Finding Time to Write
Maybe you want to write, but you don’t have time to write. What do you do?
Many aspiring writers plan to write in their spare time. This works—if you are one of those rare individuals who have more time than you have activities. If that’s you, you don’t need to finish this article. But since you have plenty of time, you might as well.
For everyone else, let’s talk about where you find the time to write.
Make the time.
Lee Roddy says, “We tend to do what is most important to us and make excuses for the rest.” Most regularly published authors don’t find spare time lying around and use it to write. They look at their schedule and responsibilities and carve out time to write.
Writer Rick Barry has published over 200 freelance articles and stories and two novels. Like me, he writes for Regular Baptist Press and Bob Jones University Press. He has also participated in over 25 mission trips to Russia and the Ukraine. How does he balance his writing with his travelling and other responsibilities?
Here’s his answer:
Like most freelancers, I’m not a full-time writer. Time for writing is always a precious commodity. Every day, in addition to my regular responsibilities at the Christian ministry where I work, I receive questions by email, online chat requests, Facebook messages that need replies, offers from millionaires in Nigeria who simply can’t wait to bequeath their entire fortunes to me… So I don’t usually enjoy large blocks of time for my personal writing. Instead I compel myself to write in the most unsatisfying way possible—using short chunks of 20 or 30 minutes in the morning, sometimes during half of my lunch break at noon, or for a glorious whole hour or so before bedtime. I’m also married, so I need to make sure I’m not neglecting my wife while I’m pecking away at a keyboard. In addition I carry a laptop to write while in airports and in the air.
Thirty years ago I wanted to write for Christian publication. I felt God wanted this too. I had an article accepted in 1978 and three more in 1979. Then in 1980 my husband and I took our 10-month old daughter to Taiwan. We spent two years in full-time language school. During that time our second daughter was born. Those days I truly had no time to write. I did have three articles accepted in 1982, but I wrote very little during those days. But the clock was ticking and I knew my time would come.
In 1985 my daughter started kindergarten in a nearby city. Every day I drove her to school, dropped her off, then went to a nearby storefront church. I pulled out my typewriter (no computer yet) and spent the morning writing. That gave me five mornings a week. I wrote articles and short stories specifically targeted toward a particular take-home paper market. That school year I had 15 articles accepted for publication.
That year I got a good solid start in writing for Christian publication. After that I usually tried to write one article or story a month. Some years we travelled on furlough back in the States and I had almost no time to write. But as we got back into our schedule each time I carved out some specific time period to write. Now that my girls are married and away from home I still have many ministry obligations, but this season of life brings me more freedom to arrange my schedule and work on writing.
Sometimes I run into people who really want to write for publication. I talk to them about getting started and they show a lot of interest. Later I run into them and they never quite got around to writing something specifically aimed at any particular publisher. What is the problem? They really do want to write. They also want to quilt, scrapbook, homeschool, join an aerobics class, skydive, kayak, and raise wild turkeys. (Something like that anyway.)
If you are serious about writing for publication, you’re going to need to study your craft, figure out the market, work on ideas, write, submit, and persevere. Focus. If you are trying to do too many things at once you probably won’t get far with writing. What are you willing to give up to focus on writing?
You may have to multi-task. Maybe you can think about your story while you fix dinner. (Now you know why I sometimes find things in odd places in my kitchen.) Or you may craft main points to an article while you stand in a store line. Use time in the doctor’s office to think. Write after the kids are in bed or during your lunch hour. If you want to write badly enough, you will find time somewhere.
Years ago I heard writer Pat King speak at a conference on finding time to write. With small children at home she had to be creative. She suggested three questions to ask yourself before you take on a new responsibility. These questions have helped me through the years when I have to figure out what to put into my schedule and what to leave out.
1. What is it that only I can do?
Some things I need to do because no one else can do them. Only I can be a wife to my husband and a mother to my children. Some jobs in our ministry I need to do because no one else knows how to do them or is in a position to do them or will do them. If a job is important and no one else can do it, I may need to.
2. What is it that someone else needs to be doing?
I can play the piano, but if I play at all the services I keep our other pianist from having an opportunity to play. If I teach all the classes, others will not learn to teach. I may need to step back and allow others to serve so they can develop new skills. Some jobs I could do, but if I don’t, someone else can step into that job. That may be a good thing.
3. What is it that no one needs to be doing at all?
In churches and other organizations we often keep adding new programs without taking old ones away. At some point we may need to analyze activities and drop them from the schedule entirely.
If you are looking at your own busy schedule and trying to figure what to leave out, these three questions may help you.
Working toward specific writing goals gets you moving in the right direction. We talked about long and short range goals in an earlier article. Once you have those goals you need to work at making time to work towards those goals. When you can do that you are well on your way to becoming a published writer.
If you are a published writer, I would be glad to hear the creative ways you find to write. You may respond by clicking on Questions and Comments under Writers’ Circle.