Writing in Stolen Time: 10 Ways to Create Time (Literally)!

May 12, 2012 | By | 25 Replies More
Hazel Gaynor's novel, The Girl Who Came Home

Hazel Gaynor’s novel, The Girl Who Came Home – A Titanic Novel

‘How on earth did you find time to write a novel? You’ve got kids!’

This is a question I have been asked frequently since publishing my debut novel, The Girl who Came Home.

I sometimes wonder myself! But, having wondered, I’ve realised that when you have a passion to do something, there isn’t much which will prevent you from doing it – even time itself!

Yes, I regularly complain about there not being enough hours in the day and I wish I could escape to a writer’s retreat for three months of uninterrupted writing time, but, well, as a work-at-home mum of two, that just isn’t going to happen! So, back in the real world, here are my top 10 ways to  create time, even when there doesn’t seem to be any.

1)      Write while the dinner is cooking. Seriously, once everything’s bubbling away, rather than stand there endlessly stirring, I will often grab twenty minutes – sometimes only ten – to write a few more paragraphs. It may not be much (and the dinner may burn in the process), but it’s something, and those paragraphs add up over the week.

2)      Write in the shower (not literally). For some reason, great moments of inspiration hit me when I’m showering. I keep a notepad in the bathroom so I can scribble ideas down as soon as I’m out of the shower. I have also been known to jump out, scribble down the idea, and jump back in again! I honestly find if I don’t capture it there and then, I will get distracted and start doing something else and forget!

3)      Turn off the TV. Honestly, you won’t miss it and this, for me, is a guaranteed way to get quality writing time when the kids are in bed. I may not have a notion about the plot line in Grey’s Anatomy or Desperate Housewives, but I’m writing a novel, so who cares?!

4)      Get up early. It may feel like the greatest sacrifice known to mankind, voluntarily waking yourself before the kids do, but really there is nothing nicer than stealing thirty minutes of peaceful writing time before anyone else in the house is awake. Word of warning: the kettle will sound like a steam train as it boils for your morning cup of tea or coffee, but you need that hot drink so don’t let the noise put you off – it won’t wake the kids. Honestly.

5)     Busy children = busy writer. If the children are happily occupied, take the opportunity to write. I’m not talking about hours or days here – literally minutes. As mothers we continually feel guilty about not spending enough time with our children, (even if we haven’t left their side for 24 hours!). Grabbing twenty minutes to write, while they are engrossed in building a Lego spaceship (a task for which, they have decided, you are simply not qualified to be of any help to them) is perfectly acceptable in my book.

6)      Ignore the housework. This may be one of the hardest parts of writing if you are a domestic goddess, but if you are serious about writing 100,000 words, something is going to have to give. It may pain you to step over the pile of laundry which has taken root in the corner of the kitchen, but you will honestly not care when you see your novel being read by actual people!

Author of The Girl Who Came Home - A Titanic Novel

Irish novelist, Hazel Gaynor, author of The Girl Who Came Home – A Titanic Novel

7)      Turn down social invitations. Not all of them and not forever, but if you’re going through a good writing patch, keep the momentum going. Your friends won’t mind if you explain why you can’t make the movie with them this time.

8)      Set yourself a writing target. When I’m in serious writing mode, I try to write 2,000 words a day. This definitely won’t happen in one writing spurt and will be made up of a few hundred words here and there throughout the day, with the majority being written before the kids wake up or after they go to bed. It’s a great discipline to set yourself and you’d be surprised how much you can get written if you keep working to that daily target.

9)      Go outside. Fresh air, running in the park, pushing your kids on a swing, kicking a ball with them – it all gives you head space to think about your story and develop plot ideas. You may not be physically writing, but often, time away from the screen is exactly what you need to recharge the batteries and you will be much more productive when you get back to it.

10)   Read. Reading is an important part of writing. It’s important to keep on top of what is popular and to experience different writing styles and different genres. I find that there is no better motivation to keep writing than to read a fabulous book you adore and wish that you’d written. For me, it is this that keeps the dream alive and keeps me tapping away at the kitchen table.

So, don’t spend your time wishing you had more time to write – find time and use it wisely!

Say hi to Hazel on Facebook, @HazelGaynor on Twitter and through comments in on her blogs:

Parenting blog Hot Cross Mum

Writing blog Whims and Tonic

or check out her Amazon author page.

Update, August 2013. Please note that THE GIRL WHO CAME HOME is currently unavailable to purchase. It will be republished in paperback and ebook formats by William Morrow Books (HarperCollins) in April 2014. To follow Hazel’s writing news and to receive updates on her books and author events, please visit www.whimsandtonic.com



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Category: Being a Writer, British Women Writers, Irish Women Writers, On Writing

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  1. Writing in Stolen Time « Whims & Tonic | June 27, 2012
  1. All of these points are so valid, particulary the last one. I’ve literally just finished a fantastic book which has motivated me to push myself more! #MondayBlogs

  2. Vivienne Nichols says:

    Fresh air, early morning, water….all are powerful instigations for me. Spooning while my husband soundly sleeps. And oh…the open road, landscapes. I have the best thoughts in the places it’s most difficult to write! It once took me 7 hours to make a 4 hour road trip because I was pulling off to make notes. Just last week, I thought it a pity someone hadn’t invented a wee “desk on a rope” that we could hang around our necks in the shower…teeny lighted keyboard inside for dark places, like movies..a microphone we could speak into. Smartphones are close, but not waterproofed…YET.

  3. Actually, you really can literally write in the shower! I got tired of losing out on the ideas I got while in there so bought myself a package of bathtub markers. They work great!

  4. Love this article Hazel. As someone who also works full time I too squeeze writing in on the train, in coffee shops, during lunch. If there is any opportunity to snatch a few minutes, I find it. If you want to write you will find the time. And those precious minutes then become highlights of your writing day! Great stuff Hazel. All the best.

  5. Mia Randall says:

    Hi Hazel – good to know I’m not the only one that gets up at an early hour to write! I love the tip about keeping a notebook in the shower – I think this is a great idea!
    I also do a lot of writing at random moments throughout the day whenever a few minutes present themselves.
    Writing when you don’t have much time is a challenge – if you have kids / demanding job etc. Only the truly dedicated will MAKE time to write, using tips like the excellent ones you have listed!

  6. LM Milford says:

    Hi Hazel, great article. I struggle for finding writing time – my full-time job is a bit like having kids I suppose – but you’re right about just finding whatever time you can. I use my train commute to work for doing ‘new’ writing and am trying to give up TV to give myself time in the evenings too. Writing is very important to me, so the sacrifices are worth it!

  7. Colin Perry says:

    Excellent thoughts. I no longer agree with anyone who bemoans having “no time” or “too much going on”.

    In the words of motivational speaker Lou Radja, “When the why is strong, the how becomes easy.”

  8. Kelly DuMar says:

    Hazel, I agree with yuor wonderful post! I’ve been getting up early to write for YEARS, and now sleeping in the a.m. is a rare need. Also, shutting my office door – when I leave it open, it’s a way of saying to the family “I’m available,” when, in fact, they don’t need me to be and they have a lot of respect for the closed door!

  9. Jo Carroll says:

    Why do the best ideas turn up when you’re in the shower? But they do – and it’s good to hear from another writer with than experience, means I’m not so odd!

  10. debs says:

    I’m with Rebecca.

    My secret power as a writer is that I have a natural abhorrence of housework.

    Gosh, you do some, and then in a few weeks, it all needs doing again.

  11. Great post, Hazel, with lots of tips for finding time to write.

    As an author and writing coach, I’m always telling the writers I coach that they just need to DECIDE to find the time to write a book and then they’ll find it. Published authors don’t have more free time than other unpublished authors. The trick is, they’ve learned to best use the time they DO have so they get their writing done!

    Your book sounds wonderful! I can’t wait to read it.

  12. Absolutely love it and couldn’t agree more! Your blog title also is simply precious BTW “Hot Cross Mum”… definitely been there!

    I can thank my acting classes for developing the ability to seal myself off from the effects of reality for brief moments, my husband is still freaked out by how I can tune them all out and be oblivious for 15-20 minutes of writing, then emerge to say “Athena why did you pull your sister’s hair?” and “Hypatia you most certainly will not go camping this weekend with your boyfriend!”

    It’s fun! (hehehehe-evil laugh)

  13. Fran says:

    You make me hang my head in shame. Kids all grown up and gone. In the middle of my summer holidays from my teaching job. No real responsibilities. And STILL I clean the grouting between the bathroom tiles to avoid getting down to work …

  14. Love this post, I can so relate to it – 2 children, three part time jobs but MUST write, my little notebook is always with me, snatches of time available when you least expect it just waiting to be claimed.

    Love it when the cat wakes me early, another unexpected quiet time awaits, hanging out the washing = free thinking time for sorting out plot issues 🙂 Thanks for sharing your inspiration and tips.

  15. I write in my head as I take a daily walk or have to wait in line somewhere. This could be a dialogue, a scene, a character description, anything. Just having thought about it helps when I actually can sit down and write.
    In a public place, I might people-watch and gather ideas about a person’s gestures or tone of voice. These observations help the writing somehow.

  16. K. A. Laity says:

    I have to say deadlines — even arbitrary and self-created ones — are the biggest help. Keeping on track with word count helps, too. Break down big goals with incremental word counts. I’m working on a much delayed project and sticking to it with regular tweets on my progress to keep me honest! 🙂

  17. You are 100% right, but I am useless at following this advice. Please, can you come round and nag me every 30 minutes or so?
    Good luck with your novel.

  18. I find I can write poetry in snatched moments but not my novel. Which means I have plenty of published poetry and three novels still on the boil plus about five planned and unstarted.

    Getting up early looks like my best path to finally finishing those novels.

    Fingers crossed 🙂

  19. Amy Keeley says:

    I don’t have a TV. My temptation is the Internet. And oooooh is it a temptation sometimes.

    Speaking of which, I’d better get back to writing. 😉

  20. Gill Wyatt says:

    A Brilliant article. You clearly have a passion for writing and seize every moment available. When my kids were little I used to apologise to the Health Visitor about the mess but eventually gave up bothering with the apology. In the words of the film title, ‘Something’s Gotta Give’ and it wasn’t going to be the writing. Congratulations – this inspires us all to keep going.

  21. Completely agree! Especially with the ‘no TV’ one… I get most of my writing done in the evenings by never watching television. Oh, apart from Doctor Who, which isn’t so much a programme as a religion in this house.

  22. Jo Carroll says:

    Great post – though I don’t give myself a target any more. I missed it so often I felt as if I was setting myself up to fail. And turning down social invitations – that’s a hard one. I know my friends understand – but I’m not good at missing out on fun (or cake!)

  23. Rebecca Emin says:

    This is such a brilliant post. I agree with all of it. I am particularly good at ignoring the housework (oops!).

  24. Ms S. Yakoob says:

    Absolutely agree with every word of it. Encouraged to learn there are those who cram writing, family and housework like myself. Dont feel guilty any more.

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