2 Rules for Making Time to Write

“‘It is only half an hour’—‘it is only an afternoon’—‘it is only an evening’—people say to me over and over again—but they don’t know that it is impossible to command oneself sometimes to any stipulated and set disposal of five minutes—or that the mere consciousness of an engagement will sometimes worry a whole day. These are the penalties paid for writing books. Whoever is devoted to an Art must be content to deliver himself wholly up to it, and find his recompense in it. I am grieved if you suspect me of not wanting to see you, but I can’t help it.” —Charles Dickens (writing to Maria Beadnell Winter, a childhood sweetheart, who wished to make an appointment with him)

How is it, I’d like to know, that Dickens can get away with saying something like that, and we can’t? Well, he is Dickens, I suppose. As a famous and beloved author, he could get away with being concise and even slightly snarky. Or could it be the other way around—that he was a famous and beloved author because he wrote just such notes?

Making Time to Write: The Greatest Struggle

One of the greatest struggles (yes, add another one to the list) of the writer’s life is making the time to write. For some reason or another, most non-writers have a hard time fathoming that writing must be approached with the same dedication, discipline, and time management of a regular job. Family members and friends are likely to give us hurt and dirty looks when we sequester ourselves behind closed doors for yet another evening/night/morning/week of typing away. Add to that unfortunate guilt our own tendencies to procrastinate, and our already overloaded schedules often seem to have no place at all for our writing.

But guess what? If you’re not writing, you’re not a writer. (Nope, sorry, staring out the kitchen window and daydreaming while you’re scrubbing dishes doesn’t count.) Anyone who has any intention of being taken seriously as an author has to first take himself seriously—and that means, first and foremost, making time to write.

You’ll note I didn’t title this post “Finding Time to Write.” I said “Making Time” for good reason. If you shove your writing onto the back of the shelf with the intention of getting around to it whenever a spare minute pops up, you’re likely to find an inch of dust gathered on top of your manuscript by the time you get back to it. Life will always get in the way.

You have to make time. You have to make your writing a priority. Don’t wait around for your family or your day job to slack off and provide the necessary schedule openings for you to grab an hour or two of writing every day. I will never forget a line of advice I was once read (although I have to admit I have forgotten who said it):

Make time for your writing. If you don’t, nobody will.

In my own experience, scheduling writing time comes down to two hard and fast rules:

1. Be Consistent

Make it a goal to write something six days a week. Set yourself a definite goal—either a word count or a time limit (word counts will make you more productive, but a time limit is often the only feasible option for busy schedules)—and stick to it every single day. Peter de Vries once commented,

I write when I’m inspired, and I see to it that I’m inspired at nine o’clock every morning.

The important thing at this stage isn’t the quality of what you write so much as that fact that you are writing. My own writing time runs from four o’clock in the afternoon to six o’clock five days a week.

2. Guard Your Chosen Time Zealously

I’ve been known to threaten interrupters with their choice of a machete or a flamethrower. Once I’m at my desk with my music turned up, I don’t stop for anything short of a natural disaster. I close the door, shut down the Internet, and turn off the telephone. It’s taken years for family and friends to realize I don’t want to be interrupted during these two hours, and I’ll admit to having resorted to crankiness on an occasion or two. But it’s paid off. For the most part, I’m left in solitude. Instead of having someone derail my train of thought with the plea of a favor or a question that “will only take five minutes,” they’ve learned to hold off until I’ve emerged from my creative cell. Put your foot down, and eventually people will learn to respect your needs.

Not everyone will be able to scrape together two free hours out of every day. (Although some will probably be able to find even more time than that.) Obviously, as important as your writing is, it isn’t the most important thing in your life. People and responsibilities do come first. But if you’re serious about your writing, you will have to make the time to write on a consistent and uninterrupted basis. Trust me, it’s worth whatever sacrifices you may have to make. And if you don’t want to take my word for it, then at least take Dickens’s.

Wordpalyers, tell me your opinions! How do you make time to write? Tell me in the comments!

the two rules for making time to write

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About K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland

K.M. Weiland is the award-winning and internationally-published author of the acclaimed writing guides Outlining Your Novel, Structuring Your Novel, and Creating Character Arcs. A native of western Nebraska, she writes historical and fantasy novels and mentors authors on her award-winning website Helping Writers Become Authors.


  1. Linda Yezak says

    Okey dokey, then. You have effectively popped my Pampers and ordered me to get back to work. I hear, and I must obey.

    I’ve got a week and a half (God willing) before life interferes again. I’ll get right to it!

  2. I don’t know about popping your Pampers. But I’m glad I’ve encouraged you to keep on keeping on!

  3. I really liked this!!! Unfortunately, I find my best writing comes at wee hours, like 2 am in the morning. Maybe because my brain is totally relaxed and more open to new ideas. As such I keep a pad of paper near my bed to write notes so I don’t forget and then take some time during the week to expand on it. My goal this year, is to make time to write, even if I don’t use it in my blog.

  4. Two in the morning! Ouch! But you’re brilliant to keep a notepad by your bed. Any idea I may come up with in the middle of the night is certain to be lost in the blear of sleep if I don’t write it down pronto.

  5. That is good stuff. I will obey lol

  6. Atta boy!

  7. Your are right, it’s not about finding time, but making time. For the past two or so years I’ve been doing that myself: I usually get to the office one full our before work begins – for then I have a full un-interrupted hour, which is really worth gold. Also, because I have a fair amount of time that I spend commuting each day, I also write on the train. All in all, on a good day, I have 4 hours! That’s not bad, considering that I have a full time job! Obviously it’s not always that I’m inspired, and sometimes I’m just too tired to do do any writing, but I have given myself the opportunity to do so!

  8. Four hours of writing time every day is excellent! Your commitment to arrive at work an hour early is fabulous. You go!

  9. I know, this post is old (ish), but obviously still so relevant. As a college kid taking 17 hours of class and 14 hours of work-study, on top of staying committed to daily prayer, it’s rather hard to make time for writing unless I give up sleep to do so. But after a full day of running around campus, by midnight I can’t hold my eyes open. And the weekends are my time to catch up on chores that I didn’t do during the week. I know that as long as I’m in school, my homework has to come first, and as a Catholic, prayer and time with God is definitely a higher priority. I feel at a loss for what to do sometimes. I might get a couple hours a week if I’m lucky. Honestly I’m a little jealous of those who get a couple hours every day to write.

  10. There’s a time for everything. Knowing our priorities is the first step toward organizing our lives. And, honestly, sometimes writing *will* have to be bumped out. I would encourage you to try to squeeze in even just a few minutes of writing each day. Even if all you’re able to get down on paper is a paragraph, that’s something! And paragraphs quickly build into books.

  11. I can relate to this article. 🙂 I try to get something down every day: a couple pages, a few paragraphs, or even just scene plans.

    The semester ended last week, but during the spring semester, I had a 2-hour gap between classes on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and I dedicated that time for writing. I managed to write quite a bit, but I might have written a little more if not for the distracting Internet.

    I should be assertive and tell others to leave me alone while I’m writing at home, but I keep my mouth shut. I wish I could train myself to be comfortable to write in more secluded places rather than the dining room table where there is much human traffic.

    This fall, I plan to take 18 credits, but I intend to make time every day for writing and/or editing.

  12. Learning to write, regardless of surroundings, is a valuable skill. Sometimes life doesn’t give us long stretches of uninterrupted time, so we have to grab five minutes in the dentist’s waiting room or wherever we may happen to find ourselves.

  13. My newest “writing” time is in the car during my commute or between appointments. I use the voice memo function on my phone and talk out the ideas that are bouncing through my head. Then later in the evening when I have time to write, I’m not wasting time trying to remember all the good ideas that were floating around while driving. Sometimes I actually transcribe what I spoke, but often I find that the ideas become a catalyst for the “real” writing.

  14. I find that driving is sort of like taking a shower – it’s a perfect time to “creatively lollygag” and come up with new ideas.

  15. Yes, it is importante to make the time! AND be sure not to get interrupted.

    Thanks for the reminder!



    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Yes, nothing more frustrated than making the time – and then losing it to interruptions.

  16. You were wondering who said, “Make time for your writing. If you don’t, no one will.”

    Well, I found it!

    It was Elrond of Rivendell who said, “I think that this task is appointed to you Frodo; and that if you do not find a way, no one will. This is the hour of the Shire-folk, when they arise from their quiet fields to shake the towers and councils of the Great.”

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Hah! I don’t think that’s where I got it (I was saying that before Fellowship came out), but it’s a good quote!

  17. I go with verbal threats of bodily harm and guilt trips. Interruptions still happen. I may never get him trained. I also take writing tools with me everywhere and steal every minute possible.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Hey, threats work – especially when they’re coming from a wild-eyed, caffeine-high writer.

  18. I go through spurts where I make the time, then life happens and it falls by the wayside, and then I get angry and force myself to make the time. I just converted my spare room into my writing room so I can get away from the TV and the kitchen and all other distractions so I’m hoping having a space will be more motivation. Next step is to print this piece out and tape it to the bathroom mirror. No more excuses!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I’m a firm believer in the value of enforcing schedules. But spontaneity is good too. Life *will* happen, and we have to just flow with it sometimes.

  19. For several months, I was consistently writing as soon as I got up in the mornings, and I’d write for an hour, and then start on the things I needed to do that day. I would get between 1200 and 1600 words a day that way. Then, I overdid it trying to win NaNoWriMo, and burned myself out with 15K words on the last day. I have recovered from that, but I have lost the habit, and haven’t been able to get back into it again. Reading this makes me remember how productive I felt then, and how missing that hour would set my whole day askew. I’d feel unfinished, no matter what else I accomplished that day, because I hadn’t written. I miss that feeling, now! Thank you for the reminder; I can recapture that feeling again!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I’ve always operated best on a time goal, rather than word count goal. I sit at my computer for two hours, and whatever I get done is whatever I get done. More often than not, lifting the pressure of a word count goal lets me write more anyway – instead of sitting there checking my stats every five minutes.

      • I work that way too Katie. I sabotage creativity by setting word goals. The best thing I can do it stay focused, and you say a lot about that in your great audiobook, Conquering Writer’s Block and Summoning Inspiration.

        That presentation blessed me much. =)

  20. Thank you so much for reviving this post, Katie! I love all your advice but this is particularly timely. I lost my discipline and energy for writing a month ago during a 1-1/2 week international business trip and really struggled trying to get back on a writing schedule. It took days of self-loathing before I finally snapped out of it and remembered my old frenemy: a schedule (so necessary for this self-employed consultant, yet so annoying when I’m working hard and just want a break!). Your post was a nice affirmation, and my two hour slot each morning is once again near-sacred writing time. Life is good. Nothing feels better than when a writer is actually writing!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      You go! Writing time, when it becomes habitual, is one of the greatest blessings in any day.

  21. Thanks for another great kick up the arse.

    This method should do the trick for me to regain the momentum that went out of the window too much of a while ago.

    Very appreciated.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Writing – like life – goes in cycles. Sometimes everything can flow perfectly for weeks, until, as you say, it goes out the window. But the good news is that all it all cycles back around and the good times come again.

  22. For me the hardest part is to say no to five minute favors. But I am trying and a bit succeeding in being hard on it. But I haven’t decided my best time to write yet. I think 4-6 will be easy and great and try it out. But for now, I am stumbling around for an interrupted time. 🙁
    That’s why still with so less productivity.

    • Everybody’s daily life and schedule is different. Sometimes being able to write for twenty minutes at a time will prove to be enough.

      • I am mostly free much of my day. But my brothers has a tendency to keeping me busy. So I always find myself doing another 5 min favor.
        I tried yestarday and got 3 hours to write -,-

  23. What a timely post, Katie! I used to get 24hrs a week, now I’m lucky to get 4. The business side of writing is kicking my butt and I’m struggling to get organized, and find balance.

    This week is the final countdown to getting things in order. As of Monday I’m back to editing book two in my series. YAY! Looking forward to it!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Sometimes certain deadlines force us to make exceptions to an optimal schedule. No reason to beat ourselves up for that. But if we can stick to a regular schedule most of the time, the consistency gets easier and easier.

  24. Parker Rose says

    Since I work late, getting home at midnight, I made a promise to myself. One hour to catch up with mail, etc. then at least one hour for writing. Some Ted it’s tough. If I didn’t do it this I would NEVER get it done!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Those are tough hours, to be sure. You’re an inspiration for sticking it out!

  25. I just delight in how much truth there is in this post no matter when you are fortunate enough to find it. I have been struggling since participating in NaNoWriMo. My family took me seriously then (they are usually the consummate yet lovable interrupters), and I realized so did I. Time to get back to it. Thanks!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Took me a long to realize that if I didn’t take my writing time seriously, no one else would either.

  26. Hi there,

    I loved all the quotes especially Dickens. The two simple, yet powerful, bullet points are exactly the ammunition that I need to kill some bad habits. Its only been since Oct or Nov of last year (2015) that I decided to be a writer. Time to buckle down and whip out my machete and flamethrower. Love that creative cell you mentioned. That’s exactly what it is! It’s hard for normal people to understand our writing culture. We’re just a different species. Another kind of bird. Now what I mean?



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