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As provided in this excellent answer by @what, there is a certain 'creative time,' for writing, when you can write the best. I've been aware of this for awhile, though I never really saw it for what it was until recently.

Unfortunately (and I doubt that I'm alone), my creative time is taken up with a job. I have an hour or two at the end of the day, but by then I am tired and merely want to relax. On the few occasions I've tried writing at this time, what I've turned out has been in general weak. The only real time I have to write is on the weekends, and even then I usually feel more like relaxing from the week than writing.

Is there a way I can move my creative time to a more convenient time of day? Switching jobs isn't really an option in my particular case.

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Unfortunately, having a full-time job usually means that being able to write during the time period that is most effective or productive for you simply may not be possible. Because of that, you will need to determine what time you have available and then decide on where you can slice out a period of time that you can make available just for writing.

Many years ago when I started writing my first book, I was working 10-12 hours a day, and then coming home to a family with three pre-teen kids who were involved in a variety of activities. Needless to say, my free time was very limited and my ability to write when I really wanted to write was non-existent.

What I did was look at my daily schedule and try to find a way to squeeze in at least one or two hours of time where I could write with limited distractions and still feel productive. I tried getting up an hour or two earlier each day, but found that it took me too long to get started. I then tried to set aside an hour or two after the kids went to bed as my writing time. My wife at the time went to bed about the same time, so I had an hour or two each evening that was basically free of distractions, so that became my writing time. It took a couple of weeks to get accustomed to this new schedule, but once I did I found that I was getting a lot of writing done.

More recently, I started setting aside an hour each afternoon at work for my lunch break. I would bring my lunch and eat a quick meal, and then I would spend the rest of the time writing on my tablet. I used Dropbox to store a copy of my WIP so that I had easy access to it at work or at home and didn't have to worry about keeping things synchronized.

The important thing is to just find a time that works for you. It may not be your most productive time at first, but if you stick to it and make it a part of your daily routine, you will soon find that you are writing a lot more than ever imagined possible. I told myself that I was never going to HAVE the time, so it was up to me to MAKE the time!

  • This is very enlightening and helpful. Thank you. – Thomas Reinstate Monica Myron Nov 16 '15 at 6:19
  • I thought I'd comment to let you know that I've been trying this since you mentioned it, and now I'm writing every day at a fast pace. This is awesome! Thanks! – Thomas Reinstate Monica Myron Nov 21 '15 at 7:02
  • Excellent! I'm glad it worked for you. – Steven Drennon Nov 21 '15 at 13:29
  • Steve, that's a great, great bit of advice and information you've provided. Well done, and well said! – Josh Dec 9 '15 at 15:58
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The way I see it, there are two different sorts of 'creative time'. There are bouts of inspiration, where new plot ideas and insights into character development arise, and there are 'inspired moments', where prose comes out more smoothly and you're just generally more productive. Insight-y creative time can usually be solved by quickly jotting something down onto a notebook or phone. However, you seem to be referring to the second sort of 'creative time'.

You can't condition yourself into feeling truly inspired, but there are times when you feel more productive than others. You should try to analyze when you feel most creative. For example, I write a lot after/while I'm in the process of going to sleep, because I have time to mull over whatever project I'm working on.

Writing (especially when you're starting out) requires discipline. You have to train yourself into following leads and developing them into a story. If you have time during the evenings, use it to write. During your commute home, consider an idea and force yourself to write something about it when you get home, even if it's just a paragraph. As long as you're not completely dead on your feet, if you get excited enough about an idea, you can trick yourself into forgetting about fatigue.

Don't worry if some of your stuff is weak. Writing always improves over time and even then, Sturgeon's Law still applies.

So. Don't rely on 'true creative time' to do your writing. Create your 'productive time' by thinking about what you're going to write before you actually go ahead and do it. Discipline, practice and consistency should help to increase both the quality and the quantity of your work.

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Some suggestions:

  • You say you have an hour or two at the end of the day, but lack the creative energy to write after a long day at work. Try going to bed an hour earlier, getting up an hour earlier, and writing before work. (Personally I think I'd struggle to write at that time, but I do frequently exercise before work. Turning up to the office at 9am knowing I've already done something useful and productive that morning is a great feeling!).

  • On a similar theme, could you write in your lunch break at work?

  • You mention weekends as a possibility, but note that you need that time to relax. Maybe relax Saturday, and make Sunday your writing day? If you take 5 hours every Sunday to write 5000 words, that's 260000 words in a year - two or three novels' worth!

  • You say you can't switch jobs. Might they be open to reducing your hours? It may be worth asking, you never know! I've recently changed to work only three days a week; it's too early to say what effect that will have on my writing career, but in all other respects it's the best thing I've ever done! Granted, this one will need a sympathetic boss, and will mean a pay cut.

  • Another job-related suggestion: do you have much of a commute? If so, then asking if you can work from home (even if only one or two days a week) might free up a lot of time for writing. Depending what you do this may not be an option, but a lot of jobs these days can be done over the internet for at least some of the work week.

  • My final piece of advice is to re-frame how you think of these things. I've heard anecdotes of people who've changed their lives with this approach. "I don't have time for writing" (or, "I don't have creative energy at the only time I have for writing") may be accurate, but saying it in those terms has particular implications. None of us have time to do everything we want to do; so we really ought to be using our time to do the things that matter to us most, shouldn't we? Try instead saying "I value [other activity X] more than I value writing, so that's what I'm going to do". If that seems true when you say it, fair enough. But if you realize you value writing more than [other activity X] - drop [other activity X] and write instead!

Whichever you choose, it seems likely that discipline will be important. If you decide to make Sunday your writing day, then don't spend every Sunday writing, it won't work. But perhaps one of these suggestions may prove valuable.

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