How To Write When You Don’t Have The Time

Mercedes M. Yardley wears red lipstick and poisonous flowers in her hair. Her first short story collection, BEAUTIFUL SORROWS, was just released and is available on Amazon. Mercedes works for Shock Totem Magazine. You can contact her at or follow her on Twitter as @mercedesmy.

Let me just start off by stating that I’m writing this with a baby on my lap.  She’s sick.  As is my husband.  As is my son.

The laundry is strewn all over the house in various states of washing and folding. (That’s what two family trips interspersed with violent bouts of the flu will get you.) I need to put together a costume for a Halloween book signing.  I also need to love on the sickies, make a bunch of crafts for a craft day that I’m in charge of, and, oh yeah, WRITE AN ENTIRE NOVEL in the next six weeks.  Not to mention reading slush for the magazine, doing a blog tour for my new book that’s out, and putting up reviews and articles that I committed to.

The subject of this particular post? Writing when you don’t have the time.  Cue wild laughter.  Cue high fiving the Universe because the irony is just so freakin’ awesome.

Time is a writer’s currency.  Nothing else is as precious.  Time will never fall into our laps; we have to make it. And how do we carve out huge swaths of time when we’re so incredibly busy?

Perhaps we need to ditch the concept of giant chunks of time.  We’d likely fill it up with other things, anyhow.  So learn to make the minutes count.

  1. Multitask.  I’m writing AND rocking the baby. Sometimes I write and get up every few minutes to stir the soup, or unload five things from the dishwasher.  Did I mention that my computer is currently in the kitchen?
  2. Prioritize. The good thing about a time crunch is that we learn what’s really important to us. If writing is your life’s blood then you’ll figure out a way to shoehorn it in.  Something has to go, so what will it be? Television?  A few commitments that you felt guilted into anyway?  Pick something and jettison it. You’re giving up something good for something fantastic: your writing career.
  3. Guard your writing time ferociously.  Bare your teeth and snarl.  When you’re home writing, everybody seems to think that you’re just playing on the Internet. The phone rings. People come to the door.  And why wouldn’t they? If you’re not going to take your writing seriously, why should you expect them to?  Turn your phone off.  Nail the door shut. Let the outside world know that you’ll get back to them when you’re finished.  And then write.
  4. Reevaluate. Is this worth sacrificing for?  If so, keep on keeping on. If not, consider cutting your losses and walk away. There should be some joy to this process.
  5. Open a can of soup for dinner. When you’re under a particularly harsh deadline, don’t have unreasonable expectations for yourself.  You can’t do everything wonderfully all of the time. Some other things will fall by the wayside every now and then, and it’s okay.  But never let your family fall, and make sure you get a little writing in every day, even if it’s only a sentence or two. Make that sentence beautiful.  Make it shine.