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Writing with little time...


I'm a waiter, by trade. Well, not really, but it's my current chosen occupation. I picked it because it was something that I thought I would like to do, and it's (sort of) involving my mind and my body. We're on a strange schedule right now, one of the other servers quit to go back to school, and the boss didn't think far enough ahead to find a replacement for when she left. Currently I'm on 6 days a week, closing shift, so I get home around 12:30am, and am pretty well beat.

Add to that, my girlfriend is 5 months pregnant, and we need to find a bigger place to live. She's in her last semester of college right now to get her BS in English. Our schedules are extremely conflicting and the only time we get to spend together currently is the hour-ish that I've made (at the sacrifice of sleep for me) between her classes ending and when I have to head off to work.

I really want to sit down and write while I'm trying to unwind after work, but I just can't seem to. Staring at a blank page doesn't really accomplish much to me.

Hopefully I'll start getting some time off within a couple weeks, but does anyone have any advice for until then? Should I just put it on the back-burner until I get more time?


I guess it depends on how long you expect these current circumstances to continue. Presumably your boss is eventually going to hire someone else so you don't have so many late nights to work, in which case maybe you should just wait it out. That's what I'm doing - I have my masters dissertation due on the 12th, and I've been on campus working on that basically 9am til 6 or 7pm, 7 days a week working on that. I doesn't completely stop me from working on my novel, and in fact some of the research I am doing inspires certain aspects of the world I'm creating for the novel*, but I'm not writing. By the time I get home each day I'm too tired to think of writing, and just play computer games instead.

I guess all I can suggest until you do have more time is to keep a notebook on you at all times, and think about your story when you can - on your way to and from work, during breaks, etc - and note what you come up with down. At least that way you won't lose any ideas you do have and are more prepared when the time comes you can focus more on writing.

*Yesterday I was reading about triads of nymphs, goddesses, etc in classical myth, generally without individual identity outside their being part of this triad; this inspired a myth I created for the world I'm writing in, though I don't know if it'll ever make it into the story.

Philip Overby

Article Team
With a baby on the way and a hectic work schedule, I can suffice to say that it may be difficult for you to write in any substantial amount. I do, however, echo what Chilari said: carry a notebook with you everywhere you go. Any spare moment you get, write in the notebook. The only other thing I could suggest is to work out with your girlfriend some "writer time." Like one hour a day? Of course when the baby comes, it's going to be harder to do that. I would say just squeeze in your writing time whenever you get a spare moment.

Luckily, I've always dated women who I told I like to write, have my private time. All of them (well, with the exception of one) seemed to understand that I needed that time. My wife is awesome. She always gives me time to write or read or anything whenever I want. For me, that's a deal-breaker. If someone gives me a hard time for spending time writing, it makes me very unhappy.


You would be surprised what you can do in 5 minutes or 15 minutes of breaktime. Fight Club was written during 10 and 15 minutes breaks while Chuck worked at a 24 hour gas station.

My wife is 8 months pregnant, I am working 6 days a week at school because we lost a teacher, and I study Chinese everyday because I live in China... I am crazy enough to carve out 1 hour each day after baby is here to try for Nanowrimo's 50,000 word goal in 30 days. Right now I am taking all the little 5 minute blocks of time to do planning, write scene outlines, and any development work I think I can do without actually writing the book. I want to stick by the Nanowrimo rules so I won't write the actual book until Nov 1. You would be surprised what you can do with all that little time you might get. I actually find that during those bits of time I think of great ideas and I can make some quick notes and come back to flesh them out and when I have more time I can move them into my synopsis or directly into my outline.


I would say try to write something every day - but even if all you get down on paper (or typed out) is a paragraph of an idea, or a rather pithy sentence, at least you wrote something. Unless you think your life is going to be like this for a long time - like, more than a year - don't try to force in an hour of writing every day. I know for this past month I've been out of the country twice, in a hotel three or four times, and rushing around trying to get my wedding planned (and then having my wedding), plus having a bunch of friends and family who wanted to hang out, I couldn't get a moment alone, let alone a few to write anything of substance. But I carried a little notepad, wrote down some ideas, did a bit of brainstorming on the skytrain, and reworked a few scenes from a novel I drafted in July - it wasn't much, but it kept me active, and now that my life is basically back in order (well... Saturday it will be), I'm not out of practice or out of ideas.
I feel your pain. I work 2 jobs at the moment and I am a godmother to a 2 year old. My friends have a tendency to accuse me of being a hermit, so I sometimes have to grace their doorsteps. Finding time to write (especially when you don't feel like doing anything except having your head hit the pillow) is a difficult task. As I only live with my pets (who don't demand nearly of much as my time as people do), I have the benefit of being able to talk to myself without anyone looking at me like I'm crazy.

I usually will talk a dialogue scene out - and I tend to carry a tape recorder more than a notebook. Notebooks are fine and all and it's the actually "art of writing" but trying to write a 2-page scene while driving is difficult - especially when you don't have the opportunity to "pull over and write it down."

Plus - the job will settle down (unless your boss is an utter moron) and a replacement will be made. Babies on the other hand - they will take away most of those precious minutes you want to yourself, but like Phil said - if you can work out a "schedule" with your girlfriend, then I'm sure you'll be able to start writing again. Or at least have a few minutes quiet to reflect on what you would like to write.


I'm going to echo what's already been said. I always carry something to write on. Every minute. Because you never know when an idea will strike and you need to be ready.

I've also used the voice recorder thing. I used to have a 27 minute drive to and from work on country roads. I'd get my best ideas then. It's pretty hard to write something down while driving 60 on a winding, hilly road. :)

If you get some ideas and snippets down through the week, pick a day to start typing them in - and you'll probably be able to just keep writing once you start typing. It'll avoid the staring at the blank screen problem.


If you get some ideas and snippets down through the week, pick a day to start typing them in - and you'll probably be able to just keep writing once you start typing. It'll avoid the staring at the blank screen problem.

I agree. I really think once you start typing it out, you'll find ways to make the time to continue-- even if it means one less hour of sleep. Your story will suddenly consume your everyday life. You'll lie in bed thinking about it like a love sick teenager, and you'll want to go back in front of the computer everyday just to maintain that creative high.


Thanks for all the encouragement, it means a lot.

Actually, my girlfriend is being pretty awesome about all of this. She's been trying to convince me to do something other than play video games and work. At some point I said that I'd like to start writing again, because I had been doing a lot of it when I was younger. I spend a good bit of time bouncing ideas off of her and sort of doing the "Will this actually work, or is it too far out there?" I'm still rusty too, so I'm trying to break through that at the same time. I guess the stress is just beating me up.

Thanks for all the good advice! :)