How-to write when you have a full time job

It’s hard finding time to write, especially when you work full time and have family, friends, a dog and a laundry list of other responsibilities vying for your attention. There’s always something else calling your name, and when you finally have a moment to yourself, you’re too tired to write.


I get it. I used to work 60 hours a week at MTV designing their news website. I ran their election coverage. The night Biggie Smalls died, I got called into the office in the middle of the night to go in and post the news. When I dragged home at 2am, I was not going to sit and write.sel

Time for some #toughlove.

“I have no time” is an excuse.

Nothing more. Nothing less. It keeps you from writing.

Let me tell you about Marie Ponsot. She lectured in a poetry class I took in graduate school. There’s something really gorgeous about Marie Ponsot.  She was in her 80s when I met her, and she exuded an exceptional calmness. Perhaps from years of lived experience, she seemed to have things figured out.

Marie was a single mom of six boys living in New York City. She had two full-time jobs and still spent at least ten minutes a day writing no matter how much else she had to do, no matter how bone tired. I still hear her telling us, “If I can do it, so can anybody.”

But how?

Sometimes you trick yourself. Other times you give yourself shit. But the best way to write regularly is to create pathways to lead you to success. Here are some ways you can purposefully create time to write and stop making excuses.

Just Ten Minutes is your mantra.

You don’t have to write a whole story. You don’t have finish 20 pages. You don’t have to write the perfect sentence. You don’t have to do anything but spend ten minutes doing the work of sitting and writing.

Simple as that. Start a daily practice of Just. Ten. Minutes.

Create a habit.

It’s daunting to think of writing a book or writing every day for the rest of your life. Instead, commit to a shorter time, just long enough to create a habit in your life.

In his book The Power of Habit, Charlies Duhigg delves into the ways we can use the natural tendencies of the human brain to break old habits and enforce powerful new ones. Like, you know, developing a regular writing practice. It takes twenty-one days for a habit to form. Repeat an action for 21 one days in a row, and it becomes part of your life.

Reframe writing time as self-care time.

Raise your hand if the idea of sitting down to write feels like yet another obligation. Sure, you want to do it. Yes, you dream of writing and publishing. And all of that just makes you feel more pressure, because every time you don’t write, you’re ignoring your dreams.

Detach. Stop thinking of writing as something to check off your to-do list and start thinking of it as your time.

Make a tea. Go to a cafe. Sit under a tree somewhere with a notebook. Begin to think of your writing time as a time to explore and have fun. No strings attached. And remember your mantra, Just Ten Minutes.

Get up early. Or stay up late.

Life is hectic, but I promise you, ten minutes of extra sleep in the morning won’t make a difference. When you begin and end your day with ten minutes of writing, though, you’ll feel you’ve accomplished something important. You’ve taken a big step toward making your writing goals happen!

Be selfish.

We’re not supposed to be selfish. It’s a bad thing, right?

Not in my world.

Instead, selfish means you’re setting a clear boundary with the people in your life to make room for yourself and your writing. Your family and friends will likely push back. “Why can’t you give me a ride?” “Why don’t you just come over for half an hour? You’re only writing, why can’t you help me [fill in the blank]?

Why? Because you need that time to write, and if the people in your life don’t understand why it’s so important to you, ignore them and do it anyway.

Pro-tip: I listen to music with noise canceling headphone. That way, when someone interrupts my writing time, I don’t hear them.

Stop caring about everything else.

As I write this, there are dirty clothes piled up somewhere. Dishes in the sink. I’ll take care of them when I have time. Or not. Yes, I know the feeling of wanting things to be in order, but there’s always something else to do. You could spend your whole life folding, washing, carrying, moving, cooking and organizing without ever reaching the end of your list.

But I’m not the only one who lives in this house. It’s not just my responsibility. So I will completely ignore all the little things that need to be done until I’m finished writing. Dishes and laundry can wait. Your kids can spend an extra ten minutes doing whatever the hell it is they’re doing.

Your writing is much more important.

Ignore the internet.

How often does “I’ll just quickly check my e-mail” lead to responding to one message, then another. Maybe you wanted to see if anyone liked that photo on Facebook. They did and commented. You respond. Next thing you know, you’re reading about strip club etiquette on a bodybuilding forum and your writing time has evaporated.

It’s just one quick thing, right? Lies. It’s never fast.

If you have time for social media, you have time to write. Write instead.

Stop making excuses.

If you’re like me (and most other writers), you are incredibly creative at devising reasons not to write. Learn to recognize the difference between urgent and important. You can avoid urgent with planning, so important gets your attention. Make a commitment to yourself and start a daily practice of (you know what comes next) Just Ten Minutes. 

Be accountable to someone other than yourself.

You can promise yourself you’re going to write, but if you don’t, who holds you accountable? Maybe you double down and decide tomorrow you’ll write twenty minutes. But what happens when tomorrow passes without writing?

Accountability isn’t just about nagging you to do what you said you’d do. It’s having people who cheer you on and celebrate with you when you reach your goals. Find someone or a group of someones to support you as you write.

They say accountability helps you reach your goals 95% of the time more often. Try it and see for yourself!

Looking for your own accountability buddy?

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