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Monday, April 23, 2012

How to Find Time to Write

by Donna Hatch, author of 7 historical and fantasy romances

People often ask me how I find time to write. I understand their question. Most people are over-scheduled and can't imagine how I manage to find enough time to write and publish novels on top of all my other responsibilities.

I never 'find' time to write; I make time.

I'm married and have 6 children. I work 2 part time jobs. I teach harp lessons. I teach writing classes, workshops and webinars. I volunteer heavily in my writers groups--three of them--and try to take an active role in my church and community. There are days when I'm so exhausted that I just want to have a good cry and a long nap.

I published my first book when my youngest was 5 so a lot of my writing happened when I had two preschoolers and the rest were all in elementary or junior high school. But I had to do it. I write because I must. I get mean when I don't write. Writing is an obsession.

How do I make time?

Well, I gave up scrapbooking, pretty much all TV, singing in a choir, ballroom dancing, a big chunk of my harp practicing time, a great deal of reading, (not all of it, of course) and many other things I used to enjoy. It's a matter of "what do you love most."

I write when it's quiet at work and I have nothing to do but wait for the phone to ring. I write when I'm waiting for dinner to come out of the oven, or when a child is at practice or an appointment, or even when I just have 30 minutes before I have to get to the next thing. The best time to write is after my children are in bed but even that doesn't work most nights. My most productive writing time was last summer when I attended a writers retreat. I'm starting to think I need a couple days away every 3 or 4 months to just write night and day, but I doubt my hubby, as supportive as he is, would go for that :-)

I do put my family ahead of everything else when possible but my family knows that there are times when mommy can't be there right now. My husband knows he comes first but he also knows to give me space when I'm under deadline. I'm selective about what we do as a family--quality over quantity. We eat dinner together most nights but it's not usually an amazing gourmet meal--it's something that I can throw together fast like a salad and some grilled chicken, or maybe even just some beefy nachos. I help my children with their homework most nights, but sometimes I assign an older child who's finished with his homework to help the younger one. I attend every recital, concert, the big games and meets, and things that matter to them. If they need to talk, and I can see it in their eyes, I close my laptop and give them my full attention. Sundays are sacred and all about church and family--never work.

If you love writing and can't NOT do it, then maybe you are a writer, too. If you're not, take my advice and don't give in to the evil voices in your head. All authors are crazy. Trust me, I know.


Kimberley Griffiths Little said...

Great post, Donna. And so true. Every day is a struggle to juggle! But it can be done. I don't watch TV at all, some news here and there, and the occasional movie. It's hard to give up reading though. :-)

Candice Coghill said...

Thanks for an excellent post (that I'm sharing), Donna! It's all about prioritizing, and you really nailed that down with this.

Paty Jager said...

Donna, it's so true. My husband learned long ago if I don't write I get grumpy, and when momma's not happy ain't no buddy happy. ;0)

I agree it's all in making time to write and giving up something else you might want to do but isn't as pressing as the voices in your head.

Judith Ashley said...

You've obviously hit a chord with folks. I'm the 4th one to agree that making time to write is critical. I watch very little t.v. (hasn't been on in 3 days).

My biggest time suck is this blog. But Romancing The Genres adds to my fund of knowledge about a great many things, helps me build community, and gives me some cyber-visibility which translates into name recognition which I hope will be of benefit to me when I'm published.

Sarah Raplee said...

What Judith said, Donna! :) And I agree with Candace; you hit on an extremely important aspect of a writers' life.

When I got serious about writing, I knew I wouldn't be successful if I wasn't realistic about the time demands. So I didn't get into jewery-making, didn't learn to knit, etc., etc., and gave up some of my reading and tv time.

When my husband watches TV, I often work on some aspect of my writing or balance the checkbook or whatever I can do while keeping him company. And I've learned to use the makeshift desk he put on my treadmill to get some exercise while I write.

It's a constant juggling act, but I can't help it - I MUST write!

Christy Carlyle said...

Fantastic post, Donna! I struggle constantly with making time to write. I too get grumpy when I don't get writing time. It is a release, a creative endeavor, that I absolutely need. It's my highest priority, in my heart, though the realities of life often have other plans for me. This post is a great reminder that we all have limits on our time and, like everything, it's about making choices.

I admire your commitment to your writing, and also like that you still make your family your priority.

Thanks for this post.