Monday, 7 May 2012

Does Life Get In The Way Sometimes?

Finding time to write is always difficult, even for those of us who write full time!

Arrshie emailed me recently, explaining that a new job meant he'd have very little time in which to write. With a 3-hour commute and working 6 days a week, that didn't leave much time in the week to do any writing, especially as he'll need day 7 to recover from his six-day working week.

At first, it might seem that his writing aspirations are doomed, but this needn't be the case. Remember, we all have the same amount of time in a day, it's all down to how we choose to use it. I gave Arrshie the following suggestions, some of which may be of use others, perhaps, completely useless, but I hope it shows how thinking a little differently can help you achieve some writing during your week.

  • Can you use the commute? If you commute to work by public transport, can you use that time to do your writing? Sitting on a train (assuming you can get a seat) for three hours a day offers an opportunity. You don't need to be typing on a laptop. Spending thirty minutes scribbling in a notebook will be of use. Pop some earphone in your lugholes to blank out the rest of the train and write to your heart's content. It's how Anthony Trollope wrote some of his novels.
  • If your commute means you have to drive, can you use the time to think instead? When you arrive at work (or back at home), jot down the ideas and thoughts you've had before you step out of the car.  
  • Use your lunch break. I know the one hour lunch break is rare these days, but can you take yourself away from your desk for thirty minutes? Go and sit in your car, if you have to, or find a quiet room to escape to. And walking away from your work desk will help to reduce your anxiety levels, which may mean your afternoon is less stressful - your line manager will be happier about that!
  • Don't make every lunch break a writing session though. Limit it to two or three sessions a week. Use the other lunch sessions to do writing related stuff, like reading the writing magazines, or doing market analysis.
  • When you're at home, can you find fifteen minutes in the evening, just before you go to bed to scribble down some thoughts? Fifteen minutes a day doesn't sound a lot, but over a six day week, that an hour and a half. It soon mounts up.
Snatching ten minutes here, fifteen there, and another thirty minutes elsewhere means you'd be surprised how much time you can find. It might take a little preparation. For example, if you're going to spend your lunch break analysing a potential publication, then remember to take the publication with you to work!

Does anyone else have any tips for Arrshie, they'd like to share?

Before I go this week, I'd also like to mention an opportunity for any expat writers. the expat writers group, Writers Abroad, are currently seeking submissions for their next anthology. For more information, visit their website at

Good luck!  


  1. Great post! I'd agree about using the commute, if he can (also agree about 'if you can find a seat!). Life definitely gets in the way at times but I really like the 15 minutes tip - that does add up. I'm really going to try that. Thanks, and good luck Arrshie with the new job, and the writing.

  2. It's tough but I'd also recommend to ensure he's getting enough sleep, as being tired doesn't help the writing process. Use the waiting for 'kettle to boil' time - you can easily flick through one of the writing magazines and read a column or two, or jot down some ideas. And if he hasn't already then I'd highly recommend reading your book: The Postively Productive Writer. I've just finished my copy and it has really motivated me to start some new regimes - I'm even going to try and get up before 7am (eek)...

  3. Great ideas from Simon. I regularly use my lunch break to write or do some research. It's amazing how much you can get done, even if you only have 30 minutes to spare. I do this at least twice a week and really enjoy taking myself away to a quiet place armed with sandwich, cuppa and my note book.

  4. Great ideas here and those fifteen minute slots can be productive. I wrote an article intro in a fifteen minute wait at the dentist. At home, after typing this up, the rest of the article flowed and after editing resulted in a sale. If writing ideas don't come, though, use the time for mundane tasks such as arranging appointments, listing things to do at home. Being organised in other areas can free up more of those precious minutes to write.

  5. There's some good ideas here too guys (and I particularly like TraceyFells comment about buying The Positively Productive Writer!). Thanks for your suggestions.