Making time to write

sun dial

I think the most common frustration of other writers (and myself) is “how do I make time to write?”

It’s hard for me, too – for various health reasons, I have to keep my apartment as clean as humanly possible on a regular basis. I also run a small business, once that has suffered not from negligence but from very detailed attention that has to be done to hopefully make it a very stable business in the future. And although it’s small and I’ve shrunk it quite deliberately, I do have a social life that includes occasional volunteer work and other obligations.

The Artist’s Way has helped me work a few of these kinks out for myself.

The first is perspective. Most people think in terms of what they can’t do, rather than taking stock of what they can or how they can. Julia Cameron writes about these litany-and-response conversations, and I have had them with many people over the years.

“How do you make time to write?”

I get up as early as I can.

“I need sleep/can’t do that for health reasons.”

I establish specific time to write.

“I have to work/to chauffer my kid/to do whatever chores.”

I control what I can of my environment.

“I have to have the right ambience.” “People start disrupting me.”


Writing something that might be published scares the hell out of people. 90% of the excuses above are not from laziness/ineffective thinking – they are from fear.

And this means there are people who need to write to be happy who just aren’t doing it, and they could live the lives of saints and still be miserable because they aren’t responding to that deep-seated urge in any way.

My secret? I stealth it. I don’t write novels every day. I don’t spend hours and hours on each page.

I write one page a day.

That’s it. 500 words for me takes about half an hour on an average day, an hour if I’m slogging. Most days it’s about twenty minutes. I can treat it like I’m nursing a playful secret. Some days I do my writing before I even leave bed – this way no one can come up with something to sidetrack me before I get to my writing. All those weird and naughty tricks you came up with as a kid – like reading under the covers and stashing contraband under the bed? They are to help you protect and nurture your creative self now. Those were some positive skills, if you choose to use them positively.

And then I set it aside and go about my day. If I have extra time, I write blog posts. If I don’t, I focus my attention on where I need it most.

This does raise the question of when you work on multiple writing projects. And this is where I pick whatever is my favorite at that moment. Sometimes it’s still a slog. Sometimes it’s a relief to backburner a story.

And you can be damn sure that there are some days or even a few hours when I just turn off my cell phone – it’s to make my life easier, not to make me the whole world’s bitch.


  1. Moe

    You totally have the right perspective. One of the things I’ve found when working with writers for the last six years is that they want to sit and work for hours on end. Life doesn’t allow for everyone to do this. Stealing time to write a page is often the way to go. One page a day is one book a year. That’s not bad at all.

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