Finding Time to Write

I’ve written two 100,000+ word novels in the last several years. I’m not breaking productivity records or anything, but I’m pretty happy with my output given that I also have a very demanding job and still make time for family and exercise. I frequently get asked how I make time to write. Honestly, it doesn’t seem that tricky. Let me examine why that is.

So how much time writing am I really spending? I’m not punching into a timeclock, so I’ll have to estimate. Including editing and making revisions, I’d say each block of 1,000 words has about 10 hours of effort behind it. My two books have around 215,000 words combined, which would equate to 2,150 hours. That’s a year’s worth of work at a 9-5 job, but it’s been spread over about 4 years. So, 500-600 hours a year, or 10 hours a week.

Where do those 10 hours come from? Here’s what I do:

  1. Ruthlessly prioritize. For me, it’s: family, work, exercise, and then writing. That means everything else gets pushed to the back of the list. Some stuff never gets done, or it gets done the expensive way: hiring someone else to do it so that I have time to write.
  2. Take the time when it’s there. Some weeks everything comes together: I’ve got more available time and the words are flowing. Other weeks (or even months), work and family obligations leave no time to write. So I try to make the most out of time when I know I have it. I go through productive bursts, and then I’ll have droughts. It all averages out.
  3. Remove the time-suckers. I love to read and can get lost in video games. It’s best for me not to own the latest Dark Souls game until I’m waiting on beta readers. Otherwise, it will call to me, and games occupy that same time slot as writing.
  4. Live with less sleep. Unfortunately this one is the truth. It’s probably not the healthiest thing in the world, but I sleep about 6 hours a night. Always have.
  5. Have an understanding with my wife. This one is the most important, by far. Fortunately, my wife is a writer as well, so she knows the time it takes. We protect each other’s time even more fiercely than we protect our own.

I said it doesn’t seem that tricky, and it’s not. It’s straightforward — but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. It takes constant effort to make time, and sometimes life conspires to keep you away from your project. That’s okay. In the long run, you’ll get that book done if you just keep plugging along.

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