How to Write When You Don’t Have Time to Write

How to Write When You Don't Have Time to WriteI shouldn’t be writing this right now because between a huge event I’m putting on for my college and my senior project I have enough to do. But here I am, pattering away at my keyboard so that you can learn something useful.

Our relationship to time is odd

You live a busy life. Between classes (or work) and trying to live a decent life, you barely have time to settle down and sleep, let alone do something as trivial as writing. But I know a thing or two about busy-ness.

It’s not that you don’t have time to write. It’s that writing isn’t enough of a priority for you to sit down and do it. You have time to do the myriad of other priority things like watch TV or scroll through Facebook or get lost in Youtube (Google) holes.

When you hear “I don’t have time for that” what they’re actually saying is “that’s not really a priority for me right now.”

For example, now that the weather is becoming nice again, I really want to go camping. One of my friends is going almost every weekend and has been asking me if I want to come with. I’ve been telling her that I don’t have time until after I present my senior project. But what I really mean is that my senior project is a higher priority than camping.

So really, the title of this article should be “How to Prioritize Writing.” Because you have time to write. You just have to prioritize it correctly with the other important things you’re doing.

PS: Most of these ideas come from Steve Kamb’s article on time. Check it out to hear a more detailed, more eloquent explanation of time as an excuse not to do things.

Creative ways to write in-between priorities

Now that we’ve established that writing is either a priority or it’s not, let’s do some real talking: there’s a lot of things you’d like to prioritize over whatever you’re doing, and there’s actually no time to do it all.

I hear you. I still want to go camping, but this event that I’m running is more important to me than getting a poor night of sleep under the stars. But writing isn’t like camping. Writing is easy.

  • Write instead of scrolling. Instead of opening up Facebook or Pinterest or 9gag on your phone, open up your Google Docs or Evernote and write. I waste a lot of time gaming on my phone when I’m waking up in the morning. Don’t waste that time; use it to write.
  • Write while you’re waiting. 90% of the people in my life view time more loosely than I do, so I spend a lot of 3-7 minute periods being punctual and alone. If you keep a journal (or your phone) handy, you can get a lot of writing done in these time chunks.
  • Don’t spend a lot of time writing at once. While it’s better to sit down and write a piece for 1 hour at a time, you can still fit your writing in twelve 5-minute chunks.
  • Multitask. Now I know that multitasking has become a bit of a black sheep, so hear me out. What are you doing on your commute to work/school? Since it’s probably a pretty mindless task anyways, why not spice it up with a thoughtful task—like brainstorming for your next story, planning your next blog posts, or calling people to set up your next meeting?
  • Wake up earlier. Stay up later. If sleep is something you prioritize, consider taking 10-30 minutes away from it so you can write. If you regularly get less than 7 hours, consider prioritizing sleep so that the other 17 hours of your day get more done, leaving more time to write.

The balancing act

I have 6 more minutes to write now. I have made writing a priority, but my life is not contingent on my ability to type out meaningful phrases; I have to get this project done and meet with people to make sure this event goes off smoothly.

Writing for me is calming and restful so I make time for it. If it was my job, I’d have to make time for it so that I could put bread on the table.

Our brains are powerful tools, but they can’t run at 100% all the time. We need down time. And we can make our writing time more effective when we balance it well with the rest of our priorities.

So tell me what you think: how do you write more in less time? How do you write when you don’t have time to? How do you make writing a priority for yourself? Share in the comments!

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