Time to Write 12

Like any writer who also works a full-time day job, I struggle to find time to write. It doesn’t help that I have a long commute (a little over one hour each way). By “time to write” I don’t mean simply finding available minutes somewhere within a day, but finding minutes in which my brain is functioning and I have enough energy to be at least minimally creative. In other words, quality minutes.

Finding quality writing time is like carving precious stone from the walls of a mine. My job as a trainer in a corporate environment completely absorbs my mind and creative energy during the day. Arriving home between 6:30 and 7:00 p.m., I’m brain dead. Whatever thoughts I had about writing during the evening are gone, and all I can motivate myself to do is eat dinner, grab a glass of wine, and plop myself in front of something mindless recorded on the DVR. Wasted time? Perhaps. But I can tell you that trying to write when I’m that brain dead is just not productive.

So what’s a writer to do?

For quality time, my particular schedule favors the dark hours of predawn, so most weekday mornings, I set my alarm for 4:30 a.m. Yes, that is as grueling as it sounds. I am not a morning person, so this schedule requires enormous commitment and will on my part. It takes me 15 minutes to actually roll out of bed, toss on some clothes, splash cold water on my face, and shuffle to the coffee maker in the kitchen, which (thankfully!) is programmed to be brewed and waiting for me. Sucking down my caffeine infusion, I make my way to my office, squinting and blinking as I turn on the bright overhead light.

Once at my desk, I have 30 minutes to write, respond to email that came in the day before, and take care of personal business. Social media? Forget it! No time for that, even if I wanted to. I have to be careful not to get caught up with email, or distracted by reading online articles. If I focus, I can get in 500 words before my alarm chimes telling me it’s time to get ready for work — right about the time my brain is waking up and creative juices are beginning to flow. It takes nearly as much commitment and will to leave my desk as it does to arrive at it in the first place.

There’s lunchtime, of course — if I’m disciplined and eat quickly, I can chisel out 10 or 15 minutes of writing time. Case in point, I’ve drafted this post over the course of several lunch breaks (picture me sitting in my pretty little red Prius in a parking lot with my iPad on my lap) and am finishing it up at 5:00 a.m.  I can also carve out time on the weekends, between taking care of household business, gardening, and socializing.

I figure that at this rate, I’ll be finished with the first draft of my next memoir sometime around February of next year. That’s not so bad. The trick, for me, is to stay positive and focused, learn to dive quickly into creative mode, and write in short bursts.

What about you? Are you challenged for writing time? How do you manage to find that precious quality time?


Photo Credit: ** RCB ** via Compfight cc


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12 thoughts on “Time to Write

  • Natalie Moon-Wainwright

    A very timely post for me, Amber! I’m preparing to start a new job, nearly full time, with an hour-plus commute. When am I going to write or do my music or any of a number of things I want to do for me? I’m looking for things to cut, but I’m also aware of that brain dead time in the evenings, when I’m anything but creative. It’s hard to be disciplined, and I’m even a morning person. But, 4:30? Good for you! ~Natalie

    • Amber Lea Starfire

      Natalie, it’s definitely difficult to be disciplined, but when it’s that or not writing … well, that idea is too depressing, so discipline it is! :-).

      That said, it took a long time for me to adjust to the loss of time and energy when I returned to full-time work, so if I were to offer one bit of advice, it is to be patient and forgiving with yourself and allow plenty of time for adjustment. You’ll find what works for you.

    • Amber Lea Starfire

      Natalie, I meant to mention that I also play keyboard, and I find that I can still practice a little in the evenings even though I’m brain dead, because music is more physical and emotional, less cerebral, than writing. Let me know if you find that to be the same for you.

  • Lauren Ross

    Amber, this is very inspiring. It is my biggest struggle with writing. One of the things that works best for me is to sign up for one of the Story Circle classes. Prompts, deadlines, and someone who is going to read what I write is my best inspiration. Otherwise, I will hit the snooze and head back to dreamland.

    I also write when I travel. I am planning some solo wilderness travel this summer, which is another of my big inspirations. No one else to talk to!

    • Amber Lea Starfire

      Classes work for me, too, especially for inspiring me to work in new genres or try new writing techniques. Sometimes, the pressure to complete work by a specific deadline can be too much though, so it’s always about finding that delicate balance of pushing myself, but not too much. Travel is wonderful, because it takes you out of your usual routine and gives you time for reflection you might not give yourself otherwise.

  • Judy Sheer Watters

    Great use of little time, Amber. I have just the opposite problem. I wrote and published a book while teaching high school English full time. Grading so many “delightful” 9th and 10th grade essays tended to slow down my own writing time, I thought. Now, after my first full year of retirement, I can honestly say I have less time now than before I retired. Social media, email, podcasts, wonderful helps from other authors lead me astray, and before I know it, I haven’t written one useful word. Your words have prompted me to make better use of the hours in my day.

    • Amber Lea Starfire

      Judy, how funny! (Ironic funny that is.) And how true that we find ways to fill our time and procrastinate. I’m glad my post has inspired you, and thanks for reminding me that it always seems greener on the other side of the fence.

  • Barbara Toboni

    Amber, good post. 4:30? Well, I guess I will stop feeling sorry for myself now. I don’t have a full-time job, but I busy myself with the house, the errands, the garden, the social life, etc…–everything but writing. Between 3:00 and 5:00 am I wake up (to use the bathroom) and I sometimes stay awake thinking about all the writing I could be doing, so I force myself to get up, finally!! Lots of guilt going on.

    • Amber Lea Starfire

      When I worked from home, I would not have imagined forcing myself to get up at 4:30 in the morning to write. So please do not feel bad or guilty. Over the last few years, I have seen you produce poems at a steady rate, as well as publish chapbooks. So pat yourself on the back for all that you have accomplished and will continue to accomplish. If scheduling writing time works, you might try that. It’s what works for me (in fact I would venture to say scheduling is my writing salvation), but it’s not for everyone.

  • patsy ann taylor

    Some of my best writing is that rushed, no time to think sort. With revision or plotting? That’s another story. I need calm, quiet time and must slice pieces of the day in which to work. Each day offers a different opportunity to sit down at the computer and write. I try, not always successfully, to work in the morning for an hour or so and again in the afternoon. Those are ideal times, which happen less often than I would like. Life gets in the way. Oh, well. Writing is a journey.

    • Amber Lea Starfire

      Patsy Ann, you make a good point about different types of writing needing different types of “quality time.” I’m a rather slow writer and, though I benefit from deadlines, my writing suffers when I am rushed. It’s fascinating to me how writers’ personalities affect how we arrange our writing time.

  • Jesse


    I’ve been a longtime reader of yours and have finally chosen to comment; your description of the challenge to find time to write, to secure those precious moments when inspiration and flow are most in bloom, elicited a deep grin and warmed my heart.

    Thanx for sharing this part of your writing life; with such diurnal disclosures I don’t feel as alone attempting to record my evolving life, challenges and certainly feel a deepened kinship with you and many others.

    Again, your willingness to share how you confront the compelling undertaking of meaningful writing has inspired yet another human being.