Friday, October 2, 2009

How to Write When you Don't Have Time to Write

by Susan Wiggs

I hear it from emerging writers all the time. I’ve got a great idea for a novel. I’m going to sit down and write it as soon as I...

...get my day job under control

...get my final kid into kindergarten

...into college

...out of jail

...get my finances in order

...fix my marriage

...finish painting the house off the car

...clean the can opener

...clean the rain gutters

...get the puppy housebroken

...retire from my job

...finish watching the third season of "Weeds"

...get my Bachelor’s...Master’s...PhD...LLB...MD off my student loans all the Stephanie Plum books

...check in with my nineteen thousand Facebook friends

...upgrade my computer

...make tenure

...landscape the yard

...take a vacation my book group

...teach my teenager to drive

...finish knitting this sweater

...forgive my parents

...forgive myself

...get over my fear of failure

...get over my fear of success

...get permission from my parents/spouse/children/therapist

...hire an agent

...learn to use the subjunctive case

...quit worrying about what my family will think of my story, especially the dirty parts

...stop smoking/drinking/playing online games

...figure out the business of publishing

...lose 20 pounds so I look good in my author photo...

You name it, and a procrastinating writer has said it.

Here’s a dirty little secret. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the cruel reality is this. There will never be a good time to write.

Life will always intrude. That’s what life is. Be glad for that. If you have no life, you have nothing to write about.

The good news is, there’s a simple solution. Make time for the things that are important to you. If writing your story is important, make time for it. Simple as that. Turn off the TV, leave the dishes undone, close your e-mail, grab a notebook and pen, and tell your family, "Don’t interrupt me unless your eyes are bleeding." You’ll be surprised by the respect they give you.

The way you spend your day is the way you spend your life. So quit being your own worst enemy and start being your own best friend. Make time to write, even if you don’t have time.

Author bio:

Susan Wiggs's life is all about family, friends...and fiction. She lives at the water's edge on an island in Puget Sound, and she commutes to her writers' group in a 17-foot motorboat. She's been featured in the national media, including NPR's "Talk of the Nation," and her novels have been translated into more than two dozen languages and have made national bestseller lists, including the USA Today, Washington Post and New York Times lists.

The author is a former teacher, a Harvard graduate, an avid hiker, an amateur photographer, a good skier and terrible golfer, yet her favorite form of exercise is curling up with a good book. Her latest novel, now available, is called Lakeshore Christmas. Readers can learn more on the web at and on her lively blog at


Juliet Blackwell said...

Welcome, Susan! Thank you so much for joining us -- it's a real honor.
I love the theme of your essay, and couldn't agree more. When people ask me how I find the time to write, I tell them: "I gave up TV. Then I gave up a clean house. Then I gave up gardening...." Like everything else worthwhile in life, you've got to sacrifice from time to time. But it's SOOOO worth it!

Rachael Herron said...

I like best the advice of leaving the dishes undone. The housework is my downfall.... I will try to leave them in the sink and write more. Yep!

Gigi Pandian said...

Great list. I'm supposed to be working on my edits right now, so as soon as I hit "post" I'm going to turn off the computer and get to it!

Hard Boiled Mysti said...

Great column! I used to think there needed to be a perfect time. Then I got a six week sabbatical and discovered that unless I scheduled time and showed up per schedule, my days would fill with junk as easily as with all those "urgent" tasks.

So what if I can't invite company over until draft one is done? The house isn't actually septic yet :)

Lisa Hughey said...

Susan-Thanks for being a guest at Pens Fatales! I love this...definitely been my own worst enemy lately, I'm stuck and instead of just powering through I've been doing all sorts of things besides writing (not housework of course!) :)

Adrienne Miller said...

"The way you spend your day is the way you spend your life." Wow. I needed to hear this today. Really, really, needed to hear this. Thank you.

Tina Louise said...

Hey Susan,
Great topic. We all need reminders of our priorities once in a while.

sophie Littlefield said...

I love this! And I would add that the more i write, the more everything else recedes...the writing becomes imprinted on me so it's my first thought in the morning and last thought at night. Nurture it and it nurtures back; neglect it and it withers.

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