How Do Writers Write when Life Gets in the Way?

While I sit and figure out a plan for writing, which includes carving out some time to do so, it has occurred to me that … this is really hard. Yes, I said it. How do writers write when life gets in the way?

This prompted a search for “time management”. So many articles said “don’t” or my favorite “never” get distracted. Why of course! This person must not have four kids like we do, and one with special needs (future blog)…

Anyway, I can write this without looking on Google. I have, after all, written a book (a few). I survived a divorce, trying to maintain a job while balancing my kids’ surgeries, illnesses, and doctor appointments, trying to date, getting remarried, blending families, and I still found (and find) time to write. How? Well, right or wrong, this is how I did it and I have found that it comes down to this:

Check your attitude: If you don’t think you have time, you won’t. Wake up an hour earlier if you have to with a smile … or a cup of coffee at least. Take a deep breath and get excited to start accomplishing your dream.

Have a plan: Write a list of everything you need to get done. I like to do this at night so I wake up refreshed and can go right to doing something as soon as I wake up. (OK, maybe after coffee.) But if I wait to do the list in the morning, I’ll waste time doing that. Also, I’d think about trying to remember it all night and I wouldn’t have a restful sleep.

Small chunks: Be sure to keep these in small chunks because crossing them off feels good. Don’t expect to get everything done, this will devastate you when you get a call from your son’s school because he is being bad and you have to go pick him up. Oh, that’s just me? I digress! Allow yourself to feel that it’s okay to get to something later in the day, even later in the week. But don’t lose your plan!

Pick one thing at a time: Look at your plan and pick something. Remember to keep it in small chunks. You can’t count on having five hours of uninterrupted time while the kids are in school, or while your boss is in a closed-door meeting, so break it up into manageable chunks. If I have about an hour before everyone wakes in the morning, lunch hour during the day, or after the dinner/homework routine, I like to tackle something small. For example, I’ll try to think of a certain character, or a specific part of a scene, not the whole scene. Don’t think about anything else but that part or you might get distracted and waste your hour working on something else. Write down your idea, but don’t work on it yet. If you’re swayed, this may just be a stall tactic. If you find you’re procrastinating and the task you feel is too daunting in an hour chunk, break it up. It might feel more manageable broken down in five or fifteen minutes increments. I like it when I balk that I have no time or that a task is too daunting, and once I commit to doing part of it for five minutes, most times I get in the zone and before I know it one to two hours has passed and that chunk of the plan is done!
Stick to the plan: Don’t get too excited with finishing something, get right back to the next thing on the list. By “next” I mean that you’re looking at what fits your time, not what’s necessarily next on the list. Do what makes sense for the time that you have.

Keep thinking: The key is to just do it. But when life gets in the way you shouldn’t shut down completely. You have to drive somewhere? You’ll be in the car for some time? Create a character, her motivation, her likes, her world. You’re in line at a store? What would your character do? It’s okay to not actually be writing. A writer is always writing even if there is no pen!

Repeat: Get back to it. Pick something on the plan and start it. Keep chipping away at it even with distractions, but get back to it. How many people can say they’re writing a book? How many people can say they finished writing their book? They’re the first ones to tell you they didn’t do anything special, they just kept at it. You can too!


Send me a message. I’d love to hear your suggestions and tips on how you write when life gets in the way.

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Michelle Spray is an author and “additional needs” mom. She lives in Connecticut with her husband Erick and their four children, and plans on writing about all of it … eventually!