Finding time between the cracks

Working a full time job and having a young family can put the squeeze on any writer’s ability to find that special time to write. Those in similar positions will no doubt be thinking the same thing. I look back now on my life before kids and wonder what on earth I did with my spare time. It would have been so easy to find that time back then, instead I fell into the trap of thinking there’s always time tomorrow whilst settling into the couch to watch more TV.

But, it’s not doom and gloom by any stretch of the imagination. Last year, I published my first novel on Amazon. I wrote a 50,000 word novel in Nanowrimo, and I’m already 110,000 words into my next novel.

Much of this advice is stuff you’re already read, but the reason you’re already heard it, is because it’s good advice.

  1. TV is the big bad evil your parents probably told you it was.
    Having kids in this situation has actually made it much easier to push the TV to one side. It’s not like I can sit and watch Breaking Bad whilst the kids are up, so the amount of TV I could actually fit in, diminished as soon as we had kids.
    Rather than fretting about this, we cancelled Sky TV and got a Netflix subscription instead. Now, I still watch maybe 30 mins of TV a night, after I’ve done some writing, but it’s 30 mins of TV I’ve made a conscious decision to watch, and not chaff.
  2. You don’t need hours in a single sitting to be productive.
    For the last year I’ve given myself a daily target of 500 words a day. That now takes me under 30 mins to complete. I’d challenge anyone who told me they couldn’t find 30 mins of their own each day. 500 words a day gets you to a 90,000 novel length first draft in 180 days. That’s about six months, giving you a whole extra six months to edit it into shape. A novel a year in only 30 mins a day? Possible? Absolutely. I’m not suggesting you’re going to get a literary masterpiece written like this, but would you sooner have a series of completed novels fashioned in this way, or nothing?
  3. You don’t need a computer.
    I’ve recently gone back to writing in notebooks for some of my writing sessions. This has been great for me. For some reason, I write freer in my notebook, less concerned with punctuation and grammar and more concerned with getting the essence of the scene down. Going analogue also means you don’t get distracted by the Internet, you can do it on the bus, or even at the kitchen table with the kids playing play doh next to you.
  4. Involve your kids.
    Depending on how old your kids are, you might get more or less mileage out of this. My daughter’s seven and is taking a keen interest in my writing. She often asks me to help he write a book and we’ll sit down together and talk about how stories are shaped, what kind of characters she wants, and then type it all up. This is double-plus good for me. I get to spend time with my daughter doing something we both enjoy, whilst knowing that she’s learning something valuable.
  5. Getting up early can help.
    I live 45 miles away from work. Even though I don’t start until 8am, I get there for 7am and spend that extra hour writing. It does mean getting up earlier, but not much earlier. Leaving home much later means I’m going to be sitting in traffic for longer and getting stressed about that. It’s basically a faster commute earlier in the morning, and I use that time I’ve gained to do something I love. Win win.
  6. Working from home can help.
    I’m lucky and get to work from home a couple of times a week. This saves me almost three hours a day in the commute, and I get to use this time to help get the kids out of the house to school and squeeze in another 25 mins of writing. If you live some distance from work, and working from home is an option it can help.
  7. Lunch breaks rule
    Our office can be noisy though, so I prefer to sit there with my headphones on listening to It took me a while to get past the paranoia that colleagues might wander past and look at my screen, but this has NEVER happened.
Anything new? Probably not. But then I did warn you that you’ve probably already heard it as it’s good advice. Have you got anything more to add? I’d love to hear your comments.