You’ll Never Find Time to Write

Oprah has her list of things she knows “for sure.”  One thing we know “for sure” is that the idea of finding time to write is a myth.  It’s unlikely that a free hour will ever tap you on the shoulder. And if an hour does magically appear and by some amazing coincidence you have nothing on your to-do list at that moment, your kids, spouse, boss or the good, ol’ television have something lined up for you to do.

Most writers have multiple projects going at once.

  • You may be a freelance writer who juggles multiple assignments at any given time.
  • Or perhaps you moonlight as a freelancer but have a full-time job that keeps you busy.
  • If you’re a coach or a speaker, writing probably isn’t your main focus—even if you know it can help increase your income.
  • Maybe your writing has nothing to do with earning a living, it’s just something you love to do. In that case, like other hobbies it may never make it onto your calendar.

The truth is you are never going to “find time” to write. You must make time to write. Most famous writers (as well as writers who are unknown but well paid) set aside a few hours a day to peck away on their keyboards. Day after day, their words spill out onto paper and eventually they produce a book, or workbook, or ebook or article.

If you have an idea rolling around in your head but can’t seem to “find time” to get it into print, try putting yourself on a writing schedule. Here are a few suggestions on how to make writing part of your daily life:

Commit to writing for a certain length of time each day.
In Poke the Box, Seth Godin notes that Isaac Asimov wrote and published more than 400 books by sticking to a schedule of writing from 6 a.m. to noon each day.

Unless writing is your full-time job, devoting six hours to writing each day may be impossible—but what about 15 minutes? Could you write for 15 minutes a day this week?

Start with small increments of time and then add five minutes per day until you’re writing for at least one hour each day. The consistency will keep your content fresh in your mind, and seeing the word count increase each day will give you a great sense of accomplishment.

Commit to a specific page count. Determine to write one page per day (double-spaced in 12 point font, please). In one year you’ll have 365 pages. That could be 365 blog posts, a couple of how-to books, or one very hefty novel.

Or, do it by word count. Ernest Hemmingway wrote about 500 words each day. In his lifetime, he produced nine novels and a slew of short stories. Stephen King writes 2,000 words every day when he’s working on a project. He starts in the morning and refuses to stop until his 2,000 words are in each day.

Treat writing like any other part of your daily routine. Schedule time to write each day. Then… show up for your appointment.

Dan Miller, author of 48 Days to the Work You Love and No More Dreaded Mondays, pointed out in a podcast that unless you are self-disciplined about writing, it simply doesn’t happen.

Dan notes that nobody tells you: “‘You have to write a chapter a week, or a page a day.’ To write you have to be your own task master. You have to decide that it’s important enough to do and create some sort of a schedule and a timeline to work you through that very challenging process.”

Like any craft, writing takes practice. Develop a habit of writing every day and you just might find that the words begin to flow a little

Need a little more motivation? Jumpstart your writing projects by attending a writers’ retreat. Not only will you have solid blocks of time dedicated to writing while on the retreat, you’ll have the benefit of brainstorming ideas with other writers.

When do you make time to write? How do you fit it into your daily schedule? Leave a comment below and share your advice!

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jennie - May 17, 2011

Hey Erin

Thanks for that really useful post – some really good ideas there to chunk it down and make it specific. The minute I start thinking about writing a book (which I would love to do and is on my list of ‘things to do’!) I literally freeze and get overwhelmed. 15 minutes a day is totally doable and in fact I could get out at least 2 sides of A4 doing that. Thanks! Jennie

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Erin K Casey - May 17, 2011

Glad it was helpful, Jennie! Chunking it down is a great way to keep from getting overwhelmed. A book is a big project, but if you break it into manageable tasks it’s possible to finish it… faster than you might think!

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Shannon - May 17, 2011

Hey Erin,
Thanks for the inspiring words. Now if I can only put this into practice … I work a full-time job and try to fit in as much personal growth time as possible. A bit easier for me because I’m unattached but things still manage to come up. I’m also teaching myself how to play the guitar so I go back and forth with the blog and the instrument. Either way, I have to neglect one for the other. Blast my overzealousness!
Tonight, however, I think I will write.
🙂
Thanks, Shannon

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    Erin K Casey - May 17, 2011

    Hi Shannon,
    It’s a challenge to create any new habit, but it sounds like you’ve got a plan! Just like playing a guitar, writing takes practice. 🙂 It’s good to hear you’re making time for both! Good luck!

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Davina - May 17, 2011

Great article, Erin! Making time to write is something I often struggle with. I need to treat it just like working out my physical body. It’s just as important to work our brains, and writing also soothes my soul and give me a sense of accomplishment. Thanks for sharing this!

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    Erin K Casey - May 17, 2011

    So true, Davina! Although it’s much easier for me to write than to exercise… that’s something I need to work on.

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Grace - May 17, 2011

Great post Erin. I like the idea of building up a regular rhythm of writing in and amongst the other commitments and projects I have going on. Sometimes if I make too much of an issue of writing I can freeze like Jenny’s described, or get a bit of a mental block. Whereas doing a little bit everyday feels doable and also means that if I have a slow going 15 minutes one day, that’s ok, I can have a more inspired 15 minutes the next. Thanks for the useful tips – and I agree ‘finding time’ is a myth – there’s a fun little video I made about it here: http://grace-marshall.com/finding-time/

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    Erin K Casey - May 17, 2011

    Thanks, Grace. Sometimes 15 minutes can feel like torture. Other times, you get on a roll and realize that you’ve been writing for an hour–pain-free!

    Most writers say that writing at least a little each day helps train your brain and, hopefully, makes the process more enjoyable. If you get writer’s block, sign up for the five free tips for getting unstuck (scroll up and enter your name and email address). 🙂

    Reply
Gabriela Rosario - May 17, 2011

It really is hard to find time to write. Those were some useful tips but I guess they are more useful to some writers than to others. Some writers can force a story but I cannot. The story or most likely the character randomly enters my mind and I have to write about it in that very instant or else its essence might loose itself. I guess that, now that I think of it, writing usually gets a hold of me after midnight. Once I start writing I can’t stop because the characters, well, they live inside me and I start to perceive the world as they do..so I need to get them out of my system and onto paper, even if I have to pull an all-nighter.

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    Erin K Casey - May 17, 2011

    I know what you mean. When you’re writing fiction, characters can seem to take on a life of their own. The practice of writing daily is like inviting them to visit more often.

    You’re smart to jot down your ideas as soon as they pop in your head… even if you can’t write the whole story right then, at least you have the idea recorded so you can remember it. I carry a small journal with me everywhere I go for that very reason.

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Alyssa - June 22, 2011

AMen and AMen. I need to be consistent. I need to schedule my writing b/c I am SOOO struggling with this. Thanks for the post.

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    Erin K Casey - July 21, 2011

    Thanks for the note, Alyssa. We all need the consistency (especially when we’re busy)! On your schedule, try planning what you want to write the next day. That way your brain can be mulling over the words while you sleep.

    Keep at it! 🙂

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Rebecca Burgener - August 11, 2011

My day revolves around fifteen minutes at a time. “I’ll give the kitchen fifteen minutes, and then attack the laundry for fifteen minutes, and then . . .” It’s a FlyLady.net discipline, and it works.

I just started working through the book The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. Right now, I’m trying to establish the Morning Pages habit. I know this thought dump will help me stress less daily, but right now I’m just stressing about remembering to do it! Ha!

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Erin K Casey - August 11, 2011

Thanks for the comment, Rebecca. I’m going to check out The Artist’s Way. Sounds interesting!

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Henry Matlock - July 19, 2012

Excellent post, Erin! You are so right. I had the idea to write my first book two and a half years before I mustered the courage to write it. But when I committed to writing at the same time every day, I got it done in about 4 months. There’s definitely power in setting a schedule and sticking to it. Thank you for that reminder.

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    Erin K Casey - September 26, 2012

    Wow! See what you can do when you are consistent with your efforts and determined with your purpose. Congratulations on your accomplishments, Henry!

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Fay - February 25, 2013

Hmm it looks like your site ate my first comment (it was
extremely long) so I guess I’ll just sum it up what I had written and say, I’m thoroughly enjoying your blog.
I too am an aspiring blog blogger but I’m still new to the whole thing. Do you have any suggestions for inexperienced blog writers? I’d really appreciate it.

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Jennifer - March 5, 2013

Erin,

Thanks for the advice. I have ideas come into my mind often and at times stop and write them down, but I don’t do it daily. I too, become overwhelmed by the thought of how to get all of my thoughts into book form. Maybe, be doing it a little everyday and getting into the habit, that book will come out.

Thank you,
Jennifer Hester

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Carrie Lynn Lewis - May 22, 2015

Thank you for a well-thought out and well-presented post.

I’ve been a writer for a long time and an artist for longer still and I cannot count the number of people in both categories who have told me they wait for inspiration before they write or paint.

Inspiration and time are a lot alike. Being engaged in your work inspires inspiration.

Making time to do your work creates more time to do you work; especially as you learn all those other things may not have been quite as important as you thought they were.

Thanks for the reminder!

Best wishes,

Carrie

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    Erin K Casey - June 9, 2015

    So true, Carrie! “Being engaged in your work inspires inspiration.” I love how that!

    Reply
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