Using Stolen Moments to Write

NaNoWriMo begins today. Around the world, millions of writers are pounding on their keys to produce a novel in 30 days.

Many writers aren’t like Richard Castle with styling offices and ability to write full-time. Most writers I know work full-time inside or outside the home, care for a family, have church responsibilities, act as the family chauffeur, battle dust bunnies from overtaking their homes, and try to squeeze in a decent night’s sleep.

Who has time to write? Well, many of them may not have time to write, but the majority of them MAKE the time to write.

I’m a stay-at-home-work-at-home-mom who owns and operates an in-home family childcare program. Not working isn’t an option. With my My Book Therapy responsibilities, book contracts, family and church commitments, life can be a bit crazy.

A schedule and stolen moments help me find time to write. Also, I’ve encouraged my family to help with housework, laundry and cooking. Plus I use my Crock Pot and bread machine a lot. I write in the evenings so Hubby runs errands and chauffeurs our son.

If you don’t have evenings to write, do you have 15 minutes in your day? The Fly Lady has a great site to help people get their homes and lives in order. One of her principles is you can do anything in 15 minutes … including writing.

I downloaded an egg timer for my computer. When I’m stuck on a scene or needing motivation, I set timer for 15 minutes and free write without editing. When I’m writing my rough drafts, I use my timer to increase my word count. After all, rough drafts are allowed to be rough.

If you are serious about your writing and want to make progress, enlist your family to help out. Delegate household duties, grab the timer and have everyone work for 15 minutes.

Another way to get some writing time is to ask your spouse to take your children for an hour or two each evening. The children and spouse will have a special bonding time and you will have time to write. Turn off the Internet and focus on your manuscript.

If you don’t have a spouse, consider doing a play date swap with a friend or neighbor. Ask a high school student to entertain your kids for an hour or so. Or write after your kids go to bed. If that won’t work, get up an hour earlier in the mornings. If you work outside the home, write during lunch. If you have to chauffeur your kids, take your laptop or a notebook and write while you’re waiting.

Set a daily writing goal and use stolen moments to build your word count. Remember, your first draft doesn’t need to be perfect.

Balancing life with work, family and writing can be a juggling act. Find what works for you. If you don’t take your writing time seriously, no one else will either.

**A bit of self-promotion: My debut novel, Lakeside Reunion, releases today! I’m having contests to promote my book. Visit my Lakeside Reunion Contest Page for more information. The token for this blog is a novel.

Your Turn: Are you participating in NaNoWriMo? How do you find time to write?

39 Replies to “Using Stolen Moments to Write”

  1. I’m trying to write 30K words this month to finish a manuscript first draft. I always remember a college professor who didn’t understand students who sat around the dining hall saying they didn’t have enough time. If this prof had 15 minutes between classes or appointments, he worked on a commentary. He was a great example of developing the habit of focusing for even just a few minutes at a time and getting the job done.

  2. I’m not doing NaNo this year, I’ve done it before. Great tips! I use a timer too. I tell myself that I only have to write 250 words in 15 minutes, which isn’t hard to do. And voila–in an hour you’ve got 1,000 written.

  3. I am blessed to have two days of a day care per week. My husband agrees it is MUCH cheaper than the looney bin I’d be in without that respite/writing time. I do need to make the time during the day. Nap times and early bed times always seem to get used up for other things… I’m not doing NaNoWriMo but I am trying to finish my WIP this month which is about 40,000 words. Doable if I employ some of your tips (and a lot more discipline).

    1. Charise, I totally understand how hard it is to write with young children. Take advantage of those daycare days. Slow and steady and you’ll see progress. You can do it.

  4. I’m doing NaNo this year for the first time since my first of three kiddos was born four years ago (derailing my then-current NaNo). With three preschoolers I plan on using as many stolen moments as I can to get my word count in. I figure they can watch a morning cartoon and I can squeeze in some coffee and squeeze out 500 words, maybe another 500 during naptime, and then the rest after they’re in bed. It sounds a lot easier than I know it’s going to be, but I think it’s time again.

  5. I’m doing NaNo — need the focus to get a draft of my second book.
    I’m staying up late — way too late — to get the first set of words written for NaNo. It’s quiet, everyone’s sleeping. Why not?
    Usually I’ll get up early, that’s the tried and true method for me. I also use the time in the carpool line. No computer, but I can always write ideas/rough drafts/blog posts long hand and then transfer them over to a Word doc.

    1. Beth, if I didn’t have to work in the mornings, I’d probably stay up late to write too. Unfortunately that won’t work right now. I carry a notebook with me, plus I have Notepad on my Kindle. If I have an idea, I can type it there, then move it to my computer.

  6. Not doing NaNOWriMO this year because I finally just finished the rough draft of the one I started last year. 🙂 This is the perennial topic, isn’t it? I think it’s also important to be efficient–to know WHAT you’re going to work on, as specifically as possible, before you ever sit down. I’m a big believer in breaking big projects into tiny pieces, specific pieces, to help you focus when you only have a short time. Otherwise you waste precious time trying to direct yourself.

    1. Kathleen, you’re so right. Instead of looking at the 50K big picture, I focus on the scene I’m currently working on. If I’m not able to write, my mind is constantly thinking about the scene–the character’s goal, why, and obstacles. That way when I have time to write, I’m not staring at a blank screen.

  7. Hi Lisa- Thanks for this… I’m ALWAYS struggling to find time to write (I guess that’s what happens when you have three kids and a job). AND, I just finished my last novel last night so perfect timing… just picked up “Lakeside Reunion” on Kindle and will start it tonight. Can’t wait!

    1. Erin, thank you for buying Lakeside Reunion on Kindle. I hope you enjoy it! I totally hear you on the kids, job and finding time to write. I’ve gotten to a season in my life when I have more evening time to write. I try getting up early to write, but it’s quite a challenge.

      1. Hi Lisa– Okay, I already started reading it (which probably tells you why I have such trouble finding time to write… just sayin’)… love it! Your dialogue is HILARIOUS!! The little convo between Lindsay/Stephen had me cracking up. Can’t wait to finish. CONGRATS.

  8. I’m participating in NaNoWriMo again like last year. Same book idea, but it’s changed so much with a new twist that I needed a new first draft.

  9. Hi Lisa,
    Congrats on Lakeside Reunion making its way into the world today. What fun! I’m doing NanNo for the first time. And I’ll be stealing as many minutes as I can everyday to write. I’m going to put pen to paper as well as using the keyboard just so I don’t give myself any excuses. I’ll have something with me that will enable me to write at all times, even in boring meetings. 🙂 So here’s to all of us. May we get that novel done to the best of our abilities this month!

    1. Jill, thanks! I remember my first NaNo. I completed my 50K just before midnight on Nov. 30 and cried because I had finished it! Hubby realized my writing passion was serious and bought me a laptop! I hope you’re able to get your words in!

  10. Congratulations on release day! Squee!!!

    I’m heading out to the library today to make some progress on my NaNo goals. 🙂

    1. Thanks, Erica!! I’d need to find a quiet corner at the library hidden away from people. When I go to the library, I want to people watch and forget about my word count. Hope you have great success today!

  11. Awesome advice, Lisa! I’m downloading the egg timer when I get home. Brilliant! I was so excited to see my Amazon email notice that your book had been delivered to my Kindle. Eeeeek! Can’t wait to dig in.

  12. I never comment on this site, but I must today. CONGRATS on your book release!!! God bless your heart, your work and your message! Maybe today, I’m inspired! 🙂

  13. Yea! Can hardly wait to go buy a few copies of your book, now that it’s officially out! I’m doing a revised NaNo for the first time. I’m following a suggestion of what you’ve done–getting up an hour earlier (for me that means 4:00 a.m.) and writing. I did it for the first time today and got over 1500 words down. I’ve set goals for myself, and I’m going to do my best to stick to them. If I do, my first wip will be almost done. I may even do it into December, just to finish up my story. 🙂
    Yawn. Off to take a nap now. 🙂

  14. This year, I’ve not accomplished any of the writing goals I had set for myself. Between my hubby’s health issues, my health issues, helping to take care of my parents, working part-time and starting my own business – my writing didn’t take a backseat – it fell out of the car! I’m determined, however, that I will get a more balanced day. I’ve decided to record everything I do and how long it takes me to do it for at least 2 week days and 1 Saturday. From there, I will find the time wasters, and allot only a certain amount of time each day OR eliminate the time waster all together.

    Thanks, Lisa, for an eye-opening blog!

    1. Edwina, you have a lot on your plate right now. It’s totally normal that you don’t have writing time right now, but don’t give up. Your time will come.

  15. I’m doing NaNo for the first time this year; it seems a little overwhelming! This post and all the comments from writers who have done it definitely help to put the word count into perspective. Thanks!

    I do best when I wake up early and take time to write before the day begins. No one else in the house is awake yet, and I’m not yet worn out or distracted by the day’s activities.

  16. Stolen moments got me to 2000 words on the first day. 15 minutes before teaching my 9am class, 45 minutes while waiting for darling daughter to get out of her class. A prime few hours while she finished her school work and 30 minutes at the coffee shop with my sweetheart. A great feeling of accomplishment and your post is great motivation for staying on track tomorrow. Thanks!

    1. This is really impressive to me. I write so much better in blocks of time vs. stolen minutes. Maybe I’m babying myself too much to think I need to get into the story world so deeply to write.

  17. Have not tried NaNo yet (scared?), but I do appreciate your advice here. I steal writing time everywhere I can. I write on paper scraps while I wait to pick up my kids from school. If I have a great idea at work, I bang it out quick and email it to myself at home. I jot phrases and words on post-it notes, and I keep a running list of topics in a notebook that I carry with me always. Even if I only have 20 minutes, I grab my laptop and type something really rough — usually I can go back and find a gem in there somewhere.

    Awesome post — thank you!

  18. Instead of NaNO this year I set weekly word count goals. This gives me the discipline to set aside extra time if I get behind . . . but I’ve been ahead since I started doing this.

    I homeschool and write from home so it is difficult for me to start writing until after lunch most days. I find I can keep up with left-brained tasks (ie email, volunteer work with ACFW, etc.) during the homeschool time, but it is harder to write fiction with constant interruptions, so I usually write afternoons and evenings. If I’m behind on word count I make a point to put the evening meal in a crock pot so I don’t have to stop to make dinner but can write into the evening. And my boys do all the dishes and most of the house cleaning. When I’m on a deadline my husband picks up extra driving responsibilities.

    When I had all four at home for homeschooling I couldn’t get as much done but often would lock myself away for a long 12 – 14 hour writing day on the weekend and then sneak in writing time when the kids were in bed or if my husband took them all to baseball practice or something for the evening.

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