Finding Time to Write, from a Dot-Net Novelist

1800 seconds.

One thousand eight hundred seconds.

That’s 30 minutes to you and me.

And that’s the amount of time you need in order to write every day.  When my friend Jennifer asked how she could find this kind of time  she challenged me in a way that I didn’t expect.  Given that she has four young kids, it’s a fair question.  Anyone with kids is is living on the edge of the abyss of nuts-ville.  But if you want to write the great American novel or the next 6-figure tabloid piece, then you have to establish a time slot.

Is 30 minutes really so hard?  Yeah, it actually is.  Just look at Dali’s masterpiece and you can tell.

 It’s harder for the soccer mom than it is for the 20-something single guy, but unless you’re wealthy or  jobless, your day is going to be full, full, full.

Think about it: You have to haul your butt out of bed, chug some scalding coffee, drop off disgruntled  kids at school, and listen to a disgruntled boss at work.  And that’s the easy part of the day.  After  that, the “pick-up” phase begins.

You have to pick up the kids, pick up the dry cleaning, pick up the groceries.  If you’re a single guy, you have to pick up the chick at the bar.  It’s all the same.  Only different.

(Full Disclosure: I am not a single guy.  Neither is Jennifer.)

Then there’s dinner, dishes, homework, TV, Internet, that glorious glass of wine, and bedtime.

But somewhere during your day is a 30 min slot that will enable you to put writing on your calendar.

It might be after dinner as you watch the sun set over your pollen-covered desk.  Or it may be the 30 minutes you’re sitting in a carpool line.  You know better than I do.

In order to find your 30 minute writing time, you have to write down your daily schedule — soup-to-nuts — in one-hour increments.

It might look like this:

  • 6:00 – 7:00 Wake up, make breakfast, make school lunches
  • 7:00 – 8:00 Fight with spouse, take kids to school
  • 8:00 – 9:00 Dress for work, check email, brush & floss

Somewhere inside one of these hours is thirty minutes.  Trust me: I’m a physicist.

The point is to make a schedule and then look at your life in third-person, as if you’re viewing yourself through a window.  Don’t get overly emotional.  Your spouse just spent the mortgage on a shiny new flat-screen TV?  Such is life.  You’re out of toothpaste?  Such is life.

When you’ve done that, and firmly established that you are a character in your own life, you need to sit down and explain to your family that you’ve taken on a new project, a writing project.  In order to do this, you are setting aside 30 minutes every day.

You must also tell them that you require their help.

People, by nature, want to help.

  • If you’re explaining this to your spouse, explain that this has the potential to be financially rewarding.
  • If you’re explaining this to your kids, spin it in terms of children’s books.
  • If you’re explaining this to your parents, they will make you feel guilty about something.
  • It you’re explaining this to a Russian peasant, they will not understand English.

Once you have that 30 minute time slot set aside, then you must use this time to write.  You cannot do anything else during this time.  Pretend it’s 11:00 PM on April 15th and you’ve got to sign and date those 1040 forms.  It is that important.

What’s really cool is what’ll happen in two or three weeks.  Let’s say your time slot is from 6:30-7:00 each night.  Maybe dinner has run long and all the pipes just burst.  Little things can derail your calendar.  But you will soon discover that your family will remind you to go write.  And the reminder will bring a smile to your face because it’s what you want to do.

Next Time: I will address your “space” for writing.  Whether it’s a home library adorned with leather-bound classics on basswood & walnut bookcases with laminated moldings, or just a moldy coat closet, we can come up with the right room for you.

If you do this, you’ll eventually have something to sell, like I do:

Fire Always Burns Uphill (Kindle)

Fire Always Burns Uphill (Nook)

Now, go make a schedule.  Find your 30 minutes.  It’s out there somewhere between the 3rd and 5th dimension.  Rod Serling could tell you, but he’s dead.  Such is life.


© 2011, Alan Keith Parker, Huntsville, AL.  All Rights Reserved.  If you steal my work you’ll hear from a lawyer.  Salvador Dali jpeg file inserted under fair use laws.

2 thoughts on “Finding Time to Write, from a Dot-Net Novelist

  1. Thanks, Jeff!

    I’ve been helping a high school student with the how-to’s of marketing a novel.

    That gave me the idea that maybe I could pass along what I’ve learned over the years.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s