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Seven ways to protect your writing time

March 28, 2013

This is the time of year when I whine mightily about the things that prevent me from writing. The second half of the school year is always busier than the first half–it’s just the way things are. This is also the time of year when we start planning for the new conference, and that takes time for myself and a core of people dedicated to making your conference experience everything it can be. (Speaking for them, they’d appreciate any drinks you might want to buy them–and I’m happy to be their proxy in that regard if you can’t find them.)

Then there’s family and the J-O-B and minor things like sleeping and eating. If you’re married, your spouse would typically like some of your time because he or she presumably loves you.

But writers write. It’s what sets us apart.

And while my distractions are unique to me, the size and scope of them probably isn’t. And the nagging feelings that you’re cheating other things in order to write probably isn’t unique to any one or two of us, either.

So how can one juggle all that stuff and still find time to write? I’ve got some tips, but I’d like to know how you do it.

  1. Although you need some plain old down time, you don’t need to watch the entire fifth season of Happy Days on Netflix in one sitting. Consider whether what you’re doing is really necessary downtime, or the result of inertia preventing you from getting to business.
  2. Turn off the wifi on your computer. If that doesn’t work, go someplace that doesn’t have free wifi. It’s hard to believe but Facebook and Twitter will survive without you just fine.
  3. When you’re with your family, be completely with your family. In return, when you’re writing, be writing. Tell people you’re setting aside time for writing and hold to that. Chatting, stopping sibling arguments, or talking to whoever called can wait, and should.
  4. Find a way to write in those little slices of downtime that occur for everyone. Got a tablet? Get QuickOffice, open a Dropbox account, and use your tablet while you’re waiting for your darling child to be the last one to leave from his or her activity.
  5. Put a day on the calendar once a month that’s your writing day. And hold to that, as well. It might be more convenient for someone else if you move the writing day. It’s more convenient to you if you don’t. Their convenience doesn’t necessarily trump yours.
  6. If you’re trying to be published, remember that you are a small business. If you were trying to open a store in the mall, people would understand if you spent a lot of time at it. Becoming a published writer is no different.
  7. Allow yourself the necessary downtime, but don’t spend massive amounts of time screwing off. Your protestations of not having time don’t have any value if you watch the entire fifth season of Happy Days on Netflix next Sunday.

How about you? How do you protect your writing time?


  1. March 28, 2013 6:19 am

    To be perfectly honest, I haven’t. I know in my mind that what you say is true and I really do plan on doing them, but it seems this only occurs in small spurts. By seeing my lack of time managment compared to what I should do, I think, will help me to refocus and restructure my dayjob/writing life.

  2. March 28, 2013 9:53 am

    My No. 1 way of protecting writing time is consistent scheduling. My writing time is right after dinner, and it’s been that way for years, so my family and friends just know I’m not available then. I make exceptions for special occasions, of course, but for the most part, I stick to that schedule, and it works. I know others who set their time first thing in the morning, because an early-morning slot is less likely to be pre-empted by other events.

  3. Peggy Lambert permalink
    March 28, 2013 12:19 pm

    I’m semi-retired but can still manage an excuse not to write if I need to. After years of putting my writing ‘on hold’ until I had the time, I now kick myself daily for it. Back then, it seemed necessary to sit for hours at a time in a quiet space to write. The irony of that is now I have the hours but only write in spurts of thirty minutes to an hour. All the electronics available today are wonderful but you should never go anywhere without a small notebook and a pen. I read a story once about a guy who wrote a novel while stuck in freeway traffic, fifteen minutes at a time. I don’t know if it was true but I absolutely think it’s possible.

  4. April 1, 2013 2:05 pm

    A small group of 4 writers/authors recently banded together for what one writer calls a “Lock In” … I call it “Write Focus”. We meet at my house or one other author’s house every Wednesday from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. … without fail. We avoid getting sidetracked and really focus on whatever our individual writing projects are. The only times we interact are upon arrival, stretch breaks, short lunch, and end of working time. We are making so much progress and can have next to immediate feedback on issues we encounter while composing at the notebook keyboards (minor interruptions). For my own work during these focus encounters, I created a complete plot outline for my sequel novel by following “The Writer’s Journey” format with specifics to apply to my manuscript. In addition, I’ve used those Wednesdays together with my writer friends to also write all the fore matter and the first 8 chapters. Now … if I can just be that focused at home alone, I can really make major progress … right after I finish my income tax return.

    • Chris Hamilton permalink
      April 1, 2013 2:09 pm

      Nice work!

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