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I'm currently writing a book, and would eventually hope to be a writer as a career. However, at the moment I'm struggling to find the time and the discipline to actually sit down and write consistently.

I know that writing (and most other professions where one is working alone) is all about the self-motivation and discipline to sit down and do work.

However, as I have a full-time 40 hours a week job, I'm really struggling to find the time to do it. I know that the time is there, people do more with less free time, but when I have free time I generally want to relax rather than begin writing.

I tend to want to write at the least opportune time (commuting or lunch break or when I'm about to go to sleep). I have the motivation to write, but I need to manage my time better in order to fit writing into my schedule.

I'm not looking to quit my job, I actually enjoy it (plus I need the money) but I would like to be able to get serious about my writing and devote some time to it every week, and start prioritizing it above other things.

I do simply need to sit down for a number of hours a week and write, even if I'm stuck and I do some inane writing that has nothing to do with anything in order to get my creativity going. I understand this, and once I'm in a routine I'm hoping it will become a habit, I just need to break into the habit.

Fortunately I have most of my story written in my head, I know where the plot and everything is going, so the 'having nothing to write' problem is not too bad. I occasionally get caught up on minor details and progressing to the next plot point, but the problem is at the moment by the time I get back to my writing I've usually forgotten where I was going with it.

I know consistency would help with this. It's the biggest, if not only, problem that I face at the moment. Once I allot certain times for writing I will probably end up with more.

Does anyone have any effective tips to how I can balance a full-time job, spending time with loved ones, personal time and then also writing?

  • This is EXACTLY the problem I'm struggling with. Do you also find yourself making excuses to yourself about "If i can just figure out what to do with X, I can start writing", which inevitably delay the entire writing process? – Nzall May 12 '15 at 22:20
  • You may find this article useful: The Turret, a meditation by a friend of mine who's in a similar situation. – Neil Fein May 13 '15 at 5:54
  • Related, not exactly a duplicate: writers.stackexchange.com/questions/3573/… – Lauren-Reinstate-Monica-Ipsum May 13 '15 at 10:23
  • Like some people have mentioned, lunch breaks are for me a great time to get a quick page or three done, and if you pack your lunch and keep it something simple you'll have plenty of time to spare. I also find it useful to block out other distractions with headphones (music with no lyrics helps) or retreating to a room with some privacy. That of course depends on where exactly you work. – thanby May 13 '15 at 12:09
  • "Schedule your priorities rather than prioritize your schedule" Familiarize yourself with the first three habits from 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and pay particular attention to the section on planning out your schedule and dealing with stuff that is important but not urgent (such as writing!). For an overly simplified but still useful synopsis: forbes.com/sites/ericjackson/2012/07/24/… – user2859458 Jul 24 '15 at 22:11
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I have a full time job and small children, so I feel your pain. There are a combination of things that keep me writing:

  • Break the seal: Commit to some very minimal amount of daily writing (for example 15 minutes or half a page). It's easier to force yourself to do something that small. Once you are doing that consistently, it will be easier to work your way up to more time.

  • Stop in the middle: It may be counter-intuitive, but if you stop in the middle of a hot writing streak it will be easier to get re-started than if you reach a natural point of completion.

  • Seek instant gratification: For me, posting on forums, or in a blog, helps give me the kind of instant feedback that is missing from my more long-term projects, and helps keep me energized for them. A blog can also be a good way to write a long term project piece by piece.

  • Use those little blocks of time: Take a notebook with you, and jot down your ideas during those lunch breaks or commutes.

  • Take breaks: I don't write at all on Sundays. Having an enforced day off makes me more eager to get back to writing the next day.

It's funny, but it wasn't until I had both the job and the children that I really started writing consistently. I think it's because I'm very conscious of how limited my time is. If I ever miss that daily window to write, I'm super aware that it will be another 23 hours of sleep, work and child care before I get another chance.

EDIT: I recently read a book which recommended doing creative activities in the early morning especially if you are a night owl. The reason is that your internal editor isn't awake yet, and you pump out more creativity without censoring it (early birds get the same effect from staying up late). So I've been trying it for the last few weeks, and I've never written more in my life! But on the other hand, everything else has been suffering. So it's definitely a trade-off --but it does *work.

EDIT 2: I've now been writing in the mornings for a year and a half, and it's really caused a huge jump in my writing productivity --even though I still hate mornings.*

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    Related to this, even if you don't write daily, still schedule time to write. I also have a full-time job and small children. I don't write during the week except sporadically at lunch time, but I have from 11-1 on Saturdays that is my scheduled writing time. – Kit Z. Fox May 12 '15 at 15:19
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For established writers, consistency is important. For new writers, just writing is.

The biggest problem, as you say is prioritising the time in order to actually write rather than do other things.

I, myself often say that I'll write in my lunch hours but by the time I've had my food, checked Twitter and done a bit of browsing, I only leave myself 20 minutes to write and I curse myself for not giving myself longer.

To overcome this, I use/d 3 methods.

  • Write all the time
  • Joined a writing group
  • Reward myself

Write all the time I have a notepad on me pretty much all the time (they don't do well in showers). It's not for writing another chapter, just scribbling down ideas when they hit. Whether it's in the middle of writing an email, watching TV or taking a walk. Any idea can be a great one and if they're not written down, they're usually gone.

You say you what to write when you commute. I presume from this you drive so why not get yourself a dictaphone and just record your thoughts / story on that?

Joined a writing group We meet for 2 hours every fortnight but it gives me motivation to get writing both to do the assignments and to show off that extra chapter I've written between meetings.

Reward myself I use this one less but in the beginning, I found it very useful. Write 1000 words for an hour on the Playstation or finish that chapter to allow myself a small token present.

  • Do you have any suggestions on where I can look for a writing group to join? – Mike.C.Ford May 12 '15 at 15:21
  • What country are you in? – Stephen May 12 '15 at 15:25
  • I live in England. – Mike.C.Ford May 12 '15 at 16:05
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    Check your local library for postings. I found my writing group because they met in the same place as my daughter has gymnastics and there was a sign on the wall. You could also try nawg.co.uk/88 which allows you to enter your postcode to search for NAWG (National Association of Writing Groups) members in your area. – Stephen May 13 '15 at 7:06
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I do the same as you: I balance working a full time job, family and professional writing. Except I write freelance journalism rather than books. I imagine that does make my life a bit simpler because it's easier to dip in and out of short-form writing, plus I get a stead stream of commission payments as motivation.

I do the majority of my writing in lunch breaks and other "dead time" like waiting to pick up from children's parties. Here's how.

  • I made an account at Simplenote.com - any site that allows you to collate documents online using a very lightweight text editor will do.

  • I've got a lightweight note-keeper on my mobile phone. Whenever I have an idea or do a quick bit of research, I make a note of it there.

  • I got a cheap, basic spec netbook. Not much else will do: you need something that's very portable but has a keyboard.

  • I either buy or prepare my lunch the night before.

  • At lunch I take my lunch, my netbook and my mobile to the social area. Or outside if it's a nice day. I enable my phone as a WiFi hotspot, connect, log on to Simplenote and start writing.

It's amazing how much you can get done with that extra five hours a week, especially given that at work you're already in a "work" mindset.

I do also work at home, but it's harder to get motivated. I would encourage you to try, however. There's a surprising amount of dead time you can still fill using the same system. I find I have enough time to spend relaxing, and with my family, and so do they.

So learn to self-motivate when don't feel like it. But getting a set-up to make the most of a productive lunch-hour is a great way to start.

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Everyone needs time to relax. Sometimes life is so busy that we don't take the time to relax and we get burned out.

However, most people don't live their entire lives in that manner. Many people claim that they don't have time to do X, Y, or Z but when you sit down with them you find that they watch 1-2 hours of TV every night, play golf every Saturday morning, and play video games on Saturday night.

Again, everyone needs time to relax so I am not criticizing those people. All I am saying is that if you can use writing as a way to relax then you can probably just substitute writing for something already in your daily routine.

That is how I have tried to go about writing. I also have a day job that pays the bills. I started writing because I came to the conclusion that video games and movies are akin to throwing away your time. I still watch movies with my wife and play video games with by brothers[-in-laws] but rarely by myself.

I generally have between 9:30 and when I go to bed to pay the bills and try and to relax. I can usually spend an hour writing every night because I am doing so in lieu of tv or games.

Hope this helps.

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Being at home was my worst enemy - getting out of the house helped tremendously. I'd go to Starbucks, drive to the beach or just go across the street and eat at Panera Bread. Since I had most of my story in my head I didn't need WiFi (which could be a distraction) and just needed a full charge on my laptop.

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John Grisham went to work half an hour earlier to have half hour lunch breaks during which he wrote his first novel. Toni Morrison got up early and wrote before her children woke up. Another writer, I forget who, wrote their first novels in the breaks between classes while being a teacher. I write on the train while I commute.

Get The Clockwork Muse by Eviatar Zerubavel.

Its 6:35 and I have to catch my train. Be productive.

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