When You Don’t Have Time to Write

The problem with writing is, a lot of people fail. In fact, I think writing is and will continue to be the cliché of failed dreams. I don’t want to be one of those failures. It’s hard to make progress on this dream, though, when I’m working a full-time job and trying to save some money while I’m young. what of my writing? How am I ever going to get better or get anything finished if my writing is always a second priority to my day job? And how am I ever meant to be happy with my day job when I spend all my time there thinking of all the writing I’d rather be doing?

It would be ungrateful and just plain foolish for me to drop this job – this well-paying, easy job – so I could focus on my writing while working a part-time in hospitality (the thought makes me quiver). If that’s the case, though, how long am I to let myself prioritise a job I don’t care about over my passion?

Now, this is all getting a bit too whiny and a bit too “all about me”. This story hasn’t even gotten to its point yet.

The point is, I have to find a way to write while holding down an  unrelated full-time job. So, here’s my definitive list of:

Things people tell you to do when you want to write but you don’t have the time.

Write for one hour every day

This article by Russell Blake claims you could write three full length novels in a year by writing for one hour a day at 800 words per hour. And he’s right. It’s just simple maths. But let’s be realistic.

I’m a twenty-something-year-old. We are notorious for mood-swings and apathy. I can wake up one morning absolutely raring to go – ready to write a whole novel in a day. But instead I have to go to work, where my ambitious attitude drains and, by the time I get home, I hate everything about the world and want to eat pizza and sleep.

So could I wake up an hour earlier to do my writing? Well, considering I have to wake up some days at five in the morning to get to work, the answer’s no. I’m not a morning person to begin with.

In all honesty, I’m being difficult; I actually could get up earlier some days and I could do some writing later in the evening. My main issue with this advice is that I know I wouldn’t get it done every day. I know because I’ve tried. It starts by skipping one day here because a family function has come up, and then another day there because your partner has guilted you into spending time with them instead. And before you know it, instead of writing six out of seven days, you’re taking six out of seven days off. I have discipline, I just don’t have it all the time.

Three Draft Process

I’m not going to lie, I googled this question and found this short article by Kelly James-Enger. Basically, it’s your old fashioned three-step process: 1. write quickly; 2. clean up your mess; 3. polish your finished work. I’ve been hearing this piece of advise since I first started writing anything that wasn’t school related. The old “just write” idea seems so simple – just get the words down. Don’t worry about errors or not having the right words. Easier said than done.

I’m terrible at this. I really am. I’m always stopping mid-sentence to think of the perfect word. That loss of momentum means I stop writing all together and start editing what I’ve just written. I guess the idea of having twenty or even ten pages behind me that are full of errors and imperfections makes me feel like I’m running downhill, trying to out-run the ever-growing snowball of unfinished work behind me.

All together, I do like this idea of drafting, but it’s very difficult to implement for someone like myself.

Slow Down

I do love The Write Practice. Joe Bunting has written an article outlining his strategy for writing when he’s just too tired. Basically, according to Bunting, we just need to breathe and talk to our ‘inner shadow’. It all sounds a bit new-age-y and mysterious but the concept is fairly simple – just ask yourself “what do you want to write about” and “how do you feel about this.”

I’m sure there’s a lot more to it than that. With what I take away from it, I feel like it’s worth giving a try. But as with my previous note, it’s the actually doing it that’s difficult. It’s all well and good to like the concept – you just have to put it into action.

Embrace Your Lethargy

It makes sense, this point. The concept is basically just to put your conscious mind to sleep (or at least make it too tired to interject), while allowing your unconscious mind free rein. You can read more about it here on Kristen Lamb’s blog.

Kind of like Hemingway’s “write drunk, edit sober” line (It wasn’t actually Hemingway, but whatever), I think this would be a key to just getting stuff done, and coming out the other end better for it.

I can just picture it.

The Hangover. Allen card counting scene

Me going into a trance while writing tired. Source: pandawhale.com


In summary

It’s all the things you would’ve thought to do anyway, but there you have it. Write every day, make sure you write your first draft quickly, ask yourself ‘what do you want to write?’, and do it even when you’re tired. Although I’ve said this is a definitive list, It most certainly is not. So I’ll pass it over to you. What’s your best advise for someone like me, who’s juggling a full-time job with a passion for writing? If you’re an accomplished writer, did you start out in my position? Please, let me know that this is all doable! Leave it in the comments

Have your say!