How to Make Writing Time Magically Appear When You’re Pretty Sure You Have None

original image credit: Steve A Johnson, flickr
original image credit: Steve A Johnson, flickr

Wouldn’t it be great to wave a magic wand, swish-and-flick style, and make long, luxurious hours appear out of nowhere, just for you to sit down and write?

Well, that ain’t gonna happen. But here are some time-creating ideas that come pretty close. 

Start by Charting Your Time

Ugh, I know. How are you supposed to find time if you’re busy wasting more time by… tracking your time?

(Is there a synonym for time? Somebody check.) Anyway.

At the end of your day, here’s how a chart of your time should read (this is a fairly accurate description of my day):

  • Commuting/Prepping for/Being at work: 9.5 hours
  • Sleep: 6 hours
  • Cooking: 1 hour
  • Chores: 0.5 hour
  • Talking on the phone: 0 hours
  • Using the phone to waste time: 2 hours
  • Watching TV (but not simultaneously doing other things): 2 hours
  • Internet (but not writing): 1 hour
  • Writing: 1 hour
  • Extraneous (doing nothing, sitting in front of the space heater, walking into rooms and forgetting why): 1 hour

Total: 24

Pick the Stuff You Want to Keep

For example, if you are a parent and you work outside the home, the 2 most important hours of your day could be when you come home and do the nightly bedtime routine with your toddler, or help your school-aged kids with their homework. That’s non-negotiable. But do you also come home and spend an hour cooking dinner, and then another hour playing on your phone in the blessed quiet of after-bedtime?

Or, let’s say you always get up early with the best of intentions, but end up drinking your coffee and checking Facebook until the sun comes up, without having written a thing? (Hello, me.)

Shuffle the Stuff You Can’t NOT Do

Typewriter keys
Credit: Laineys Repertoire,

Cooking and preparing food is a necessity for you and for your family. If you’re the person in your house with primary food responsibility, here are a few ideas:

  • Make-ahead meals. If you’re the Pinteresty type, follow this board for ideas. Or this board. Or this one.
  • Your oven is your friend. Sauteeing all of your food is labor-intensive and, as someone who does not relish the act of cooking, annoying. For dinner, grab a hunk of meat (pork loin, beef roast, quarters and various other chicken parts and pieces, or some sturdy vegetables (squash, portobello mushroom tops, eggplant) or throw together some pasta, sauce, cheese and leftover meat, shove it in the oven, and call it a day. (Invest in a talking meat thermometer for even less time spent checking, poking and prodding.)

Commuting is an ugly, ugly fact of life for the majority of American workers. Bring a notebook, put it in the door pocket in your car, and put a pen in your glovebox. When you leave work, sit in the car and write for 20 minutes before leaving your spot (if where you work is safe enough to do that. If not, write in your driveway or home parking spot).

Practice Doing the Stuff You Want to Do (Immediately)

Credit: Williac,
Credit: Williac,

So you’ve found some free time in the back of your daily routine. You’ve dusted it off, shined it up, and now you sit in the middle of it, with your pen, or your keyboard. Nothing’s happening.

Sound familiar?

The first five minutes of writing time, except in those rare instances when you’re just dying to say something, nothing’s going to come out. But for many writers, this first five minutes is actually 10 minutes, or 30, or 60.

The key to making time is being ready to take the time when you actually have it. This is really, really hard to do. One way to practice is by taking a 5-minute break from whatever else you’re doing to write a sentence. Just one sentence.

Make that a habit a few times a day, then challenge yourself to write two sentences in 5 minutes or less. after a few days, try three sentences. And so on.

Above All, Believe the Time Is There

I waste a lot of time complaining I have no time. When I’m complaining, I’m usually multi-tasking by playing on my phone simultaneously. When I find the time, I make excuses not to use it (“Let me just do those dishes really quickly.” Or, “I’ll make a pot of tea and get to writing.” Or even, “I have time but I don’t feel like it just now.”)

In the end, there’s always enough time when we’re actively looking for it.

Where have you found some unexpected writing time? Share in the comments!