Thursday, September 17, 2009

Dreaming of Time

At a workshop a couple of weeks ago, a woman admitted that she can’t find the time to write because she has a full-time job. This didn’t sit well with me, and I know there are others out there who suffer from the same excuse. Most writers do not have the time to sit down for a few solid hours at the computer to write their stories. They have to fit in the words where they can.

Now I understand as mature women we all have responsibilities that cannot be ignored. I get that. There are times in a person’s life when you just can't write. Those situations include the birth of a baby, family crisis, environmental crisis, etc. However, given the fact this woman was at the workshop led me to believe that her job was the main reason she cannot not write.

Here are some examples of writers who make the time to write:

  • One friend in particular works between 50-60 hours a week, cares for her two small children, spends quality time with her husband and has recently acquired two puppies that require a lot of attention. Still, she finds a few hours a week to write.
  • Another friend works a regular full time job, cares for two small children, takes two classes every semester while she is in graduate school and finds a few hours a week to write.
    The ladies are inspirations to me and many others.

But where does this time come from?

  • Take 15 minutes out of your lunch hour
  • Take 15 minutes in the morning before work starts
  • Use your 15 minute break to write
  • Get up a little bit earlier
  • Go to bed a little bit later
  • Write while you wait for your child to finish soccer practice
  • Write while you are waiting for an appointment (doctor's office, etc.)
  • Give up television and video games
  • Forget about FaceBook, Twitter and surfing the Web.
  • Limit your e-mail time

Carving out 15 minutes a day can add up to a lot words, and lots of words add up to lots of pages.

Do not forget about using technology to help you work more efficiently. The AlphaSmart is a popular choice followed closely by NetBook.

If you can’t afford to acquire technical gadgets, write in a notebook and transcribe it later. The idea is to get words on a page. Without those words, you have nothing. A friend uses this method successfully, and she swears she is more creative.

In short, stop dreaming about finding the time to write and make it happen. Everyone deserves the chance to go after their dreams. Do not let life keep you on the sidelines while you watch everyone else pursuing their passion.

So my friends, please share your ideas about where to find time to write. Also, what tools/methods help you be a more efficient writer?


Sandy Elzie said...

Good morning Tammy,

BeforeI retired, I used to write long-hand in a notebook and transcribre on the weekends. I used the hour to and from work (hubby drove) and my hour lunch. Then in the evenings if there was nothing else on our agenda, I'd sneak in more time. From 2001 to mid 2005 when I retired I had written 6 books.

Somewhere in there we sold a home, packed everything for storage, I lost both parents (a month apart)to long-term illnesses and I managed to maintain my marriage.

It CAN be done if you want it bad enough.


Debbie Kaufman said...

I broke down and bought an Alphasmart Neo. It is so easy to carry around, instant on and off, and too many other pluses to mention. I can easily write 3-4 pages at piano lessions, a page or two in carpool line, a manuscript in its entirety waiting in the doctor's office (just kidding, doc), and find it has boosted my productivity big time.

Also, Kelly L. Stone has written a great book, Time to Write, that covers the bases and then some on this subject.

Tammy Schubert said...

Good morning!

Sandy, you are absolutely right. If somebody wants it bad enough, they will make it happen.

Debbie, I'm so glad you invested in the Neo. It's a great productivity tool. Thanks for posting information about Kelly's book. I'll have to check that out.

Marilyn Baron said...

I also bought an AlphaSmart NEO which is proving useful. It's light as a feather, very portable and I can write if I'm on a driving trip (as long as I'm not driving), out by the pool, etc. I know Stephanie Bond uses hers while she's on the treadmill but I haven't tried that yet. I'm just getting used to being on the treadmill in the first place.

I carry a small notepad in my purse and write snippets when I think of them. But I do find it difficult to have a regular job with deadlines, etc. and then shift immediately back into the writing mode. I prefer to have a longer, solid period for writing but I am in awe of the people who can do both with ease.

Marilyn Baron

Free Your Creative Mind! said...

Hi Tammy,

Great topic and ideas for finding time to write. I'm always tackling this issue myself (yes, even after writing a book about it!) :) My "standard" suggestion to folks is always to work a writing schedule-- pick time either early in the day or late at night as you suggest and write consistently during that time even if it's just 30 minutes.

And I totally agree with you about limiting time on Facebook and so forth. I'm astounded by how much time email and other social networking sites chew up.

Thanks for the great post.

Best wishes,
Kelly L Stone

J Perry Stone said...

Tammy, if you were in front of me at this moment, I'd scare you with the most giant hug.

This is exactly what I need to hear.

I'm going to be selfish and simply take this advice as I have nothing to give back, at the moment.


Danica Avet said...

This topic reminded me of a panel I attended where Angie Fox said she was waking up at 4 in the morning to work on her book. I think if you have the will, you'll find a way.

I found that if I was at work and needed to get words down, I could e-mail it to myself and incorporate it into my story when I got home. In fact, I wrote most of my manuscript in e-mails. It made a huge difference because all of my ideas come to me while I'm sitting at my desk zoning out :)

Great blog! :)

CiCi Barnes said...

Time is tight for most people, for one reason or another. To re-iterate one more time -- if you want it bad enough you will find a way.

Even though I have the luxury of sitting at my desk from 9-5 most days, I'm always taking advantage of those little snippets of time to do something with my manu.

Notebooks, NEOs, even tape recorders, allow you to squeeze in a few extra minutes of productivity.

Dig in with the discipline. And thanks for the reminder, Tammy.


Tammy Schubert said...

Marilyn - Thanks for the reminder about Stephanie Bond and writing while on the treadmill. I believe she puts a flat wooden board across the machine and uses her AlphaSmart Neo. Stephanie is also big on using a kitchen timer. She sets it for 30 minutes and does nothing but write during that time. Then she takes a break and does it all over again.

Kelly - It is unbelievable how much time social networking takes out of our day. Your statement about writing for 30 minutes a day is something I keep hearing from a lot of writers. It's all about building the habit. I'm going to have to check out your book.

J - I'm glad this post is of use to you. Take the time to put your butt in a chair today and spend at least 30 minutes writing.

Danica - Great idea! I never thought of using email to write the book. Zoning out at work has definite advantages. I find that ideas flow. The more ideas I document, the more ideas come to me.

CiCi - Any tools that can help a writer get the story down is one way to make time to write. Another useful tool is a pile of index cards. They slip easily into a purse.

Thank you all for sharing your thoughts and ideas!

Maxine Davis said...


Loved this post. I needed that kick in the pants so much!! I have often said I am the world's best procrastinator.

I'm think I'm going to do what someone suggested, write SOMETHING during certain hours. Wish me luck.

Anna Steffl said...

Long ago I conquered the TV addiction. Now, I need to work on the internet one!

Honestly, though, right now I'm trying to work through the rounds of rejections and the burden of knowing about craft. It's so much easier writing a book when you don't know how crappy it is!

Thanks for the kick in the pants, Tammy. I need it about once a week.

Tammy Schubert said...

Anna and Maxine, I'm always happy to give writers a kick in the pants to get them going. Somebody needs to kick me. Giving advice is a lot easier than taking it.

Rejections are hard. You can't afford to dwell on them though. Learn what you can from them and move on. Always remember that the first draft can be crappy. If you need permission to write a crappy first draft, you have it.

I have heard from many writers that spending 30 minutes a day, the same time every day, in the same place helps build the habit of writing. Good luck, Maxine.

Linsey Lanier said...

Great post, Tammy.

The Alphasmart hasn't worked for me, though I know it's a great tool for others. One of my favorite methods is to use a tape recorder to "write" scenes on my long commute. I transcribe them in the evenings, editing as I go, so I get two passes out of it.

I usually write after work in the evening, print out and edit in the morning before work. In the evenings, sometimes it's hard to get into the mood. Once I'm there, it's hard to tear myself away and get to bed, LOL.

I just got Kelly Stone's "Time to Write." So far, it's very inspiring. A must have, imo.

By the way, I just finished the revisions of my 407 page (Courier New font, single title) manuscript last night. I'm celebrating!


Maxine Davis said...




I will try that! Thank you!!

Tammy Schubert said...


Congratulations! Your method of writing is definitely working for you.

J Perry Stone said...

Go Linsey!

Tami Brothers said...

Hey Tammy,

I can definitely relate to this post! I really need to organize my time better. I think after M&M, I will have a bit more. Of course, I am spending some good times reading these past couple of weeks. I might be able to cut out some of that and write…

I have the AlphaSmart and I really like it. Like Linsey, I’m not as into it as I could be. I wish the heat didn’t affect it that much. I’d leave it in my car (like a perfectly good notebook would work) and work on it when I have a few extra minutes.

Thanks for a timely reminder!


Ana Aragón said...


As you know, when I'm having a hard time squeezing in the writing, I prefer to get jump-started with a Write Night session. This is sitting right in front of several writers who are busily writing and forcing myself to do the same. It's amazing how much I can get done.

I am the world's best fact, I have a doctorate in procrastination. I keep trying to tell myself it's because I work best under pressure, but even I know that's faulty reasoning. Imagine if I could get myself to stop reading all those FB posts and then getting myself lost in someone's photo albums.

So, friends, if you see I'm posting on your photos that have been up for several months, shoot me a message to tell me to get my bahonkas in gear.

Thanks for the swift kick, Tammy. I needed it!


Susan May said...

Nice post. Some days it is hard. But we all o what we really want to do. We make time. Make it important.

Tami Brothers said...

Hey Tammy,

I am sooooo sorry I am late replying to your post. This was a terrific post and I'm glad I was able to come back and read it. Thank you so much for bringing this up. We all need reminders. Even when we know some of these things, it seems like we have selective memory until it's brough up again.

Best of luck to you Tammy and I know I'll be right there behind you working on my own stuff (I know we will FIND that time!!!)...


Jessica Doyle said...

Are y'all still reading comments to old posts? I came back to the blog because this was exactly the kind of thing I was wondering about.

See, I KNOW there are people who, say, do NaNoWriMo in between a full-time job and taking care of three kids under the age of 5, not that I'm thinking of any particular PF&HT bloggers :). But this has been a real struggle for me since my daughter was born in June. If I'm not taking care of her I'm trying to get chores done, or studying done (I'm in the midst of my PhD comprehensive exams) or freelance writing done, or...

I will cop to an Internet addiction, partly because when I'm nursing or just tired, I don't have that long an attention span, and it's so much easier to hang out online (my new-mama group is online) than try and put together a page of coherent sentences. But I think I may have to adopt Sandy's trick and start writing longhanded.

If anyone wants to give tips on writing while taking care of a baby, I would be happy to hear them!

Carol Burnside said...

Oh, man, that's a tough one. The problem is, most of the time your hands are occupied with the baby. The only thing I can think of is that you could dictate into a digital recorder and transcribe later during your internet time. That way, you're not having to think a whole lot and you can edit a bit as you go, thereby producing a cleaner rough draft.

Good luck!

Tammy Schubert said...

You are one of the people that fall into the category I mentioned in the post:

"There are times in a person’s life when you just can't write. Those situations include the birth of a baby, family crisis, environmental crisis, etc. "

I commend you for handling everything you are doing now, and you still have the spark of desire to get your stories down. What's your secret?

While you work the issue of finding a few minutes to write despite all of your commitments, stay in tune with how you are making it happen. Take notes along the way. At some point, please write an article about this and put it out there on the Web and writing newsletters if you can. There are so many people who need help with this.

Although I'm not a mom, I have been around my friends and sisters when an infant has joined their lives. The time a baby requires around the clock is incredible. I just don't know how you ladies handle it all and stay sane.

My only advice is to use Carol and Sandy's methods. 1) Tape recorder (my only issue with this is the transcription later-an entirely different issue), and 2) Write long hand.

A friend of mine who was in a similar time crunch started writing long hand. She ended up getting more done than she had when there was months of free time prior to her new commitments.

Another friend, who doesn't have a time crunch, writes long hand. She swears by it. The handwritten pages are the first draft - the "ugly pages". Once the words are down, she looks back over the material and then types it up. During the type-up time, she makes revisions and edits. When she's done, it turns out to be a decent draft to work from.

Long hand writing eliminates the boot up time a computer requires, allows you to write a sentence here and there, make notes in margins, etc. It's worth a try. Try keeping a notebook with you all the time. If it is easier, leave notebooks around in the main areas you frequent in your house. Anything that helps, do it.

Like I said, I can't even fathom how you are making things work with your current responibilities. Since you don't have time to do research, I found a few sites that have information for writing moms. I hope you find something that helps.

Whatever you do, don't give up on writing. If you have to put it aside for now, fine. Be true to yourself and pursue your dream when your baby gets a little older and school work isn't so intense.'re-a-Busy-Mom

My final thought on this is that maybe you can get your husband to watch the baby say for an extra 30 minutes on a Sunday or something. Have him do it early in the day when you are able to string words together into coherent sentences. Instead of your husband, try asking a friend, siblings, other relatives or hire a babysitting for an hour or two.

I hope you find something here that helps you find that little bit of time to squeeze in some sentences every day.

Good luck!

Jessica Doyle said...

Tammy, you are AWESOME. Thank you for the links.

My secret is my mom. :) She lives 20 minutes away, she works part-time, and she's besotted with her first grandchild. So she's been able to come over in the afternoons while I study or bang out freelance articles. If I weren't lucky enough to have her I don't know what I would've done, as husband and I had agreed (and still do) that we're not ready to put Sheena in daycare.

My other secret is that, at least in our program, PhD comps are really, really hard to fail. Unlike your dissertation proposal and dissertation, where faculty have an incentive to make you do the best job possible, comps are internal only -- and by that point they're invested in getting you past that hurdle and on to the dissertation. And I had all my classes under my belt before I gave birth.

And my other other OTHER secret is that I've been writing nonfiction for over a decade now, so I can do that fast. Unlike fiction. Or (small voice) thank you notes to Maggie judges. (In fact, it occurs to me that if I write those notes it will clear my writing karma debt and that should help. Not to mention the bad karma from thank-you notes unwritten for baby presents...)

Tammy Schubert said...


Thank goodness for mom. She sounds like a wonderful woman.

It's funny you mention thank you notes to Maggie judges contribute to good writing karma. I couldn't agree with you more. Many people don't think of writing a quick thank you to someone who did them a service. I have heard authors say time and time again that a thank you note was really all they wanted in return. They take time out of their busy schedule to read manuscripts and offer comments to help make writers better. A thank you note in return is certainly not too much to ask.

Good luck with your PhD. Just think. Once you finish, you are going to have oodles of time for writing fiction.