July 21

Is it possible to write a book without much time?


I know you’ve been thinking about writing a book. That’s why you found this blog, right? You have an inkling in the back of your mind that a book might just be the next big step for you. But you haven’t fully, 100% committed to it, yet? Why not?

The big three reasons that people tell me they’re not ready to write a book are:

  1. I haven’t done enough research or organizing of my thoughts
  2. I don’t have the money for all the editing, formatting, and design I’ll need to do for a proper book.
  3. (The biggie) I don’t have enough time right now. Maybe after ________ major life shift, I’ll have time for writing.

The truth is that you’ll never have more time in your life.

We humans have an incredible capacity to fill our time with tasks that are urgent but not critical to our prosperity or success. At every phase of your life, you’ve probably felt like you were maxed out, right?

Remember when you were in high school? You were likely stressed by homework, extra-curricular activities, and spending time with friends.

Remember when you were in college? You likely took on triple or quadruple the amount of homework, plus larger responsibilities or more work hours.

Remember when you graduated college and moved into the adult world? You found out what it meant to work full time, manage your own meals, and try to maintain relationships.

And then, if you’ve ever added pets, a partner, kids, a business, or someone in life who needed extra help (“just for a little while!”), then you know what it’s like to keep piling on the responsibilities.

With each phase of life, you didn’t get any more time, you just used it differently.

I’m learning (or re-learning) this lesson right now, as I’m traveling the world with my husband and three children for six months.

In February of 2016, my husband and I packed up our house, put everything into storage, packed all our essentials into a few suitcases, and loaded up our three young kids for what we called, “The Great Adventure.” We’ve been on the road for nearly six months, traveling from Columbia to Portugal to Greece to France and now the UK. My husband took leave from work. I’ve continued running my business while traveling. Oh, and I’m pregnant with our fourth!

Let me tell you, I’ve never been so busy in my life. And writing has become a real struggle.

I love to write. I relish the time I spend typing away posts for this blog. And I’m planning my next book. But what’s the biggest reason I haven’t started my next book, yet?

I feel like I don’t have enough time.

So, how do you write a book without much time?

Honestly, your ability to write your book depends a lot less on how much time you have and a lot more about the energy and enthusiasm you have behind your book. If you are excited about the book you’re writing, you can crank out more than 500 words in 25 minutes. If you are dragging your heels through the book, you could spend four hours, chained to your desk, and painfully eek out 500 words.

It’s not about time, it’s about energy.

So, the better question is: how do you channel your energy into writing your book?

First, start talking about writing your book with others.

Find a few close people to share your book idea with. See if you can set up a coffee date for the sole purpose of talking about your book. Let the person know ahead of time, “Hey, can we meet up for coffee? I’d love to catch up, but I also have an idea for a book that I’m planning to write, and I’d like your thoughts.” This will set up the conversation so that you can talk about the book for a good 15 minutes or more and not feel like you’re overrunning the conversation. Because that was the whole point of the conversation in the first place!

Talking with others about your book will get you excited about writing it, and that excitement will drive your next action – the action that’ll make it possible to write a book without much time.

Commit to writing the first draft of your book as quickly as you can.

If you like to power through projects, set yourself a slightly more ambitious goal of finishing your first draft in 4 weeks. If you’d like a little more breathing room, to take the pressure off, set yourself the goal of writing your first draft in three months.

Either way, commit to a timeline when you’d like to finish your first draft, and make sure that it’s less than three months. We don’t feel motivated by goals that are too easy or too distant, so make your first draft goal feel like an immediate challenge so that you’ll have to rise to the occasion in order to meet it.

Rearrange your life to find three to five hours of writing time each week.

I’m not going to tell you that finding time to write is easy. If it were, everyone would write a book! But how many people have you heard say they want to write a book and haven’t? This is why. It’s hard to make the changes in your life that are necessary to make the time for your writing.

(Side note: If you truly are undergoing extreme circumstances—injury, illness, changing jobs, moving, having a baby, getting married, losing a loved one—please, please don’t use this post as a way to make yourself feel guilty for not writing. Give yourself some space and grace, and know that there’ll soon be a time when you’re ready to make these sorts of sacrifices for your writing.)

You and I are different than most people. We have a vision for how the book will change our lives and change the lives of our readers, and we’re willing to make short-term sacrifices for the long-term gain of being a published author.

Here are some suggestions for how you can rearrange your schedule:

  1. Wake up earlier. This is a classic strategy because it works. Try waking up a half hour earlier to write for 25 minutes for a week. This should be the first strategy you try. If you honestly, truly can’t do it, go on to the other strategies.
  2. If you have kids, ask a babysitter, friend, relative, or partner to take care of the kids for a couple evenings a week or a longer chunk of time on the weekend. There’s no shame in asking for help, and you don’t get what you don’t ask for.
  3. If you have slightly older kids, enroll them in one or two activities a week that don’t require parental involvement. I do this even with my young kids. The only activities I sign them up for are ones that have a waiting area for parents—gymnastics, dance, and martial arts—all of which give me time in the waiting room by myself. Of course, now that my youngest is a year-and-a-half, she doesn’t sleep through her sibling’s activities anymore, so this strategy is out for me right now, but there are other strategies! (See babysitting.)
  4. If you work intense hours, disappear over the lunch period. I’m married to someone who is an attorney at a large law firm. I get intense hours. If you stay in your office, someone will come by to find you and give you more work. But at lunch, if they can’t find you, they’ll assume you stepped out for a quick bite of food. Pack a sandwich, go to your car or a coffee shop or a park or a bench on the sidewalk, pull out your laptop and bang out 25 minutes of writing.
  5. Sacrifice three evenings of TV per week. My husband and I have several shows that we love to watch together—Game of Thrones, The Americans, Modern Family, and Big Bang Theory. But when it’s book writing season, there are two to three nights a week when I let him know that as soon as the kids are in bed, I’m writing until my own bedtime. And he completely gets it because he knows my book projects are important to me and to our family. So, whether you’re watching TV with friends or a partner, let them know that while you’re writing this first draft of your book, you’ll be skipping the TV a few evenings a week. Just buy it on Amazon later!
  6. Minimize your other chores as much as possible. Think about all the other chores you do. Is there any way to simplify them so that they take up less time for a three-month period? Can you go to the grocery store only once a week? Can you cook only four times per week and eat leftovers the other evenings? Can you bow out of volunteering for anything for three months? Can you do all the laundry on just one day a week? Think of all those mundane tasks that you do to keep your life running smoothly. Can you batch them or skimp on them so that they take up less time? And then intentionally use that newly found time for writing.

These are the difficult sacrifices we make as writers. But really, are these changes that much of a sacrifice? When you get the first draft of your book done in less than three months? When you have the satisfaction of being able to do what once felt impossible, to write a book without much time?

Keep the vision of your book in mind, and I think you’ll find that it’s not quite so burdensome to create these pockets of time in your life.

What do you think? How can you rearrange your life to make room for three to five hours of writing per week?


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