writing life, writing process

How Do You Find Time to Write?

I came across this line in a tweet the other day:

You either make time to write, or you’re not a real writer.

My reaction was something like: YIKES. Harsh! Who is this person, and why do they think they get to define what a “real” writer is anyway??

It’s easy to react to some irritating piece of internet space junk like this and fly off the handle without thinking about what it is that bothers us. Let’s slow down our reactions, put aside the judgmental tone in the statement, and try again.

You either make time to write, or you’re not a real writer.

Can I be a writer if I don’t make time to write? Here I am, not making time to write, and therefore not writing. Not writing kind of does mean I’m not a writer, since that’s what writers do. They write.




  1. a person engaged in writing books, articles, stories, etc., especially as an occupation or profession; an author or journalist.
  2. clerk, scribe, or the like.
  3. person who commits his or her thoughts, ideas, etc., to writing
  4. (in a piece of writing) the author
  5. a person who writes or is able to write.


Writers write. To do that, they have to spend time writing. That’s not a revolutionary idea. So why do we get so defensive when we read things like, “You either make time to write or you’re not a real writer”? And what does it say about us and about our writing lives?

Perhaps we already feel that imposter’s syndrome–we don’t believe we are real writers. This statement touches on our own insecurities, which are likely misplaced. All we have to do to be real writers is write.

Sometimes we really are avoiding writing because we don’t want to work on a certain project, or we feel stuck.

Maybe a negative reaction comes from a place of guilt. We aren’t being as purposeful or disciplined as we know we could be, and we’re letting minutes, hours, and days slide by without writing, zoning out in front of a screen or [insert preferred method of procrastination here].

Our schedules have gotten out of control. We made too many commitments and there’s literally no place to put writing time.

Here’s the thing.

We control our own lives. No one forces jobs, activities, or projects on us. We accept them. We think that life has to be a certain way. But it doesn’t.

If my first priority is to be a writer (someone who writes), then I must rearrange my life to that end. No one is going to do it for me. No one is going to ask me or remind me to do it. I have to learn to exert my will over the pattern of my days and weeks, because it is my life, and I am in control of it.

Action 1: I may need to quit something. 

I took up cello in earlier this year. I loved the instrument, but I couldn’t keep up my schedule, and give adequate mental space to writing as well as practicing. So I quit after a month.

It can be hard to let go of commitments, especially if you were raised to always finish what you start like I was. Sometimes, though, you have to reprioritize. We get to decide for ourselves what we need to do, and what we need to let go.

We won’t get to do everything we want. I don’t get to learn cello and finish my novel, and that’s okay.

Action 2: I may need to be more purposeful with my time.

Our time is so limited.

The internet sucks up a lot of it. I’ve been cutting back on social media and trying to break patterns of repetitive e-mail checking and pointless-article reading.

If I haven’t gotten to writing and it’s evening (my least-productive time), or I only have twenty spare minutes, I try to write anyway.

Some of us have demands on our time that we can’t exactly shuffle off. Then again, there’s writer Mindy Mejia, who just published her second novel Everything You Want Me to Be. I heard her speak in Fall 2015, and she said she wrote her first novel, The Dragon Keeper, during her lunch breaks at her very-full-time job while raising kids. Talk about using every minute.

Action 3: I may need to practice stricter discipline.

Try writing at the same time every day, for a set period of time, even if it’s “not very long.” Writing for a few minutes is always better than not writing at all. Guard that writing time with your life. Nothing interrupts it: not phone calls, social media, texts, pets, appointments, e-mails, reading, non-writing projects, chores, meals, etc.

Toward the end of the summer, I wasn’t writing regularly. So I set myself writing goals: a minimum of 10 new pages a week for the rest of the calendar year, and to finish a full draft of my novel by December 31. I keep track of my daily page and word count in a notebook. There are days I don’t write, but I make up for them by writing more on other days.

Stricter mental discipline may also help: practicing positive thinking/self-encouragement. See my last post about positive thought cycles for more ideas on this.

In any case…

Write every day, every other day, once a week. Do what you need to do in your life. But if you want to be a writer, if you want to wear the label proudly, you kind of, sort of, do actually need to, like… write.

Writing’s not easy.

And it’s not easy to value something so counter-cultural, that emphasizes time alone, quiet, and results that probably won’t bring massive financial success.

That’s the beauty of it, though. Thou mayest, which also means, thou mayest not. It’s up to us. We may choose to empower ourselves as the determining force in the patterns of our lives, then with that power, reshape our lives to match our goals. Or, we may not. You choose.





2 thoughts on “How Do You Find Time to Write?”

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