Lyla Campbell

For most people, myself included, finding a open window of time on the weekend is simple. But, only writing on the weekend, forcing my brain on a 5 day hiatus from my manuscript causes the creative juices to congeal. When I come back to it the next weekend it takes a lot of effort to warm those juices up again and get them flowing.

So, I try to carve out time during the week to avoid this vicious cycle. By day I'm a hydraulics and hydrology engineer. By night I'm a writer. It's kind of like being Clarke Kent, only I don't have super strength, super speed, or wear underwear on the outside of a leotard. Ok, so I'll be truly honest here. By night, I'm sometimes a writer. After sitting in front of a computer all day, one of the last things I want to do is sit in front of my screen for another minute longer. And most of the time I have other things that are more pressing to do than write. Take tonight as an example. After working 9 and a half hours, I'm now working on this blog post, I'm also doing laundry, working on a technical summary for my day job that is needed by end of business on Wednesday, eating dinner, and watching NCIS. And, I know I'm not the only one with a schedule this hairy.

With my life the way is, I typically have only small windows of time open during the week for writing. Unfortunately I have never been one of those people who can sit down and start pounding away furiously at the key board. It takes time for my brain to switch into writing mode and even more time for it to warm up to where the words are flowing freely onto the page, especially if my day is chaotic and busy. The only exception to this rule is when inspiration flares and it's a race against time to get the words down before the idea evaporates out of my head.

To make it easier for my brain to switch from geek mode to creative art mode, I try to leave an unfinished idea on the page from my last writing session. This works as a writing prompt of sorts for the next time. Leaving some bread crumbs on my thought path allows me to turn a tiny writing session into more of a writing sprint. After getting in two to three mini-sessions a night, three nights a week, the word count really starts to add up.

Some other ways I squeeze in writing time during the week:
  • Get to work about half an hour early and write before all the noise begins
  • During my lunch hour while holed up in my cube
  • Making notes on my crackberry while waiting on the ridiculously long red lights during rush hour in Houston. Disclaimer: No I don't do this while my truck is in motion...

When you think about these options, and the possibility of so many more, there's always a way to find time to write.

So how do you shave down your hairy schedule and find time to write?

7 Responses
  1. I'm fortunenate I don't have a job but I do have a family and I edit and review. So, my key is good scheduling. I write late into the night when it's quiet. So as not to make my husband upset, I get housework done in spurts.


  2. Matt Says:

    Thanks for sharing this insight to your world and your process; I enjoyed reading it, and took strength in knowing that across the miles, our struggles are alike - I have just got the girls to bed, done the dishes, and will soon be able to get around to the blog post which I have been tapping out notes for on the iPhone the last few days...

  3. I write on the go...waiting in carpool lines with the kids, at the deli counter at the grocery store--I'm sure I'll be writing while my daughter gets her teeth cleaned at the pediatric dentist today. I have to grab my moments as a mom. I make a mental note at the end of each day where I'm picking up with the WIP the next day...that way I can write in spurts and not waste time wondering where I left off with the story.

    Nice post...I'm tweeting!

    Mystery Writing is Murder

  4. Shell Says:

    I completely identify with your schedule. I write on my lunch breaks, and if I don't get it in on my lunch I try to hold myself to getting some words on the page at night. But you are right - at night it is the last thing I want to do after staring at the computer all day. Your point about leaving yourself breadcrumbs is crucial for those who don't have the luxury of time to warm up. Great post.

  5. rush Says:

    I have a similar problem. After spending almost all day at school--leaving home before the sun is up & getting home long after it sets--when I get home, the last thing I want to do is sit in front of my computer & focus on something like writing.

    Yet, I know I need to always be writing if I want to take myself seriously, or even just continue to be good at it & get better.

    So what I do, is a forget technology for a sec...only a sec. & I take notebooks with me everywhere. I realise that while I have a busy day, there are moments of my day when I am alone & in the mood to write. Like while I'm on the bus going to & from school, while I'm eating lunch alone, while I'm on a break in between classes...while I'm in classes (shhh!)--so if I always have my little notebook with me, I can write when I am inspired.

    Sure, I can't always write everything I want to, but I can still make annotations to revisit it at a later date while I'm in front of my computer--what's better is I already started writing so it's that much easier to just pick up where I left off!

    I enjoyed this post, looking forward to more =]

  6. Abi Says:

    wow, that clock pic is really cool! =] this blog is the coolest

  7. Late night after my wife has hit the rack. Odd moments. I usually have a notebook with me because it seems like I am always studying something (the Bible, writing, web coding, woodworking -SOMETHING). I have ADD, so it helps to crank the headphones up two clicks the other side of sane and just saturate my senses. This lets me focus on the screen / page in front of me. Listening to "Careful With That Axe, Eugene" (Pink FLoyd / Ummagumma) at the moment.

    My hearing is probably better than yours. Thanks for asking, though.

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