Finding Time to Write

If you have a full-time job, finding time to write can be a huge challenge. How can you still write if you feel you have no time?

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It’s no secret that most writers are in no position to give up their day jobs. For many of us, our dreams start with a hobby we love and enjoy, leading us to quietly pen our stories in the hope that one day we’ll be published and find success. The joy of writing and learning our craft is what keeps many writers going, but the need to earn a living alongside the desire to follow our passions isn’t always easy.

For one thing, a love of writing doesn’t exactly pay the bills, even if you have a finished novel to show for it. A report from 2016 revealed that average earnings for British authors were just £12,500 per year. Even in this age of self-publishing, a ‘successful’ writer may well be the same person who works all day as a barista leaving a heart shape in your latte. Or worse, it could be an old dreary soul occupying the same office as you.

Further complicating this is all the other ‘life stuff’ which often gets in the way. Being in a relationship or having children comes with its own set of responsibilities which, along with holding down a job, saps not just your energy but also your time. This can often feel like it leaves little room for writing and risks negatively impacting your motivation, so you may start getting despondent. Therefore, what exactly can we do to find the time to write?

The obvious thing is to plan your day better. It’s easy for many of us to just go with the flow, but doing this means we don’t prioritise the things which are most important to us. Get up earlier in the morning—start with setting calendar reminders on your phone to use those spare pockets of time to write. The best-case scenario would be to get up early enough to do some writing in the morning, before work. Even finding a spare half hour at lunch can be productive too, or perhaps jotting down a few ideas before setting off home or even on the commute if you use public transport.

Essentially, if you don’t plan your day and start getting strict with yourself at maintaining a routine which suits you, your job will find its own way of taking over your life, eating into whatever spare time you have like a termite infestation in wood. By getting yourself into a habit of being more intentional with how you use your time, you’ll find a way of ensuring those spare moments in the day aren’t wasted. You may think you have no time, but that’s a lie, and you know it—only the complacent truly believe this.

That said, balancing writing with a full-time job is never easy. For those of us who aren’t morning people, getting up earlier is easier said than done, especially if you have kids. This is often what makes us feel like there’s no time in the first place. But setting aside some time before work may give you a quiet period which you might not get in other parts of your day. When waking up after a night’s sleep, you may even find mornings can be really fertile periods for your brain, as many famous authors will often attest.

Finally, let’s not forget, working hours don’t last forever—there will be occasions when you have the following day off, in which case, put the kids to bed (if you have them) and use those evenings to stay up later to get some writing done. Whatever you feel is necessary, when your passion for writing is strong enough it won’t matter when you write, only the fact that you’re actually doing it will. Any time spent writing is better than no time at all.

Don’t beat yourself up about how much time you have to write. Remind yourself that the same ‘life stuff’ which may seem like an impediment is, in itself, inspiration. Even work, for all its petty annoyances, can be beneficial to your creativity. A good writer is one who can distil the experiences of ordinary life into meaningful expression—the trick is to never lose sight of that fact. So stop fretting, take an honest look at your day, and find those spaces of time to write, however small they are. It may not be easy, but that’s the price we pay for doing what we love.

Humorous fiction writer, poet and novelist. Fond of satire. Interested in comic novels, black comedy and tales of satirical derring-do.

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  • All good advice, I’d like to add that one good way to fit writing into a busy life is to install a writing app on your mobile phone so that in those moments when you might tweet or check your Facebook feed, instead you can be writing and redrafting. I recently discovered iA Writer, which is one of many markdown editors. This can be synced to your desktop via Dropbox (or iCloud if you have an iPhone and iPad/Mac), and is far slicker than I’ve found Word to be on mobile. It opens up hours where you might be standing around, travelling to meet people, and other times when taking out a laptop or sitting at your desktop might not be convenient.

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