How To Write When You Don’t Have The Time

Mercedes M. Yardley wears red lipstick and poisonous flowers in her hair. Her first short story collection, BEAUTIFUL SORROWS, was just released and is available on Amazon. Mercedes works for Shock Totem Magazine. You can contact her at or follow her on Twitter as @mercedesmy.

Let me just start off by stating that I’m writing this with a baby on my lap.  She’s sick.  As is my husband.  As is my son.

The laundry is strewn all over the house in various states of washing and folding. (That’s what two family trips interspersed with violent bouts of the flu will get you.) I need to put together a costume for a Halloween book signing.  I also need to love on the sickies, make a bunch of crafts for a craft day that I’m in charge of, and, oh yeah, WRITE AN ENTIRE NOVEL in the next six weeks.  Not to mention reading slush for the magazine, doing a blog tour for my new book that’s out, and putting up reviews and articles that I committed to.

The subject of this particular post? Writing when you don’t have the time.  Cue wild laughter.  Cue high fiving the Universe because the irony is just so freakin’ awesome.

Time is a writer’s currency.  Nothing else is as precious.  Time will never fall into our laps; we have to make it. And how do we carve out huge swaths of time when we’re so incredibly busy?

Perhaps we need to ditch the concept of giant chunks of time.  We’d likely fill it up with other things, anyhow.  So learn to make the minutes count.

  1. Multitask.  I’m writing AND rocking the baby. Sometimes I write and get up every few minutes to stir the soup, or unload five things from the dishwasher.  Did I mention that my computer is currently in the kitchen?
  2. Prioritize. The good thing about a time crunch is that we learn what’s really important to us. If writing is your life’s blood then you’ll figure out a way to shoehorn it in.  Something has to go, so what will it be? Television?  A few commitments that you felt guilted into anyway?  Pick something and jettison it. You’re giving up something good for something fantastic: your writing career.
  3. Guard your writing time ferociously.  Bare your teeth and snarl.  When you’re home writing, everybody seems to think that you’re just playing on the Internet. The phone rings. People come to the door.  And why wouldn’t they? If you’re not going to take your writing seriously, why should you expect them to?  Turn your phone off.  Nail the door shut. Let the outside world know that you’ll get back to them when you’re finished.  And then write.
  4. Reevaluate. Is this worth sacrificing for?  If so, keep on keeping on. If not, consider cutting your losses and walk away. There should be some joy to this process.
  5. Open a can of soup for dinner. When you’re under a particularly harsh deadline, don’t have unreasonable expectations for yourself.  You can’t do everything wonderfully all of the time. Some other things will fall by the wayside every now and then, and it’s okay.  But never let your family fall, and make sure you get a little writing in every day, even if it’s only a sentence or two. Make that sentence beautiful.  Make it shine.

4 thoughts on “How To Write When You Don’t Have The Time

  1. With so many sickies in the house I imagine you're ill too, but it always falls to mummy to be the nurse. Glad to hear you can still find the time for writing.
    I already implement a few of the above techniques. Instead of locking doors I tend to tell people I'm busy with my son (which is often true, he is an adventurous toddler) and instead of soup cans I tag my husband in for dinner duty. With NaNoWriMo started he's been made well aware he's cooking dinner most nights this month.
    Good luck with all your commitments.

  2. Rock on!

    Like many, I fall into the erroneous belief that "I don't have enough time!" when it's more correct to say "I'm not using my time to best effect."

    Both my wife and I are writers, we have 3 kids and we both have jobs (luckily working from home) so we often catch ourselves griping about who gets more writing time.

    We can both write and both keep our sanity. Just a little tweaking of the schedule, some creative juggling of work and play and diapers, etc, and we'll both show up for our writers' group with fresh new words ready for critique! yay!

    thanks Mercedes for the kick in the procrastination pants.

  3. What a lovely post. :) My wonderful husband has just started taking over the kids for me at 4 pm the last two weeks so I can write. Trouble is since I'm still here in the house not much writing is getting done. Nobody thinks of me as gone (including me) so I'm going to try going to the library next week. Wish me luck!

  4. Kirstie! Thank you for your comment! I'm doing NaNoWriMo this year, too, and my husband is ready for dinner duty. And kidlet duty. And pretty much everything else. He's certainly helpful all year long, but November is really when he becomes Cinderfella.

    Mason, you're the king of schedule juggling! That's why I often give my schedule and commitments to you so you can work your magic with them. ;)

    That's the same problem that I have, billie. You're still physically present, and it's tough to turn off that mommy brian. If they can see you, you're still in action. And since you're there, why not help out a bit? Tell me how the library goes!

    Thank you so much, everybody!

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