O Me of Little Faith

O Me of Little Faith

Writer’s Mailbag: How Do You Find the Time?

Other people are into NASCAR, or “American Idol,” or improving their golf game. But me? I’m fascinated with something that makes me a really big nerd: writers’ schedules. For years and years I’ve read interviews with various writers and paid particular attention to when (and how) they actually sit down and write. J.K. Rowling came up with the Harry Potter story on a train, then wrote the first book in a café while her infant daughter slept beside her. John Grisham got up at 5 am every day for three years to write A Time to Kill. There are tons of stories like this about people finding the time — making the time — to get words on paper. It’s always inspiring.


So I get asked by a lot of people where I find the time to write. After all, I have a full-time job and a young family and do some freelance writing on the side. When do I write the books? Am I magic? Am I somehow privy to time-shifting technology?

Untrue answer: Yes. I have invented time travel. It involves an old telephone booth and the unaccountable presence of George Carlin.

Short true answer: I write at pretty much the same time every morning and every night. This involves being disciplined. I plod through it. I give up stuff like watching TV when I get home from work. It’s a trade-off. But it’s worth it.


Detailed true answer: Here’s my weekday schedule…

6:00 am — Get up, pour coffee, and start writing

6:45 — Shower, get dressed (I only shave on Saturdays. Yes, I am a lush.)

7:00 — Breakfast and hang out with Ellie and Owen

7:45 — Take Ellie to school

8:00 to noonish — Work

Lunch — with Owen (Monday), Aimee (Tuesday to Thursday), Ellie (Friday)

1 to 5:00 — Work


5 to 8:00 — Dinner and play with the kids (until they go to bed at 8 on school nights)

8 to 9:00 — Exercise (usually weights on M/W, swimming on T/Th)

9 to midnight — Write write write write write write

On Thursday nights I take a little time off to watch a few of our Thursday evening shows (“Lost,” “The Office,” “30 Rock”) on the DVR with Aimee after the kids are asleep. Fridays, I work at home and devote most of the day to my current book manuscript. I don’t write on Friday evenings. On Saturdays, I get up at 6 am and write until the kids wake up around 7:45 or so. No writing at all on Saturday night or Sunday morning. That’s my day to sleep in.


I probably carve out a total of 18-20 hours a week to write and research.

Which means there’s not a lot of downtime, although my evenings with Aimee and the kids usually involve a lot of fun activities like jumping on the trampoline or playing in the front yard or constructing Lego spaceships. It’s a good enough balance, so far, to keep me sane. (And unlike some people, I’m able to function on six hours of sleep.) But I can’t sustain it indefinitely. So I’m working hard now to get the books done ahead of deadline, which will allow me to relax without any contractual obligations hanging over my head. It’s hard for me to vegetate when I know there’s work to be done.

I know there are a few other writers who read this. What about you? How do you fit in the writing time?

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Bryan Allain

posted April 30, 2008 at 7:26 am

i’ve only been through one period of time where i was disciplined in my writing. during that phase i tried to carve out 1-2 hours to write on weekdays mornings. sometimes that meant getting up at 6am and writing before i got ready for work. Sometimes it meant going in to work early and writing at my desk for a few hours before i got into “work” work. if i had a slow day at work, i might even schedule in an hour to write. every other weekend i would get up at 6am on saturday and sunday and write for 1.5 hours before the kids got up.i don’t do much late night writing because for Erica and I, that’s our sacred time. and by sacred, i mean “We watch crappy tv together”. our kids go down at 8:30pm/9pm, so by the time we settle on the couch its 9:30pm, and we’ll watch a show or two and then it will be 11pm and time for bed. for the past 4 months i’ve been hitting the gym 4 mornings a week, and as such, i havent written in the morning. erica was giving me 1 evening a week to write, but i’ve taken a break from that.the one thing i would say that seems to be true is that you don’t “find” time to right, you have to make it.

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posted April 30, 2008 at 9:09 pm

Weekdays: I get up at 5am, coffee, write until 6, wake up Tay, write until 7, get ready for work, take Kirky to school, at work by 8:15, home around 6, Kirky in bed at 9, write until 11 or so.Weekends: Up at 5am (no alarm, it’s just so ingrained that I wake up), write until Kirky wakes up around 8, the house rule is no writing at night on weekends.Total around 16 hours per week

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posted April 30, 2008 at 9:53 pm

From my very limited experience, it seems one of the most important things about writing (other than having the skill and talent) is that a writer must be intrinsically motivated. Having a deadline from an editor or publisher definitely helps, but before you get your even have an editor/publisher giving you a deadline, you have to motivate yourself and have the discipline to make yourself write, even when you don’t feel like it. Plenty of people want to be writers, but it’s those with discipline who actually do it and make something of it. This is something I have to constantly remind myself of–my dream of being published will never come true unless I actually make the time to write!

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Jason Boyett

posted May 1, 2008 at 4:05 pm

@randomdtd:No doubt it’s a lot easier to be motivated when you have a publisher-imposed deadline. I wrote my first book — an unpublished novel — over two years, when I found the time. I wrote my second book, under deadline for Relevant, in three months. I MADE the time for that one.I’ve heard it said this way: Almost everyone has a book in them. Very few people, though, have the discipline to get it out.

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Bo Lane

posted May 2, 2008 at 3:39 pm

Lost and The Office have to be two of the greatest shows of all time. Lost being number one of course.Just thought I’d share.

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