I didn’t get enough sleep the night before (turns out, the tea I drank after dinner wasn’t herbal; it had caffeine). It took me hours to fall asleep.
I woke up at 6:15 a.m. after not enough Z’s, drug my arse up to work on my novel a while. I wrote 1,000 ugly, awful words.
That session should’ve satisfied me for the day, but it didn’t. I did something that changed my attitude and helped my writing…
I stole writing time when there was none.
How was that possible? Everyone in my family needed me ASAP.
Mom! Where’s my…?
Hon? Will you please…?
The doorbell…the phone…our dogs…
Although it’s nice to be needed, I was hungry for more time with my book.
Quicker than a New York Minute
That afternoon, I had exactly three hours alone before everyone returned home and I had to start cooking dinner. I didn’t have any paid contract work to complete that day, but my schedule was already packed: I needed to write this post, finalize a guest post, then run errands that would take 30 – 45 minutes to accomplish.
That was my reality, but I couldn’t accomplish any of my To Do list because of my irritability. I knew my exhaustion was to blame for my lack of focus, but I WANTED TO WRITE!
I set the timer on my phone for 15 minutes and cranked out 550 words of a scene buzzing in my brain. It was rougher than sandpaper. I didn’t bother to read it, but guess what?
My spirits lifted. I felt both happy and proud that I was one step closer to completing my first draft. I finished both blog posts and ran all my errands, with time to spare.
Don’t have 15 minutes?
Believe me, I understand. There are times when life won’t let you write: during a major move, a loved one is in hospice, you’re in a divorce you never expected. If that’s you, be patient and know your life will turn back toward pen and paper someday.
However, most everyone else can find 3 minutes to spare. Jot out a quick scene, brainstorm your next chapter, make a list of tasks for your book launch.
Even you just scribble on the back of a receipt, while your car is stuck in traffic, it still helps focus your mind for when you do have more time.
The key is to do something to honor yourself as a writer, no matter how small.
Some is Better than None
This is my mantra. Some writing/exercise/sleep is better than none.
I wrote 550 words in 15 minutes. I didn’t have time to procrastinate, and used my anger as fuel. I banged away on my keyboard until I felt better.
Fifteen minutes for an attitude adjustment is a pretty sweet deal. I went to bed in a great mood that night.
I’ll definitely add this to my bag o’ tricks for the future and hope you’ll do the same.
Have you ever ‘stolen’ time to write? What’d you do?
Please leave a comment. I’d love to chat.
Pick up your FREE copy today of the mystery, The Moon Rises at Dawn (SkipJack Publishing). Read, enjoy, repeat.
Smart. I like that advice.
Thanks, Beth. It was FURY that pushed me to a solution, but I shocked that my attitude shifted 180 degrees. COOL!
Great advice Marcy. Some words, any words, are better than none at all. And what a great way to use anger!
EXACTLY, Marie. We can’t always steal time to write, but sometimes…we CAN and when we do it makes a WORLD OF DIFFERENCE!
I have gone through this a few times, when my day was very busy. But, as you say, some is better than none; I always squeezed at least five minutes and scribbled some words, however bad they were. Even if it was a bad writing session, it still gave me confidence, because I had done something writer-ly and used my creativity in my favourite way. I personally think that however busy our schedule is, we must find a few minutes to write. Otherwise, what writers are we? 😉
I love that phrase, Natasha, “Doing something writerly.” It helps us stay positive (and get out of bad moods like me) when we steal time for our stories. Thanks for your comment!
I think this is fantastic advice. Just a few minutes spent writing here and there not only helps you maintain a sense of progress, but the word count soon adds up too. I don’t have a hugely busy life, but I do sometimes find it hard to balance work and social life with writing. If I’m grumpy because I have to go to some event or other and I’d rather spend that time writing, it really helps to find 15 or 30 minutes to write before I go out. That way, I can more easily give my attention to other people without feeling distracted or resentful.
I can tell you 100% understand what I’m talking about. I like the way you’ve framed this, writing not only helps our outlook and furthers our stories. However, it ALSO allows to be more present when we’re with others. Win-win.
I have a recorder on my phone. When I have a thought about what I’m writing I pull it out and record the thought for when I have time to put it on paper. By then I usually have more to go with it and can put together several thoughts to make a scene in my story that I might have been struggling with for days, or even weeks.
That is BRILLIANT, Roxie! I also have a recorder on my phone, and I’ve often used it to interview others for magazine articles. But, I’ve never thought to record ideas to myself about my stories, to then write down later. Love it, love it…can’t wait to try it.
Marcie – this is something I MUST learn how to do. I’m one of those people that can’t get it through my head that I need at least (x minutes/hours) before whatever I’m doing (exercising, writing etc) will matter . . . so hopefully I can learn from your post and apply the concept – 15 minutes of writing (good, bad, or indifferent) means I have made at least some progress.
Please DO try it, Jack! I cannot convey what HUGE difference it made in my attitude that day. Like I said, I didn’t go back and reread it for fear it was awful and it’d made me so happy. No matter. It served its purpose. I was DYING to write, I stole time to do so, and I went to sleep a new woman.
TRY IT…what do you have to lose? 🙂
J. A. York (@authorjayork)
I have a friend I used to jog with, and he once said, “The best thing about running is having run.” In much the same way, the best thing about writing is having written. I have found the hardest part is getting started, but once I get over that hump, at the end I am so glad that I have written. It’s a miraculous feeling.
Your friend is EXACTLY right about jogging and writing. It IS a miraculous feeling, but I often am my own worst enemy and get in the way. Thanks for stopping by, J.A.
This has to be one of my favorite posts of yours, so I am glad you found a way to ‘steal’ time when there was very little 😉
Glad one of your favs (do you enjoy me being in a bad mood, then finding redemption). Anyway, it worked. Try it sometime for you because YOU, dear Kitto, DEFINITELY need to steal more writing time for yourself amidst all your client work.
GO FOR IT!
I barely had time to read this post & respond, much less make writing time (for pleasure that is). I haven’t stopped running for 3 solid weeks including weekends. This is the first email of yours that I have even been able to read in a minute. I do try to find some time between my classes, kids, work, home & doctor appointments. During my 10 weeks of active class time, there is so much I have to read and write, that I burn out. Sure do miss my write times… But, alas they have to wait.
No worries, Stephanie. Sounds like you have a whole lot of reality going on in your life these days, and that must take precedence over your writing. Yeah, it’s a drag, but it won’t always be this way. The page will still be there when more time and space open up.
In the meantime, good luck with all that you’re juggling.
I can identify with your need for writing. By the time I get up, take care of my kitties and then the housework, my inspiration for writing spirals downward. I need to take the first part of the day to sit down, writing my article for 15 minutes and then come back when time allows to flesh out my story. Great way to be creative by giving the first few moments to write something concrete. I’m sure it will make my writing better for implementing this small change to my schedule.
When possible, I think everyone should write with their body clocks. I have a friend who comes ALIVE at 10 pm and that’s when she does her best writing. Mine would be DISASTROUS at that time.
Since your time does permit and you sound like a morning person, I would recommend you getting to your computer earlier and give it a try. Good luck!
Hi Marcy! Happy birthday!
I read the title and went like OH man tell me about it.
Then I read it and halfway through Layla and Linah asked me for various things, plus I had a paper to finish translating and editing and it felt like another day was going to pass without a single word being written in my novel.
Layla came up to me as asked “mommy would you like to play with me?” And my childhood came rushing back to me and I remembered how adults never gave me the time of day. So I promised her to play a game as soon as I was done typing.
I gave her and Linah about 10 minutes (we played a local game that uses seashells, a play on marbles and billiards) then I Guided them to play together with something else. Plugged in my headphones, turned on Apple music and sat at the far edge of the dining table and WROTE.
Layla asked to come join me but I was firm yet gentle and stated that I needed alone time to write my story and she was okay with it.
I kept worrying that they’d turn the house upside down, or something. But every time the thought came I pushed it away.
It was hard.
Creative wise, because I’m in uncharted territory with James and Jade. Having never dated I feel like I’m feeling in the dark and a lot of it is guesswork and research. Nothing I’ve ever felt or experienced.
I stopped writing at around 20-30 minutes in. But it’s still the same moment/scene. Although James is beginning to get defensive and internally exploding.
So now it’s just the question of how far will be take it and what will Jade do about it???
This article and all your posts keep me going.
You are an inspiration and I am so happy to have known you and am honored to call you my friend ?
I hope you had a beautiful birthday yesterday ????
What a thoughtful, lovely comment, Lujain. I’m DELIGHTED my posts help you going because comments like yours help keep me going.
No worries about the no dating. You have all sorts of movies at your finger tips, so in 90-minutes, you can get a quick visual lesson. Email me and let’s talk more about Jade and James (their age, interests), so I can recommend the right movies for you. FYI – Fifty Shades of Grey is NOT a positive example of dating. 🙂
I’m glad my trick worked for you. 🙂
Yeah! Awesome will do (I’m helping the lil ones sleep it’s 11:54pm now ????????)
And my husband and I laughed so much through 50 shades so I know it’s not a good example; although could be used as a what NOT to do ??
I LOVE romantic movies ???
It was ridiculous and odd and therefore we laughed at the absurdity.
It was disturbing as well.
I have no idea how it managed to get a sequel movie.
Why would anyone pay money for that junk I do not know.
Marcy Mason McKay
I have neither read Fifty Shades of Grey, nor seen the movie and don’t plan to. I don’t have anything against the brand, there’s just so many other books/films that interest me. I know E.L James has caught a lot of flack, but here’s my thought.
Have I (or you) sold over 100 million copies of our book(s). No. She must be doing SOMETHING right. m3
Oh and then I finished reading it after my writing time was up and I was like! YAAAAAS. EXACTLY! Thank you Marcy ??
Woohoo! Glad if spoke to you and thank you for taking time to say so. Comments like yours INSPIRE me! 🙂
julie mayerson brown
Scanning through dozens of junk email, I saw your subject and clicked right away! Doing at least a little writing-related work daily is important — writing is sort of like exercise (altho I like writing way more) – the longer you go without doing it the harder it is to get back on track.
A few years ago I was getting ready to go on vacation. Instead of being excited, I felt a nagging irritability in the days leading up to our trip. I realized that I was stressing about not having time to write.
These days I am in the midst of agent searching, and that is messing me up. It’s hard to be in “creativity” mode and “marketing/sales/promo” mode at the same time.
Sure helps to know we all are in this together – love my writing friends 🙂
It’s funny that you should mention vacation. My birthday was this past week, and one of the gifts my husband gave me was a pen that lights up and glows in the dark because, “I’m prone to writing in hotel bathrooms in the middle of night while on vacation.” HA!
Here it is: http://www.amazon.com/LED-Pen-Pilots-Night-Writer/dp/B00GTZR31O
I wish I had better advice on juggling it all…writing/marketing/etc. Sadly, it’s just: DO THE BEST YOU CAN. And you’re correct: writer friends are the best. Thank you for supporting MPW!
Marcie, I can sure relate to the situations you describe.
In my other life, I am a long-haul trucker. I have learned to slow down when coming to a red light and keeping the thing rolling (whenever possible, never fully stopping dead in the road, as long as traffic and red/green lights permit it) makes starting from the green easier, quicker, and more fuel-eficient.
That same technique applies to writing: I have tried various things, but it seems to help me most if I make a habit of stopping writing before I’m completely done with a scene, dialog, or such. Leave the mind running in neutral, so to speak, and go do the regular grunt-work of life, but keep the creative engine running at idle. Let the mind work things out while the body is otherwise engaged, and the results will be amazing, way beyond what you might imagine. That way, when I do get the opportunity to come back to the writing task, the machine is already warmed up, I just put it in gear and see where it wants to go. Way, way easier than starting from a dead stop.
I LOVE your analogy of writing to driving an 18-wheeler. MANY authors do what you do…stop a scene before it’s finish, so you know EXACTLY where to begin next time. I’m not 100%, but I think Ernest Hemingway may have been one of the advocates.
Bottom line: we must all do what works for us. Keep on, keepin’ on! Right? Thanks for your insights!
Simple and effective. I never knew catharsis could be used as a tool. Thanks for the advice.
Hi there, Amrut,
“Catharsis as a tool.” I love that term, and now, know it to be true. Whatever works. RIGHT? Great to hear from you. Thanks!
Jeana Weiss Mitchell
Thank you for your post. My issue that has stopped me is a new marriage. My husband has to have the TV on constantly. We got headphones which help but between a new marriage, health problems on both sides and moving to a house half the size we lived in, I am overwhelmed.
Hopefully if I do a few minutes it will inspire me. I always tell people you can do anything for 15 minutes and your post reminded me of my own advice that I forgot! ~ Whew!
My book is finished except for the intro, quotes and conclusion but I have not written in over 6 weeks. The book is titled “Soul Pain ~ Finding Peace with your Past to Free your Future” It is compiled of stories from individuals who have overcome trauma and did not settle for giving up or living a second class life.
Congratulations on your new marriage. Best wishes. Soul Pain is also a GREAT title. You truly are at the finish line, so you need to finish that book and get it out into the world because you have an important message to share.
It’s understandable with everything that’s been going on in your life that you haven’t written in six weeks, but make sure you get back to work, or FEAR will set in and try to stop you. It sounds like you have a computer and not a laptop, so moving to another room isn’t an option.
Here are a few other suggestions:
1) If you’re currently facing the TV when you’re seated at your computer, change directions so you’re not facing the TV at the same time. It’s challenging enough to write in the same room as the television, so don’t face both screens at once.
2) Get up 30-60 minutes earlier or stay up after your husband goes to bed, so you can work in silence.
3) Ask you husband to turn off the TV for 60 minutes. I know he likes it on 24/7, but surely he can do so for his new bride. This book is important to you, and has an important message, and that’s a small compromise you’re asking him to make.
This is an exciting time in your writing life. Hang tough to make your dreams come true. Good luck.
Thursday and Friday were the two days I put aside for writing. I like to write when I have a large block of time to not be interrupted. I finished one novel and planned to start the next one while it was being edited. I had writer’s block for months before I could start it. I had 3 to pick from so it wasn’t like I had absolutely no idea. Yet not one of them said WRITE ME. I started taking James Patterson’s Master Class a few weeks ago and that broke the block, but I’m still bad about sitting down to write. My novel that’s being edited was such a pain that I’m beginning to think I should take up knitting. I enjoyed writing my first novel. The Patterson class I did yesterday talked about doing an outline. I did not do that for either book, but it’s the next thing I’m going to work on after I clear out a few emails. If I’d done an outline for my second novel, it probably would not have been the headache that it was.
Writer’s blocks hits us all at some point. GOOD FOR YOU that you’re taking James Patterson’s class to work through your funk, as well as getting back to actually writing.
I prefer big chunks of time, too. However, try to be open to stealing time when you do not have lengthy periods. Otherwise, it can turn into perfectionism and procrastination; both of which stop you from writing.
I get the same way, if I can’t write I feel like I’m crawling out of my skin. When i get like that I make myself sit in the bed and work in my journal or my “outline” book. When I go in there, no one bothers me for fear of a flying pen. 😀
Ha, Sarah! Sounds like you’ve found the right plan for you and your family is honoring that. Awesome. Keep up the good work! Thanks for your comment.