Everything I Need To Know: Finding More Time

AdviceIt’s time for your favorite part of the week, when folks email me their questions and I draw on way too much romance novel reading (is there such a thing? Nah, hell no) to craft the answer.

I have a really silly problem, but it’s really driving me nuts, and I thought you might have some good advice for me. Basically: I don’t have enough time. I work part time, I have three children, a husband, dogs, etc, and I really, really want to write more. I have a blog that I update with little things now and again but I really want to find more time to write. And I just can’t find it between work and home and life and kids and school and the PTA and fourteen million bake sales. Every day I promise myself I’ll do it – and then I get to the end of the day and there’s no time left before I pass out from tiredness. Any ideas or suggestions?

Signed,
Busy and Wanting More To Do

Busy, I hear you loud and clear – from underneath my four calendars, each tracking a different member of my household and this here website. Seriously. SBTB has it’s own schedule and color tag on my calendar (pink, of course).

We heroines – er, we women, we do it all.  We save the day, lure the dude, solve the case, heal the angsty injury, possibly become a vampire or a werewolf or cure someone of the same, battle the aliens, face down the smarmy boss, outsmart the nefarious yet sultry enemy, have some nifty sex, and live happily ever after. I’m tired just thinking about it.

But look at it this way: in a romance, there’s a handful of things that you know will be resolved (one hopes) by the end of the story. Your plot threads will (one hopes) be all tied up and merry by the end.

So, let’s look at your plot threads of your life story right now. Job: I hear you. Not much you can do except maybe take a pad and pen with you on breaks, or hell, to the ladies’ room, to eke out a few moments to compose or doodle your ideas. Home: this is tough. There are a lot of home responsibilities that easily land on women’s shoulders – and what nice shoulders they are, too. Perhaps this is where your spouse or partner can come in to help: what are some things that you do that might be delegated to another person a few nights a week so you can free some time for yourself? I know it’s not necessarily a well-supported concept that you should ask for help to find time for yourself, but that’s what needs to happen here.

Further, examine your current daily to-do list and see where you can trim some activities. Where is the nearest trashcan into which you can deposit your feelings of guilt that your family dinner wasn’t the four course extravaganza you’d planned but maybe more of a whip-it-up-in-20-minutes feast? Find that trashcan and toss that guilt. If you want time, it comes at a cost, I’m sorry to say.

If you label your daily to-do list items with 1s, 2s, and 3s, indicating what’s a top priority and what’s not, you might find that some things can be shifted to secondary or even tertiary levels of importance – or you might be able to jettison them altogether. My point is, you need to move your desire to write more, and your goal to find the time to do so, to a higher priority on your daily list.

Or, invent a more-time machine. And if you do, call me. I’m all over that.

Got a conundrum you’d like Bitch advice on? Email me (sarah @ smartbitchestrashybooks.com) – I won’t reveal your real name, I promise.

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  1. 1

    All good advice. Only one thing I would add – it’s okay to say NO once in a while to volunteer activities. If you don’t bake the cookies for school then someone else will – and that’s perfectly ok. Pick and choose which school / kid activities are the most important to you and chime in on those. Believe me, I don’t work (for pay) at all and have one less child, and still have trouble finding time to write. The real answer is to MAKE the time. Good luck!

  2. 2
    Nora Roberts says:

    All good advice. I’ll add time isn’t found, it’s made. Sometimes it’s made by saying no. Sometimes it’s made by simply taking it—MINE! Sometimes by trading in something else. Cookies baked for one bake sale = one hour writing time. Bake sale will not fail due to lack of cookies.

    Nora

  3. 3
    Nora Roberts says:

    Jeez, I thought I’d double clicked or something when I saw Jenyfer’s post above mine. Big giant head.

  4. 4
    Sarah Frantz says:

    One place to make time is the morning.  When I can do it (which isn’t often), dragging myself out of bed half an hour earlier is a way for me to find uninterrupted time for myself.  Which usually means grading, unfortunately.  Make it as un-uncomfortable as possible.  That is, you’re getting out of a nice warm bed, so make sure you’ve made some plan to make the place you’re going to nice and warm, too (space heater on timer?).  Or work in bed, so you don’t have to get up (requires laptop, of course).  But if you can force yourself to do it, it’s good solid time and you can block it out each morning.  It’s just (as always) a case of willpower.

  5. 5
    Rae says:

    I’m learning to say no. I don’t have kids, but I have a husband and friends who want to see me/us and it does occasionally become a game of who is more tied up. Many of our friends have gotten used to seeing only one of us, so that we at least stay in touch with each other.
    To survive, I’ve just had to cut back. I’m still doing my hobby-job but I’m not as committed time-wise as I was, either by changing my involvement or by not accepting as many commitments. I’ve made time for my friends and my husband and those times are sacred. And for work…I’ve had to come to accept the fact that there are only so many hours in a day and I can’t do it all. Sucks, but what else can you do.

  6. 6
    karmelrio says:

    Sarah F.‘s suggestion worked for me.  When I was dissatisfied with the progress I was making on my WIP, I started setting the alarm two hours earlier every day.  It sucked to begin with, but it soon became a habit, and now I don’t even think about it.

    And this next suggestion might yield howls of rage, disagreement, and ire, particularly in this forum!  But you might consider cutting back or eliminating blogging.  Blogging feels alluringly “productive” but it doesn’t produce manuscript pages.  Simply stated, time spent blogging – or cruising the internet – is time not spent writing. 

    I agree 100% with Nora; you don’t FIND the time to write.  You MAKE it.  Tough choices ahead.

  7. 7
    Venus Vaughn says:

    I have none of those distractions and still find excuses not to get my writing done.  For me, I have to trick both my body and mind into it by leaving the house.

    So that’s my advice for you – when you do carve out those minutes of your own, that afternoon when your husband is parenting, that evening when you don’t rush home to make dinner, that lunch when you actually take lunch, that bakesale you said NO to – LEAVE THE HOUSE.

    I have a notepad, I have a pen, I plug in my MP3 player, I order a cup of coffee, and I put my head down and write.  When I’m operating in that set up, writing gets done.  When I try to pretend that I’ll work at home, my output is miniscule. 

    I have handwritten at least 250 pages in since mid-July, I’d be surprised if even 20 of them were accomplished at home

  8. 8
    Keri Ford says:

    You didn’t say how old your kids are, but they could use some chores! Isn’t that why we have them?

    Folding clothes isn’t hard- but soo time consuming. I wouldn’t let them wash MY clothes, but I bet they’ll learn to sort and toss a load of their own in the wash with some cold water. Or towels-who cares if they fade/dye those! -and while on this thread let them put their own clothes away, another time suck. (The hubby will do all the hanging clothes while I do the folding so this helps)

    Dishes, okay, more pain than time consuming, but still take a good 15 minutes-longer if you handwash.

    If you like a dust-free house, dusting is something simple and easy kids can do.

    Let your kids handle the dog. They can easily fill the water/food bowl and give the pets a brush.

    My last suggestion is to multi-task. You got cookies to bake? Bake them while whipping supper together—arrange your meal so you don’t need the oven. Or let them bake while you eat. Time management is a biggie in making more time.

  9. 9
    Deb Kinnard says:

    PTA is a huge time-gulper. Once they find a v/i/c/t/i/m volunteer, it’s good-bye writing time. My solution? Tell them my other commitments didn’t allow me to participate fully anymore, but if they got into a crisis on a bake sale or other issue, they should give me a call. Nobody did. Afterwards, I could contribute to the activities as much or as little as I wanted.

    Signed,
    Graceful Exits R Us

  10. 10
    Jane O says:

    Some advice about saying no: Do not explain. As soon as you start to explain why you are saying no, people will try to find a way to solve the “problem.” If you just say “no” and nothing else (well, “sorry” is allowed), they are stymied.
    And whatever it is you want to do, whether it’s writing or painting or mountain climbing or learning Chinese, it has to be up there at the top of your to-do list, not down at the bottom after all those other things.

  11. 11
    Venus Vaughn says:

    I heartily agree on the advice not to explain a “no”.  Your choice of how your spend your time is nobody’s business but yours.  Any explanation for a no is an opportunity for someone to find a ‘solution’ for you.

    When pressed for an explanation, some options are, “I’d rather not say.” Or, “It’s personal.”  Those who are close enough to you that you would trust with the truth of your denial, ie, “I need time to write” should be supportive.  If they’re not supportive, then keep repeating yourself until they get it.

    (A friend who is not supportive about your choices in life and self-advancement might not be as good a friend as you think.)

  12. 12
    Victoria Dahl says:

    Just. Say. No. 

    Here’s what my son’s first grade teacher said to me this year: “His kindergarten teacher told me you’d make a great room parent.”

    Here’s what I said (literally): “Oh, GOD, no. Huh-uh.” She must have been shocked, because she gave me an odd look and said, “Well, I’m really glad you feel like you can say no.” Yeah, me too, lady.

    My house is a mess, my kids take lunchables to school, and I volunteer in their classes for one hour EVERY OTHER WEEK.
    You can do it!

  13. 13

    More of the same from me.

    I started working towards publication when both kids were in grade school.  They’re in high school now and I’m writing full time.
    Just say NO.

    Sort your life into:
    Broken Legs
    Broken Hearts
    Bruised Feelings
    Cut out anything on the last list.

    You keep what is really important to yourself or your family.  Everyone else gets the $5, $10 or $20 you would have spent on time and materials.  If you can’t afford that, then they just get a “No.”

    Buy food in bulk.  Shop and pay bills online.  DO NOT go to Walmart and shop during rush hours and weekends.  Especially not in the month of December.

    If your kids are in school, they are old enough to run the vac, the microwave and the crock pot.  I have not made a breakfast or packed a lunch in years.  DIY.

    The signature dinner recipe in this house?
    A one pound block of some meat.
    A bag of frozen mixed veg.
    A bag of sauce from the pantry.
    Turn on the crock pot.
    And the person who forgets that last step will learn not to when dinner is meatwad popsicle, and you won’t bail them out with a pizza (always have sandwich makings and fruit in the house).

    If they don’t like it, there is a truck stop on the interstate that has home cooking.  And cleaner bathrooms.

    And yet, my husband and kids (both boys) are happy, healthy, well adjusted, and still love me.

    And lastly:  No TV.  No Internet.  Not until you have done your words/pages/caught up with your deadline.

    Time for writing, and respect for your goal has to come from you, and spread outward.  You have to be deadly serious about it, because lots of people talk about writing, but very few people follow through.  No one will support you until you can prove that you are totally commited to your goal.

  14. 14

    Don’t listen to what Victoria Dahl says. I happen to know she was a chaperone for the class trip to The Nutcracker yesterday.

    Me, I’ll echo what Sarah F. and others have said. When my baby was 2 and I decided to make one more push to get a novel published, I started getting up at 4:30 a.m. every day. I have been doing it ever since.

    Worth it? Not sure. *yawn*

  15. 15
    Silver James says:

    My DD and DH have almost a month’s worth of underwear. I do laundry when I have writer’s block. As I hate laundry, I keep writing as a rule. (Hubby’s duds go to the cleaners since I don’t do starch.)

    Cookie trays at the grocery bakery are just as good as my homemade. Well. Almost. Quicker anyway. The microwave and Stouffers are my BFFs.

    When I worked and didn’t have a laptop, I wrote in a notebook at lunch. My daughter was a gold level softball player which meant most weekends were spent on the road for tournaments. I wrote in the car, in between games, and in the hotel at night before I went to sleep. I wrote the novel I just sold that way. I don’t watch TV as a rule – it’s on over my shoulder but I don’t pay attention when I’m typing up notes after dinner. Now that I’m retired, I treat writing like my job. I sit at the computer and I do something every day toward writing – putting fresh words on paper, editing, researching, and now marketing even though I don’t have the first set of galleys or cover art yet.

    Christine, you are dead on!

    Time for writing, and respect for your goal has to come from you, and spread outward.  You have to be deadly serious about it, because lots of people talk about writing, but very few people follow through.  No one will support you until you can prove that you are totally committed to your goal.

    And on that note, time for my one weekly grocery run, a quick look for some Christmas presents and then back to the computer for the next round of editing. Hopefully, I’ll have an hour or two to put toward the WIP, too!

  16. 16

    Just say no.  Definitely good advice.

    I had to practice it myself when my daughter’s teacher asked me to come in once a week to help out versus every other week.  I volunteer in their classes once a week, alternating between the two.  If I went to the oldest’s class once a week, I’d have to do the same with my son to be fair and frankly, I need to focus on my work.  So we’re once every two weeks…and gee, I get to help the kids with writing.  Getting the typical fourth grader to do creative writing is a lot like pulling teeth, I think.

    Basically, the lady is going to just have to make the time.  It’s hard, man, I know it’s hard.  Back before I quit the day job, after the kids went to bed, I’d write from about 10:30 pm to 12 or 1 am.  I wrote through my lunch breaks at work and whenever else I could squeeze it in.

    Oddly enough now, I’m writing full time and I STILL don’t have enough time.  Of course, if I didn’t procrastinate…

  17. 17
    MamaNice says:

    Ha! Her problem hits so close to home for me, and clearly, to so many of us.

    No advice from me since I’m struggling the same here myself…recently I have managed to get working out on the high priority list (much needed after baby #2) and have been quite successful with it…now I need to apply the same attitude towards my writing.

    So thanks for posting this SBSarah – I’m taking some of the advice here for myself :)
    And the simple “Oh, good, there are so many others out there like me!” Helps too.

  18. 18
    Dayle says:

    Reading all these replies is making me feel guilty for reading all these replies instead of writing…

  19. 19
    karmelrio says:

    A.Banana, do we share a brain?  ;-)

    LEAVE THE HOUSE.

    I have a notepad, I have a pen, I plug in my MP3 player, I order a cup of coffee, and I put my head down and write.  When I’m operating in that set up, writing gets done.  When I try to pretend that I’ll work at home, my output is miniscule.

    THIS.  This is the reason why so many people write at coffee shops.

  20. 20

    One thing I do know is that if you do not place value on your time, neither will anyone else. I put a huge premium on mine and if someone wants a piece of it, it has to be a good reason.

    A example is something that happened at my current job. They wanted me to come in at 7am (I get up at 430 and write before work) and I told them it would cost them money or time since they were cutting into my writing time. An hour wasn’t much to them but it was everything to me.  They didn’t want to do either and I dug in my heels…and I still come in at 8am :)

  21. 21
    Victoria Dahl says:

    Don’t listen to what Victoria Dahl says. I happen to know she was a chaperone for the class trip to The Nutcracker yesterday.

    You have no idea how hard I fought this. I went down screaming, baby.  Then I called my husband and said, “You can bet your ass there won’t be any dinner tonight, so you’d better bring something home.” Mmm. Arby’s.

    I got a great piece of advice recently from RaeAnne Thayne. She uses timers. 30 minutes of nothing but writing. Do this several times a day (or night). This has been a great help to me because it tempers my email addiction. “Yes, an email just came in, but I can check it exactly 12 minutes. I’ll be fine.”

  22. 22
    Suze says:

    If anybody’s having trouble doing the meal planning/grocery shopping only once per week, check out Sandi Richard.  You get several batches of five days’ worth of supper menus and associated grocery lists.

    Not all of the recipes rock my world, but I tell ya.  Not having to think about what to make for supper, or whether I have the necessary ingredients in the house, frees up HOURS of fretting time, and frees up terabytes of mental capacity.

    I go into work about an hour earlier, and (occasionally) use that time to write.  Yay for flash drives.  I had been trying to write at home before going to work, but I kept watching the clock to see if it was time to leave yet.  Even setting the timer didn’t work out for me.

    Now if only I could train myself to WRITE, instead of check up on the smart bitches, during that time.

  23. 23
    Julie Leto says:

    Time to write is made and taken.  Truer words have never been spoken.

    That said, I’d pose this question to the advise-seeker…do you think that published writers all stay home and write all day, with no other responsibilities?

    I know plenty of writers who work outside the home with more than one job, not that working IN the home isn’t a huge responsibility, because it is.  I know writers with five plus kids, or a kid who is special needs, taking care of elderly parents, or are single moms or etc, etc.  See what I’m saying?

    If you’re really a writer, you will write.  If you’re not writing, you have to ask yourself if you really, really want it.  Do you really, really think you deserve to follow your dream?  Only you can decide, but once you do, then go for it.

    I know this sounds curmudgeonly but whenever I hear this particular topic come up, it makes me wonder if people think that because I write every day that I have a personal assistant, a nanny, tutors, a driver, a housekeeper, a cook, a butler, a dog walker and a trust fund.  I don’t.  I do it all myself…and I write.  And I wrote my first three unpublished books while I was working two jobs—one full time teaching job with 100 essays to grade every week or so and one part-time night job that was 20 hours a week at least.  And yet, I wrote.  It never occurred to me NOT to because I wanted to be a professional writer.

    Oh, and stop blogging.  Take those ten minutes and work on your story.  With practice, you can be surprised at how many words you can get on the screen in ten minutes.

    But if you need permission to follow your dream—Nora, give it to her.  It sounds better coming from you.

  24. 24

    I feel for you, sister!  Not Enough Time is something we all deal with.  Lots of great advice here.

    Two years ago I had a newborn and a 3-year-old at home with me full time.  I didn’t get much writing done, but I thought about writing a lot.  Instead of turning on the TV while I was doing laundry or feeding the baby, I daydreamed about plots and characters.

    When I did grab a few minutes at the computer, I already had a lot of ideas formulated and I was excited about putting them down on paper.  That year, I only wrote one category-length novel, and I had to be okay with that.  We aren’t all as productive as Nora Roberts, LOL.  Do what you can and be proud of yourself.

    Good luck!  : )

  25. 25
    L Violet says:

    Devil’s Advocate here. 

    When I watched the movie _The Pursuit of Happyness_ my take-away conclusion was that the father had no business taking that kind of risk when he was the sole support of his child. He could have found a stable little job until the boy was older, and then jeopardized his son’s well-being for the sake of his own fulfillment.

    It could be that it’s not time yet for you to write prolifically. We make choices. I’ve made some doozies. Having children is a choice; writing is a choice; being supermom is a choice; blogging is a choice. One thing I regret is not being more involved in my children’s school and sports lives when they were young. I was a single mother who worked full-time and chose to also have a bit of a social life. Wish now I’d arranged things differently. (I wanted to write then; I wrote a little poetry, stealing time from my young teenagers to do so.)

    With a family, writing half an hour a day is way plenty. Your kids are more important at this time. To every thing there is a season.

  26. 26

    Give yourself the 100/100 challenge. This is a great way to make writing, even a little teensy bit, a priority in your day. Works like this:

    You promise yourself (and other writing buddies if you have them) to write 100 words a day on your WIP for 100 days. Give yourself weekends off, or allow yourself to miss 2 days, but if you go over those lines (miss 3 days at one point) then you MUST start over. OVER. From day 1.

    100 words is a paragraph. It can be handwritten during lunch breaks, or in the car, or heck, even in line at the store. But what it does is it moves writing way up into the ‘visible’ priorities. You HAVE to find some time every day to write. You just do. And an amazing thing happens after the first week. You find the rhythm. The words start to flow. You get into the ‘zone’ much more quickly. You end up writing 500 words, 1k, 2k.

    Find a buddy for some accountability, and start. Heck, e-mail me and I’ll be your watchdog if you want.  :)  Just, write.

    -Anthea

    whether69 – as if there were any question?

  27. 27
    Jessa Slade says:

    The just say no advice is excellent. As is Sharron’s point that if you don’t value your time, no one else will. Is writing your dream? Is your dream at least as important as a bake sale? Do you want your kids to know their dreams are as important as a bake sale?

    If writing is not your dream, I’d say give it up. One thing romance heroines often realize by the end of their book is that they wanted the wrong thing. A passing fancy that riddles you with guilt is worse than a PTA meeting. I’ve had writing friends just stop and their relief was eerily palpable.

    If the idea of giving up writing makes your heart wither, than carve out fifteen minutes a day in the bathroom, when everyone else is asleep, whatever it takes. Taking time will get easier. Good luck, Busy.

  28. 28
    Leah says:

    I could have written this letter!

    I’ve written since I was 11, but when I got older, it kind of fell under the bus, squeezed out by guy dramas and work and poverty and issues.  The I got married and thought, “Hey!”…but then I got pregnant. Then I got pregnant again.  And again.  Three times in 3 1/2 yrs.  But now they’re gettng older, I’m 41, and I think “If not now, when?”  They’re just old enough that I don’t have to follow their every move.  They’re in school/preschool and I should (theoretically) have 2 1/2 hrs per day.  But that time just keeps getting sucked up by errands, the dog, illness, people who need stuff, whatever…..  And like you, by 10 pm, I’m pretty well shot, and if I happen to get into a writing groove, well, a kid just woke up with a nightmare or something.  (It’s like they KNOW).

    But if I am honest, I know that I can easily find time (at least an hour) if I don’t get distracted by the internet, or by having House Hunters playing in the background,  PTO really does suck your time, too. It’s good to be involved, because then you know what’s going on in your school, you can have some influence, and maybe an edge in picking your kid’s teacher, but you don’t have to be super-PTO woman to accomplish this. Maybe volunteer twice a yr, and NEVER EVER EVER run for office.  No matter how much they beg.  (Oh, and you can write during meetings—it’ll look like you’re taking notes).

    It’s helped me, too, to realize that all these women I admire and sometimes envy have had the same problems and worse, but they still got it done.  It helps to realize that their homes are not spotless.  It also helped me LOADS to realize that they are often my age or older, and their kids are older than mine.  So if I can’t write the novel and rock the cradle, it’s normal, and I don’t, after all, completely suck.

    Good luck to you.  I hope we all make it!

    spaminator:  programs43…if I can get pubbed by 43, I’ll be so happy

  29. 29
    Victoria Dahl says:

    Your kids are more important at this time. To every thing there is a season.

    Of course it’s important to spend quality time with your kids. BUT, I’d like to point out something I think we’ve sort of lost touch with in this generation. I’m pretty sure my mom never came outside to play with me. We were sent outside to play with our friends. And I could probably count on one hand the number of times I played a board game with an adult. There was a school festival once a year, and that included the bake sale. (Grocery stores make great cookies, btw.) There were no organized sports. Parents didn’t set foot in the classroom. And parties were for grown-ups only; the kids were not invited.

    I’m not saying we should go back to that. My hubby and I play board games with our kids at least four times a week. I’m just saying that we could learn a lesson from earlier times and drop some of the guilt. No one needs to measure their quantity or quality of parenting against women who devote themselves to the kids 24 hours a day. Frankly, if your kids are anything like my guys, they don’t want you messing up their imaginary episode of Star Wars anyway. (Or as my 6-year-old says all the time, “You’re not in this game, Mom.”) And believe me, my 8-year-old wanted me on that field trip even less than I wanted to be there.

  30. 30
    Victoria Dahl says:

    Sorry, that should have been in quotes!

    Your kids are more important at this time. To every thing there is a season.

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