Kim Foster
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How To Find The Time To Write

This weekend I was a presenter at my favorite writing conference EVER…the Surrey International Writers’ Conference. It was a magical weekend, as it always is. I’ve been going to SiWC for well over a decade now.

One of the workshops I gave was on the topic of finding the time to write. It seems to be a pretty universal concern for writers, and the people in the room with me this weekend were clamoring for any pieces of advice I could give them on this problem. And I have a few! As a full-time doctor, writer, and mom…carving out the time to write has been an ongoing challenge for me. I’ve gathered a few strategies along the way.

Below is a summary of what I talked about during my workshop this weekend.

Download my free 2-page PDF worksheet: Finding The Time To Write  


It’s one of the biggest conundrums facing an aspiring author: when do you find the time to write? It’s hard to justify time away from more responsible and lucrative pursuits—like your day job, for example—to do this non-paying thing. Except…it will never become a paying thing unless you devote time to it.

Finding the time to write has been an enormous personal hurdle for me for many years. Now that I’m published, people frequently ask me how I fit it all in. Here are my thoughts.

Step one: Get over the frustration.

You will only be able to move forward productively and creatively once you accept that it is what it is. I confess this was tough for me in the past. But I eventually realized: lamenting about not having enough writing time is a huge waste of energy. Accept it mindfully, then move on.

Step two: Take stock of your time.

Most of us are surprisingly inaccurate when reflecting back on our use of time. The only reliable way of knowing exactly how you spend your day is to sit down and account for every single hour, every day, for a week (or two). We’re all “busy”, but most people are amazed when they discover how much lost and wasted time is actually hidden within their day. Get out a spreadsheet or notebook, and track every hour.

Step three: Clarify your priorities.

Let’s face it—you’re not going to have enough time for everything. You will have to sacrifice some things. For me, it’s TV. And cleaning up around my house. But here’s how I look at it: would I rather have a messy house and a book with my name on it, or a pin-tidy house and no book? The answer is easy for me.

Step four: Know your writing needs and habits.

Everybody has different quirks and habits, and for many people these are a great boost to writing productivity.

For example, I need: coffee, the right music (I make playlists for each book I’m working on), and my laptop. I’m not picky about the exact location (I can write in a coffee shop, on my couch, on my desk, wherever…) but everybody is different.

Step five: Find productivity tools & technology.

If you’re working with limited slices of time, you’re going to want to maximize your productivity. Try one of the many apps that block out the internet for a set period of time, like Freedom (the app Neil Gaiman uses). Investigate software that he helps you organize your writing project and notes, like Scrivener (I am a HUGE fan). And consider this simple, low-tech tool: a notebook that you carry with you, everywhere you go. Use those little blocks of downtime during your day (waiting at the doctor’s office, sitting in your car at carpool…) to jot down a few sentences or capture some new ideas.

Step six: Devise a game plan & set goals.

Choose a time for your writing (based on your ideas and thoughts from all of the above points) and make a commitment to yourself to stick to it. Where to find that time? Here are some ideas:

  • In the evening after your kids go to bed
  • Get up early before everyone else is awake
  • naptime
  • weekends
  • Lunch break at work

The trick here is once you’ve selected your time block, you need to protect that time like a badger. Because it’s not “official” work time, life (and perfectly well-intentioned people) will constantly seek to undermine your efforts.

If none of these will work for you, consider squeezing your writing into 15 minute chunks. I know it doesn’t sound like much, but 15 minutes is more than zero minutes. And the cumulative effect is powerful.

As for goals, they’re critical. There’s nothing quite like a book contract to light a fire under you. Trouble is, when you’re in the pre-publication stage, you don’t have a contract. It’s easy to squander precious writing time when you don’t have the pressure.

Instead, you’ll need to create your own goals and milestones. Consider setting a word quota. Many people talk about a daily writing quota, but I like James Scott Bell’s thoughts on this: have a daily quota, but calculate it weekly. Meaning, you can give yourself a wiggle day or two.

An important part of goals is accountability. Seek out writing partners and be accountable to each other. One of the best and most popular ways to do this: nanowrimo (of which I am a big fan).

Step seven: evaluate & tweak

Once you’ve got a plan in place–try it out for a while. Track your progress as you go, and then after a while: reassess. Is it working? Yes? Great! Carry on. No? Back to the drawing board. Back to stage one you go. Rinse & repeat!

If you’re truly committed to writing—and I know sometimes it takes pitbull-caliber determination—you’ll find a way.

Happy writing!

Download my free 2-page PDF worksheet: Finding The Time To Write


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Kim Foster writes YA and adult books about thieves, spies, and assassins. (Read More)

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