Sunday, November 10, 2013

How I Found Time to Write in My Busy Schedule




I am frequently asked what the most difficult part of being a writer is. Is it conceiving the initial outline for the plot of a novel? Or the development of the characters? Perhaps editing is the most challenging part of the process? Many fellow authors argue that marketing their books takes up the majority of their time and, admittedly, marketing a book is much more difficult than writing and editing.

For me, though, the most difficult part of being a writer is finding the time to write. I commute to my office job every day, getting stuck in traffic in at least one direction. While at work I try to concentrate on my job. By the time I return home in the evening hours I am physically exhausted and my mind is drained of all creativity. Weekends, unfortunately, offer less of an opportunity to write than I would like. I prefer to spend my free time with my wife and family. Also, I like to read, travel, watch entertaining television shows, and take long walks.

So, when is there time to write? I finally found a solution.


I have an added an extra hour to my day. Each morning I leave the house at the ungodly hour of 6 a.m. and drive to Tel Aviv while there is little traffic on the road. I park my car at my office and walk ten minutes to a nearby coffee shop. I am one of the first customers there, so I have my choice of one of the two small tables situated by the lone electricity socket. I plug in my laptop, sit down with my cappuccino and begin to write.


For some, the grinding of coffee beans; the hiss of steam escaping as milk is heated; and the swish of credit cards as orders are recorded; can be very distracting, but I manage to disappear into my own world.


I only have one hour of creative writing before I need to report to my office, but I make the most of it. Day by day, I make steady, page-by-page progress on my writing. The coffee I drink stimulates me, and the ideas that have popped into my mind during the previous 24 hours find their way into my work in progress.


I finish my coffee and it's time to leave. I pack up my laptop and leave the coffee shop. I will continue thinking about my manuscript throughout the day but I won't have time to work on it again until the next morning's steaming cup of cappuccino.


What about you? If you work a day job how do you find time to devote to your creative writing?

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47 comments:

  1. Ellis - This found its way to Oklahoma City through a vast thicket of #amwriting and #NaNoWriMo posts - my main reason to comment is simply to say: ThankYou. Your post is reflective an an admirable spirit in action, and a useful find for any writer who might believe any excuse is sufficient for not writing.
    Wayne

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  2. found you on twitter and I do the same thing. I have my lap top, but I stay home most of the time. I like being in my room, it's like a cozy area for me. I usually do my typing at night.

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  3. Wow Ellis, great post and inspiring. It is amazing the hold the power of writing has on us. We must structure our time however we find time to fill our passion. Nice share!

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  4. I write best before work when my brothers are at school and I’m alone. For me, that’s from 9am till 10am. I sleep in a lot! Before the job, I had all the free time I want; but with all the free time I had, I couldn’t focus on writing. So I find that the pressure of not having enough time, actually makes me write faster and have more focus.

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  5. Love your system and your note to the few outlets-
    My coffee shop- has one outlet- behind the dirt dish bin- you have to sit in a certain chair and wrap your power cord around a door frame to get to it!
    Wednesdays- I am there- for a hour and a half- between yoga and teaching.
    other days at home- 2 to 3 hours in the morning working on my novel- before putting my attention on other freelance work

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  6. Although I have no commute and I work from home, it's almost worse because you can't get away from it. The only thing that works for me is exactly the thing that worked for me when I had to commute to work - get up at 4:30 am and write before anyone else is up and around and the phone is still quiet.

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  7. Here is how I find time to write:

    http://pdworkman.com/when-do-you-find-time-to-write/

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  8. I am a solid believer that in order to do what you love you have to switch your mentality from "when I have time" to writing is what I want so I'm going to MAKE time to write. You've done just that do congratulations :)

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  9. Wow, your work routine is pretty much the same as mine. I work from home as a writer for an ad agency. Every morning, I'm up at 6 or so and begin my journey to the coffee shop. Like you, the distractions don't bother me. I just block it out. Fortunately, I get to work for a few hours because my office is in a different time zone. So the time people wander in and get their day started, I've already done two or three hours of writing. (On a good day, that is!)

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  10. Lovely coffee shop. And oh - I like your Toshiba laptop. I'd have one too if my hold one gave up the ghost, but that's not anytime soon, I hope. I think I'm going to adopt your way so I can write something too and have something to show for the many hours I spend online. Something not as ambitious as a novel, but something that's within my grasp: blog posts. I hope I make good on this project. :D

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  11. Great article. This is exactly what i started doing as well. Its amazing what a cup of coffee, a pair of headphones and a touch of inspiring music will do for you at 6 am. I love to write but i agree with you, don't let it get in the way of spending time with your family and the other wonderful things such as travel. take care

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  12. During my free periods at school, I pull out my laptop and write/revise/edit whatever my current WIP is.

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  13. I too get up early and I also find time during my lunch hour to get a few words down on my latest project.

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  14. Great idea! The sticking point for me is getting up at 6 am....

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  15. Yeah, same thing here: if I don't get up at 6am, I won't find time to do anything. By the time 8am rolls around, the family is already up and moving all hope for productivity is lost. I tried staying up late, but as I get older I find that the longer I stay up past 10pm the worse I am the next day. I'm only 30 years old - I'm not old! - but it was something I just couldn't overcome. So early mornings it is: nothing else seems to work for me.

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  16. Great post. I like the idea of thinking about your work all day - letting things "percolate". ;)
    I've heard of poets writing as soon as they get up in the morning - they go from bed to verse!

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  17. Good post. I find my "lunch break" can be my most productive time for writing. I applaud your initiative as a fellow writer with a day job.

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  18. I discovered a long time ago that the morning hours, before work, were the best time for me to write. I can stay focused and there are very few distractions. Like you, I'm too exhausted to do much anything creative after I get home from work. While I do write on the weekends, during the morning hours, I like to dedicate the remainder of the days to family, friends, and other interests.

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  19. I am, for better or worse, a night owl, and though I like writing early, my mind is alive at 9 p.m. :) I'm blessed to have a work-from-home job and time off between 10-3 so I write at least part of that time (work load and projects permitting) and again from 8-10. Structure helps. :)

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  20. Hi Ellis!

    When I worked as a truck driver, the days were too long to find time to write. It was frustrating because my head would overflow with things to write about while behind the wheel for 500 miles per day. Now retired, it seems like I should have more time. However, There are so many distractions around the house with things that need doing. My wife is still working so I take care of the domestic duties in addition to home and yard maintenance that I always did.

    I gleaned three simple things from your article. Choose a location to write and that could be at home as well as your coffee shop. Second, block out the time EVERY day and just do it. Last, there will always be distractions, whether the activity in the coffee shop, the lawnmower calling to me or my dog wanting his head scratched. I need to deal with it and focus!

    I tend to be an all-nighter at the keyboard when I get momentum going. I'll probably never get away from that completely. However, I have no problem reading a little at a time each day.so why not write a little bit at a time each day?

    Great article!

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  21. It's always interesting to read about the routines of other writers. I'm up at 5:30 a.m. every morning, and at work by 7:00. By 4:00 p.m., I'm usually mentally drained from the work day. After work I usually try to sneak in a 45 minute nap to refresh my mind. I fix a steaming cup of coffee and usually sit down to write around 7:30 p.m. until approximately 10:00. I admit that the sounds of a coffee shop would distract me, so I must write at home. On Friday nights, knowing I have off work on Saturday, I often stay up until midnight or 1 a.m. writing.

    When it comes to writing, it's not the time of day that's important; it's the writing that's important. Passionate writers don't find time. They make time.

    Stay hungry!

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  22. This is a very interesting routine. :) What I do sometimes is that I eat my lunch for about thirty minutes then I return to my working area so I can write a little more before I resume to work. :)

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  23. I love writing at coffee shops - it's like white noise. I work from home and have to get out and have a change of scene. As soon as I post this comment, I'm outa here for a sojurn at my local, Thanks for the inspiration to get out and do some writing today.

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  24. I also get up really to put the time I need into writing. I get up at 5am and spend an hour and a half on my laptop before leaving for the office. The family is still asleep at that time and the house is quiet--perfect environment for writing!

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  25. I'm curious about your day job. Does it allow any time for the morning's writing to percolate, or does that happen overnight?

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  26. Have been recommending the coffee shop (or in our case, beach front bar) writing to a friend for awhile. She did it yesterday and said she had her most productive 2 hours of writing yet! Enjoyed your post.

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  27. Came across this amazing post via your Tweet today. You don't know how badly I needed to read your sage advice on finding the time to write. I left here repeating a mantra, "I can do this!"

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  28. I work at home and I'm on the phone, and when it's slow, I can get a sentence or two in. I've created a list of places to go to write: coffee shop, empty park, the Mall, on the bus, a diner, a bar, etc. Fortunately, I work a 4 day week, and I live alone, so I find time to write, actually put it on the schedule.

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  29. Inspirational post thanks for sharing this. I work from home so you would think finding time to write would be easy, but my job takes up most of my day.I like the idea of finding a coffee shop where I can write some place different outside of my work area.

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  30. Great post! I've been able to grab 2 hours here and there during the day and I'm finding that if I can clear out those two hours I can get my word count goal of the day done in that time. Bit by bit...putting it together...

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  31. I wake up an hour early and use that time to write before I go to work. I also give myself an hour after work for writing, as well as another hour for reading and enjoying a cup of tea. Great post!

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  32. Write whenever and wherever you can. Like the woman said: 'Writing is like sex - first you do it for love, then you do it for a few friends and then you do it for money.'

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  33. You probably heard about the rule of 80/20? I believe we do 80% of our work in only 20% in our time and your post clearly backs up this theory.
    I had the same problem but unlike you I have to write blog posts in English that need to be checked, write guest blog posts and finally my own stories/novels. In the beginning when I didn't have a platform (website) and I was editing and writing my novel "Alice in Sinland" I was writing it mainly in the weekends or occasionally after work. But really after work my mind was exhausted, my energy was drained and I needed at least a few hours to relax before starting again to write. Usually that happened after 10 pm and I was writing till midnight and afterwards. Waking up at 6.30 the next morning was a continuous disaster.
    I am glad since 2 weeks I quit my daily job to focus entirely on writing.
    Writing in a foreign language and searching for translators/editor is a huge challenge and takes up a lot of my time. I am curious how does the Bulgarian writer which asked you those weird question in the interview write?

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  34. I do the same as you. I commute to London on the train, but the train is too crowded to write. Twice a week I get up at 5:30am and catch an even earlier train, and sit in a coffee shop near work for an hour with my NetBook. Though I like to enjoy a muffin with my coffee before I begin my writing session.

    The interesting thing is I get a lot done in that hour. Sometimes I can write 1200 words. If I take a day off work and attempt to write at home, I don't get as much done.

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    1. I can write 3300 words in a day - over the whole course of it... But give me a day off and I'm lucky to get 600!

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  35. Bravo! You've created a time and place for your creativity. I think it's great that your plan is working because you are working your plan. Thanks for this.

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  36. Allen Ginsberg wrote at the end of the day in bed just before going to sleep (of course). At the end of a year, he said, it added up quite nicely.

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  37. There is something about having a time limit that squeezes the most out of people. Congratulations on finding a solution to your writing time. I always look for your blogs on Mondays

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  38. Oh, you had me at coffee shop.

    I've been very blessed to be able to do this writing thing full time, but it wasn't always that way. I'd work on my manuscript at three am during a night shift as a nurse, or write down notes in the car, or during meetings. I completely understand this sense of 'must write whenever possible'. I think having experienced that makes it so much easier to appreciate full time authoring now :)

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  39. Before I found my first job in my career field, I had an extended stint in retail. I wrote the majority of my first MS on an iPad I could fit in my locker during all of my breaks and lunches. Now that I have my design job, I find a fair bit of downtime between projects that I can squeeze words in. Writing at home is so full of distractions, and I live in a small town with neither a good library nor coffee shop.

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  40. For some reason, I can always concentrate the best with a background of white noise from a cafeteria. Great post; I love the photos!

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  41. Great post. I quite often will find a place during lunchtime to write. I usually will write in a notebook because writing freehand makes me slow down and think about what I am doing. Sometimes, I get a little time at home after work to type my work into my laptop. That usually gives me the first laying of editing also.

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  42. Great post! I have also been thinking a lot about this very topic.

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  43. thank you!!! very creative solution!!! i will try this way as soon as possible time, i mean tomorrow....thank you very much, thank you very much, thank you.......

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  44. Very helpful post. I'm now rethinking my habit of trying to write in the evenings after work.

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  45. Nice, thank you for bringing this to us

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