How to Find Time To Write When There’s No Time Left

Words flow from my fingertips. The clacking of the keyboard mingles with the jazz drifting through the window from the street below. I print off each chapter I finish and the stack beside me grows more impressive every hour. When I need a break from the screen, I walk the city streets and return refreshed, bursting with new ideas… 

Just kidding! 

One of the hardest parts about writing is figuring out how to find time to write when it feels like there’s no time left in your day.

But an important part of making progress in writing is to create a writing practice that works for you and stick to it. So how can you possibly write without quitting your day job or blocking out weeks at a time as a writing retreat? 

Gotta get creative with it! 

Here’s my real life: 

“Mom!” One of my three-year-olds screeches in the decibel I used to think was only possible for ferry horns. “I need my unicorn!” 

I rub my temples for the thousandth time that day and take another chug of lukewarm coffee. “Have you looked in –” 

The four-year-old tears down the hallway, giggling, the captive unicorn clutched in her guilty hand.  

The other three-year-old barrels into me, oblivious of the drama unfolding between his sisters. “Can I have a snack please?” 

I set down my pen. “Well, that’s seven more words than I had earlier.” Heading to the snack cupboard, I jot a few ideas in my phone to come back to later then turn my attention to parenting. 

Admittedly, it’s not ideal, but I’m happy to use whatever time I can to get some words on paper. As a mom of three toddlers who works part-time, is in writing school, and manages a small homestead, here are my favourite tips and tricks for how to find time to write: 

How to Find Time to Write When There's No Time Left

1. Always have your writing materials with you.

I carry a notebook and pen with me wherever I go. I happen to have a conveniently large purse to carry it in and I’ve been told this might be harder if you don’t carry a purse but even a pocket can usually fit a small notebook! Or use a napkin in a pinch! I’ve written story ideas on airplane napkins before…just don’t use it to sop up any water before you land.

2. Write on the cloud.

I use Google Docs, Hermit, or 4thewords, depending on what mood I’m in. Having my writing stored online allows me to work across devices so I can pick up where I left off on my computer and type on my phone. This means I can write at weird times, like when a kid is hanging off my leg, when I’m waiting for an appointment, or when I’m laying in bed. 

Each of these software have an autosave function so I’m not in danger of losing any of my work. I use Google Docs for ongoing brainstorming documents and sometimes for writing my scenes. Most of the time though, I use Hermit to write my novels. It’s a bare-bones sort of software that lets me organize my work in scenes — which makes it easy to pop in and out of. When I need a little extra motivation or have a specific amount of time to kill, I use 4thewords. It gamifies writing and I find I end up with higher word counts in my little sprints. Find what works for you and run with it. Literally.

3. Teach yourself to write anywhere.

As nice as it is to have a writing space set up (and I do highly recommend this!) if you’re able to write while in a waiting room or the passenger seat of a car, you’re able to carve a few more minutes out of the day. Sometimes, if I’m somewhere I have a few minutes to write but I’m really struggling to focus, I use the time to make a “priorities” list so I can pick up the project or scene that really needs the work as soon as I’m able. 

4. Treat writing like a job.

Block out time to write and don’t feel guilty to take it. I write mostly when my kids are asleep at night. Build a writing routine and make it an important part of your day. 

5. Become aware of how you are spending your time.

This is the most important tip on this list. You need to know how you are currently spending your time if you’re going to be able to use your time better. Spend a couple of days looking for where your hidden minutes are. Can you make a task more efficient? Do you need to binge-watch that entire show? One tool I’ve found helpful in my own process is the Digital Wellbeing section of my phone. It allows me to see where I’m spending the most time on my phone and I delete any apps that aren’t productive and take up too much of my time.

A crucial thing I’ve learned through finding time to write in my own life is that even small amounts of progress add up! Of course, this sounds obvious but it is so easy to become lost in the idea that you need big blocks of time available if you’re ever going to write that book. As improbable as it seems, you can make a lot of headway in the stolen minutes throughout a day. 

So get creative! What time can you turn into writing time? 

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