per week. It has been like trudging through a muddy swamp with cement overshoes.
Much like my new exercise regimen, following a cardiac scare this summer, I am slowly finding it easier the more I stick to it.

But some days, I just have to put up my feet after work and watch the Patriots play or put in the next DVD of Fringe or V.

Dr. Bob

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Something else to try (depending on feasibility, of course) is turning your mp3 player into an audio digital recorder (or getting one that plays and records). Then, on your drive to work, or your walk to work, or whenever you can do it unobtrusively, tell your stories into the recorder.

Then, either transcribe it yourself, have someone else transcribe it, or buy something like Dragon Naturally Speaking(TM) and let the computer transcribe it for you. This can be particularly useful for notes and outlines and just getting something down so that you can add to it and/or elaborate on it.

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Well, I have a spouse, but no kids and writing is my full time job, so not sure I can give you good advice here.

For me, I quit a 70 hour a week stressful job to write. I was getting little bits here and there done while working so much, but it wasn't enough and I wasn't progressing in my writing at all. After going full time it took almost a year to really begin to carve out a habit of working though (people around me other than my husband were very unsupportive and kept making demands on my time since I was "unemployed". It took a while for me to learn to say "no, I have to work")

I do know friends who write on their lunch breaks (one friend has to because he has two small kids and a wife at home who works also, so his lunch hour is all he gets). Other writer buddies of mine get up an hour or so early and get the writing in then.

What do your weekends look like? Could you get up earlier on weekends or go to bed a little later? Basically look at your usual routine and find things you could swap in for writing.

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Member # 9183

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My best opportunities come in short segments, but I don't always capitalize on them. I do, however, often find myself with folded sheets of paper in my pocket or emails to myself if a computer is available.

KDW- I was wondering if someone would comment on a voice transcribing device. I have no experience with one but I have a droid 2 phone that would likely be capable. My drive time right now is used for audiobooks and podcasts, but being able to recite story ideas- esp for a rough or first draft- could be beneficial.

I also fall victim to timewasters, but fortunately we are cable tvless, making one temptation less alluring. I don't consider it all wasting time. There's something to be said for sitting with the wife and enjoying a show together instead of disappearing into the dark, computer-lit confines of our basement.

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Word- Sorry this might be a little long and philosophical -

Osiris has a point about seriousness - Your caught in the age old trap that gets most people and prevents them from doing anything else besides what is directly necessary. Kids, work, pay bills, spouse, shelter, food, friends. I've been there. You can't give up one thing without effecting the others, and you keep telling yourself you should be happy with what you have till more years go by and you start feeling you should have started sooner on a dream and now it feels like it's to late to start. Or in other words you feel their is no time in which to work on a dream.

When I made a move from clerical work to becoming a professional artist/designer no one would support me. I had no time in which to make the change around work and family- or so I thought. I had to make serious changes to get time. Kids - nothing you can do about that - they need all the love and attention you can give them. Work - Here I found that if I was brave enough to job hunt other jobs I could find time - I searched far and wide for a different job that would pay me the same amount for less hours - I often would explain that I needed free time to pursue my true goal and you would be surprised at how many employers can understand about getting out of the trap. Spouse is a tough area - you need to get across to them that you need to free up time - this is a very delicate balance - but hopefully they will be supportive in the end, if nothing else bribe them with sex later to give you time now. Groceries and bill paying should be able to be done in a window of time - this is an area you hope a spouse will take over to give you time to work. You have to give up all the milling about - like shopping malls and other unnecessary trips - Yes it feels horrible at first but each day you get closer to your goal it becomes more easier. Take the kids to places where you can keep an eye on them but they can play on there own, like the park or a play center. Take a pad and work, you might even get inspired. The longer the kids want to play the more time you have. As kids grow up they want to spend less time with you and more with there friends. Speaking of that send them to there friends house more. If it's a safe place. Now personal friends can be a real trouble area for time, and has been my Achilles heel because friends will consume time like a sponge. Hours and hours can be spent doing nothing but hanging out. Most friends will not support a dream because they are their for your time and get upset if something messes with the system. They don't want serious they want fun. Friends get easily offended if you cut back their time. They grow paranoid and try and convince you that life is already perfect. I found though that if I cut back time I had more money for something more special to do with them. You have to trade up a lot of time consuming little things for one night with money to spend. But again its a delicate balance.

In the end you have to ask yourself how much you want it. Most people are happy with the everyday life, about 90% of the people I know are that way. Only you can choose which path is more important.

As I've stated before in other posts I'm a big advocate for pursuing dreams. To many people get locked into the everyday world and have regrets later. My changing point came when I worked at an elderly care center, and spent a lot of time talking to people in there eighties and nineties about their lives and what they liked and didn't like about their life. Some had long full lives, others had regrets, but I came away with live your life and follow the path that leaves you with no regrets - better to have tried and failed than never to have tried at all.

When people would pass away it use to feel so strange that for some it was if they had been erased and never existed, they had no one else, and now only existed in the stories I remember. I decided at that point the path to no regrets was in pursuit of my dreams. Living a life that was as full and as happy as possible.

Well - hope you find some extra time and look forward to reading some of your work.


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Member # 9206

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I won't bore you with all the details of my crazy life and it's demands but I like the idea of just getting five minutes in whenever I can; waiting for "chunks" of time is impossible!

KDW what a great idea! Am going to try it.


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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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I haven't actually used Dragon Naturally Speaking(TM), but I've heard very good things about it. (I want to get it for myself someday.)

As for writing in bits and snatches of time, I managed to write a first draft of a short story one day, while standing in line with my kids at an amusement park. I had this little 3"x5" spiral notebook that just fit in my hand, and I wrote something every chance I got.

It should be possible to do the same while waiting in line at the bank, the grocery store, or any other kind of line. Maybe even while waiting to pick kids up from school or from after-school activities or while waiting at the doctor's or dentist's office. (I wouldn't recommend it while waiting at stoplights, though--they don't take nearly as long as we think they do.)

I heard that Tolstoy was able to translate some huge literary work by doing a sentence or two at a time while he waited for the water to boil for his tea each day. Bits and snatches do add up.

Also, one advantage to writing something that way, is that you have to type it in to your computer later--and that typing can be considered the second draft (one step closer to being done than you would have been if you'd waited until you could get to the computer to write it down in the first place).

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Member # 9196

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I get the 'second-draft' effect by doing a limited rolling draft.

Whenever I sit down to write something new, I write it in red font. At the beginning of the next writing session, I read what I wrote in the prior session, revise it, change that portion to black font and then continue writing the rest of the story.

Truthfully I don't consider anything a completed draft until I've read it aloud to myself and then made tweaks based on that. Then I send it out for a round of critiques and produce subsequent drafts that way.

With the piecemeal approach, do you find the story has flow or continuity problems?

Hear hear, Walex, I'm with you 200%. I'd rather be an old man who tried for his dreams and succeeded or even an old man who tried for his dreams and failed, rather than the old man who regretted never trying at all. The combination of being stuck in a job I've done well with little reward, being rejected by 3 phd programs, and seeing my father in old age (I promised I'd write a book for him one day) have motivated me to pursue the dream.

Another thing that helped me, that I forgot to mention earlier, was internalizing The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and the Franklin/Covey Time management system. These habits are extremely relevant to the pursuit of a writing career so I'd like to share them with you all, which you can find here:

The habit most relevant to this discussion is 2: Begin with the end in mind, and 3: Put First Things First. If you want to be a writer, internalize the end-point, the dream, of being a highly published author first. Getting there will be much easier if you know where you want to be. Putting first things first is why I write in the morning, when I have the energy and clarity of mind (after a cup of coffee ).

The time management system they use really does help one 'find time', or rather help them identify wasted time that one doesn't realize is being wasted. So something like that might help as well.

[This message has been edited by Osiris (edited December 15, 2010).]

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Well I have a 4 year old and 6 year old daughters, and married and work full time, and am still redoing my kitchen, then onto the bathroom, then...

I cant do the morning thing, so I do the night thing. I write between 8-11 pm, this comes and goes. Its not 3 hrs ever anymore, but somewhere in there as I talk to wife and unwind at night watching or listening to TV the muse will come and I will get about an hour which is good for anywhere from 500-1500 words. The key I think is having my thoughts for my scene ready before I write.

I installed Dragon in my computer thinking it would be a big help, it failed miserably for me, but might work for others. I might try again, but boy having the mike on so to speak, came to not just writers block but stage fright and I was unable to get the scenes down. Strange the best thoughts or scenes come just as I get ready for bed, driving my wife crazy, as I get in bed, then get up and write in my journal which then leads to the computer the next day.

In short I would try using your house chores as thinking of what you want to write, it also acts as a pre-edit sometimes, so the scenes are more ready. This might help make the "free-time" you have more effective.

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I have another point of view on this issue, and I wonder if anyone has any thoughts on it.

I have a mortgage, a couple of kids, and a dependent spouse. I have a fulltime job which I mostly enjoy and which pays rather well. As a result, I find it very easy to make excuses not to write, because:

1) I am 'tired' from the day at work.
2) I need to pay the mortgage and keep the family fed.
3) When work is going well, I'm not 'motivated' enough to 'find time'.

In the Grist for the Mill area was recently posted an interview with Orson Scott Card, in which he alluded to this issue in answering how he came to write science fiction in the first place:

Well, the cynical answer is I needed money... I had started a theatre company and it had lost money, like most theatre companies do, and I had to pay off the debts or go bankrupt. And I decided against bankruptcy, decided to pay the debts, and I needed more income, needed to have something extra, and as I thought about it... well the only thing anybody ever cares about that I do is write. And so I wrote, and I wrote science fiction because it had a short story market.

And I wonder if this is the issue - I write my best (and find the time) when I treat my writing like a job. But when the money situation is already 'comfortable' it's psychologically hard to keep the focus required to have a second job that 'on the face of it', I don't need at that time.

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Member # 9196

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And I wonder if this is the issue - I write my best (and find the time) when I treat my writing like a job. But when the money situation is already 'comfortable' it's psychologically hard to keep the focus required to have a second job that 'on the face of it', I don't need at that time.

To quote the orc's song in Rankin & Bass's 1980 adaptation of Return of the King:

"Where there's a whip, there's a way!"

In this case, the whip for me being the need for supplementary income. So yes, that is definitely one of the driving forces for me, and one of the reasons I approach writing as a second job (I don't wait for the muse; when it is time to write, I write).

[This message has been edited by Osiris (edited December 16, 2010).]

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I lose sleep.
The alarm rings at 5:15 and each time I hit snooze I lose nine minutes of writing. This annoys me, so the next day I'm more motivated to get straight up.

But I watch the tube with my wife at night to unwind. If we watch something interesting it gets late.

The alarm goes off at 5:15.

Sacrifice is the word.

Sleep / exercise. (I could get up and go to the gym, but I'm more interested in my writing than my bod ATM.)

I write until the baby wakes up. Could be 15 min (Depending on how many snooze) or two hours.

Today I was up at 4:15. Had a dream I was dead. In my dream I was clutching a manuscript and bemoaning my state of permanence considering it was a MS, not a book. Yeah, try to go back to sleep after that.

Naturally I got up and hit the writing pretty hard. Got eight pages of new material. I didn't enjoy the dream, but I did dig the results.


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I try to write an hour every night after the kids go to bed (I count my husband as one of the kids). That gives me only seven hours of writing a week, but it is better than nothing.

I spend a lot of my day thinking about my writing when I'm doing mindless tasks like dishes or when I go running, which helps a lot.

I know a lot of people get a lot more writing done than I do, a lot of people here are stay at home moms like me with young kids, and I know they do better than I do. But I am done comparing myself to other moms. Someone always seems to be doing better than me. I do what I can without sacrificing that which is most important to me.

My kids are only young once, and as they grow older and need me less and less, I will have more time to write. This is not a race. I have a lifetime to meet my goals, slow and steady works for me.

[This message has been edited by MAP (edited December 16, 2010).]

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I used to do all my writing after dinner...almost all evening. Sometimes I watched a spot of TV or went out for some reason but usually all evening. But now my wife has her crafts online so she needs some of that time.

With my laptop I can something write while she is online, I say sometimes because it depends on chores and how long she is online. She seems to be spending less time online since I got the laptop. And I take it to work so I can write during breaks and lunch. I spend Saturday and Sunday afternoons writing... again usually. This Saturday I may not have much time to write. I need to buy one more Christmas present and check out a End party of NaNo.

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I have a hard time finding time as well. I am married and work more than full time. I usually get home about 1:00 am, and since everyone is asleep I can sometime gt some writing time in there.

I rarely watch any tv and I have even cut out all my video games to nearly nothing. I still have difficulty making enough time to organize my thoughts and get them on paper.

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I'll buck the trend and say I don't write every day. In fact, I'd say the majority of days I don't write (on a specific work in progress) much at all. (I write LOADS of things, a lot of blog posts, a lot of reading, commenting on, passing along links and blogs I read, a lot of email, some general businessy stuff, etc.)

But what I've learned is that I'm a burst writer. I can write comfortably about 2500 words/hr. So when I write, I can write quite a lot in a short period of time.

I'm a mom, work sometimes (project-based consulting work that sucks your brain), volunteer all the time, and parent constantly. I have a spouse with a very demanding job that involves frequent sporadic and completely unpredictable travel. I never know if I can expect him home.

I certainly have hours in my day that *could* be writing hours, but I find that I just do better, produce better, feel better about my writing when I write in these bursts (e.g., I'm a GREAT Nanowrimo writer, I've won all four years I've participated, without any trouble even though I do not believe this year's project is any good.)

But even the bursts are hard for me because there are days when I can write (at my 2500/hr rate) for three or four hours, and days when writing for 20 mins is hard. It's a drag to feel like a failure "didn't get any writing done today!" So it's not perfect, but at least accepting that I'm not one of these slowly dripping faucet writers who write 200 words each day thereby writing one novel a year. Heck, I could easily write 6 novels a year, but I'd have to put in the butt-in-chair hours. Right now, this life stage, that's unrealistic. But I do have one completed and polished novel in the mail right now, and another I'm going to edit and put out there shortly. This one won't take me as long to edit. And I'm getting better at plotting (my primary weakness) and planning and that's making each future effort/project better, and that's all great. And I'm comfortable with that as my current status quo, making goals related to WIPs is important to me and helps me stay focused and feel like I'm making progress.

So my suggestion might be rather than to look for more hours of writing time, re-assess your priorities and strategies. Perhaps you should focus some of your writing time on submitting your work so you can get to a place where you feel some recognition (because once you get that bit of recognition it gets easier to carve out time, I believe, because it's not just you and the quiet dark room and the glowing green light from the computer. Not that anyone's computers glow green anymore. Unless they're looking at something green, that is...)

Or maybe using a metric around completion rather than time would be better for you - aim to complete a story a week/month/whatever interval seems appropriate. So you get a story done, even if it was done one hour at a time five days a week. Or do the "game" thing that goes around here sometimes where you get points for how many short stories, novel packets, query letters, etc. that you have in the mail at a time.

But most of all, remember to have fun and write! As a video posted on ebook sensation Amanda Hocking's blog said: "There is no magic hand (to reach down and pull you up into stardom.) Play musice that you love. Play for anyone who will listen. Work your <bleep> off."

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A PS here.

I don't write every day even though it's probably 80 % or better.

And for about three fourths of the year we get off work two and a half hours early on fridays. I may have 15 minutes to an hour of writing time because of that. It depends on how much I play around and any errands I have to run. Usually I get around half an hour to write.

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