by night sounds so wonderfully simple. But add to it author by morning,
holiday vacation, sick day, lunch break, or nap time, and things can
When my children were young, I
started writing during nap times at my home day care. I cared for six
preschoolers and was in desperate need of escape, so while they slept,
I managed to carve out an hour and a half each day to step out of my
world and into another. If I had known then that twenty years later I
could still only count on the same amount of unbroken time each day to
write, I may have quailed, but I don’t think I would have quit. Those
brief writing sessions fed and refreshed my soul and left me soaring
with a sense of accomplishment.
Since those early days, I have
dreamed of staying home to write full time, but finances have made that
impossible. Until that dream becomes reality, I have found some things
that help me to make the most of my limited writing time.
• Be strong. Resist
the urge to check your e-mail when you sit down to write. Don’t even
peek. And whatever you do, don’t blog. If you must Twitter, ignore the
siren’s call to catch up on tweets until the end of a good writing
• Be ready. During
my children’s school years, I wrote scenes longhand at Little League
games, on the couch while watching TV with the family, and (yes, it’s
bad) during my husband’s sermons. I conceived the idea for my first
published novel and wrote the first four chapters during an eight hour
road trip to Disneyland, only putting it aside when my kids insisted,
“It’s time to go into the park now, Mom.” The point
is that inspiration strikes when the conditions aren’t perfect, and
we’d better be ready when it does.
• Be flexible.
Life changes. When both my kids were finally in school and I found
outside employment, I wrote after their bedtime until late at night.
Often I would jerk awake at midnight or after to find myself sitting at
the computer in my dark, silent house, and then crawl into bed. As they
grew older and more self-reliant, I could also use the mornings to
write until I took them to school. I found that I did my best writing
at that time. Eventually, they weren’t around much after school and I
started writing earlier in the evenings. Saturday mornings were great
because everyone slept in. The older they got, the later they slept.
Now that our nest is emptying, I can choose my own time to fit in
writing, and most of my weekends are free.
You may not feel as though you
have time now, but things change. Sometimes you just have to be
serpentine for a while.
• Be aware. Know
what works for you. Sometimes it works to take my laptop to my day job
and get away at lunch to write in the cemetery (you read that right),
or in the Starbucks at the large table with the power strip and, most
important, no Internet access. I keep my back to the door and listen to
Mozart on my iPod to drown out the background noise. The mochas help,
too. It can be a very productive hour.
The library doesn’t work for me
unless I’m doing research. The quiet reading room puts me to sleep with
its cushy upholstered chairs, fireplace, and the sunlight streaming in
through expansive windows in the afternoon. The main portion of the
library houses too many books that I hear whispering for my
attention—even through the Mozart.
It works for me to take a few
days of vacation time and stay alone at a local convent/retreat center
on the cheap to flesh out a rough draft or an outline. I will admit
that three days without conversation borders on sensory deprivation,
but sometimes that’s what it takes.
You’ll only find what works best
for you by trial and error, and either way, you’ll get some writing
• Be sure.
Just because you’re frustrated and tired of the challenge of finding
time to write, you may not have reason enough to quit your day job.
Recently, while working full time as a manager of children’s programs,
I decided it was time to quit and devote all my time to writing. After
all, I had one book published and was contracted for another, and I
didn’t see how I could possibly keep up with the demands of writing,
rewriting, and marketing along with my day job. I went as far as to
resign my position and to interview applicants for my job. But after
much soul-searching and an unexpected confirmation, I realized that as
much as I wanted it to be God’s leading, it was simply my idea and not
His. I decided to stay in my position and trust that He would help me
meet all my obligations. Five months later, we experienced financial
setbacks that would have made my decision disastrous. I learned not to
grumble and to be amazed at His perfect timing. It is the desire of my
heart to do my best writing for Him, but only He knows how that is best
Now, once again I find myself
nodding off at half after midnight at my computer in a silent house.
Until that glorious day when I am given the “thumbs-up” to write full
time, I’ll continue to squeeze every available drop of time out of my
day to write.