Two Hours to Write (And Why it Works)

Today’s “Hobbies and Habits” guest blogger, Sarah Baughman, has a post that speaks directly to ME. I’ve struggled quite a bit in the past few years with how to make more time to write. I have no problem making time to blog because I absolutely love it, but my more “serious” writing gets pushed to the side as a result.

Some might suggest focusing solely on the blogging if that’s what flows easily. I’m not ready to give up the fiction though. The satisfaction of completing a short story then–gasp–having an editor of a literary magazine actually want to publish it is 180 degrees different from pushing “publish” on the back side of this blog. And if I were to complete a novel (I have finished two novels, so I mean a novel that’s good) then forget it. Peel me off the ceiling I’d be flying so high.

Why do I procrastinate then? I don’t know. What can I do about it? Let’s get Sarah to help me! (and you) Her advice applies to any task you want/need to complete.

Sarah, a writer who has lived all over the world, currently lives in Germany with her husband and two children. Please read more about Sarah and her work on her blog. Also follow her on Twitter @serbaughman.

TWO HOURS TO WRITE . . . AND WHY IT WORKS

Sarah Baughman

by Sarah Baughman

I never became more serious about writing than I did as soon as I stopped having time to do it. I’ve always enjoyed writing—even dared off and on to call myself a writer—but I was never one of those people who regularly filled journals, churned out stories every week, or committed to regular daily writing sessions.

Enter baby. After my son was born, I lost sleep, time, a little sanity, and the ability to finish a coherent sentence. Of course, the gains more than made up for those deficits, but nevertheless, conditions hardly seemed ideal for creative pursuits. I could barely take a shower—how was I supposed to write?

Yet I did, producing more in the six months after his birth than I had in six years preceding it. And in the past two years, through full-time work, another pregnancy, and the fine art of juggling toddler and baby, I’ve continued to make time for writing. Sure, it’s fractured, sporadic, and rarely long enough, but it’s working.

I’m thriving with a new routine my husband and I started this winter: he comes home right after work on Tuesdays and Thursdays so I can have an hour to write before dinner. It’s been surprisingly productive. I pass the kids off, turn a deaf ear to any residual crying, hit the keyboard, and emerge after an hour feeling like a much improved version of myself. In my life before kids, I always wanted big blocks of time to pursue projects, but especially since my daughter’s birth, I’ve learned three important lessons:

  1. As soon as it gets a lot harder to carve out time for your hobby, it gets even more important (when you do what you love, everyone benefits). I know I’m a better and more fully present mom when I have regular time to write.
  2. You have to be willing to pursue interests in short spurts, tune out distractions, and use the time you have really effectively. I often mull over writing ideas during the day, even when I don’t have time to write. That helps me hit the ground running as soon as I flick my computer open.
  3. The chaos that makes it difficult to devote substantial time to your hobby will make you value your hobby even more, and thus potentially up your productivity. I’m convinced that restrictions can actually fuel creative work, and that life’s distractions help clarify priorities.

Sometimes I wonder why I didn’t write more when I had all those hours to do it. I wish for a magic combination of the kids I have now with the time I had then. But in the end, I think having less free time has been strangely helpful.

A good friend of mine told me before my son was born that having children can narrow a person’s focus, making them hyper-aware of what was most important. It reminds me of those extreme questions: “If your house was burning down and you could grab only one thing, what would you take?”  “If you were stranded on a deserted island and could only talk to one person, who would it be?”

The parent’s equivalent: if you had one hour in a day to yourself, how would you use it? Post-children, my answer has become crystal-clear: I’d write. Thank goodness for Tuesday and Thursday afternoons!

Sarah makes it sound doable, doesn’t she? Let’s hear from the rest of you. Are you, like me, struggling to use your time well? Is there a hobby or vocation you could pursue if you made it a priority? Finally, why do you think so many of us self-sabotage like this?

(Clock photo via Flickr by Roby Ferrari)

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Nina is a columnist at The HerStories Project and Tcjewfolk.com, and a contributing writer at Kveller.com and Greatnewbooks.org. Her essays have appeared regularly at Brain, Child Magazine, The Huffington Post, The Jewish Daily Forward, Writerunboxed.com, and elsewhere. Her short stories have appeared in over a dozen literary magazines, and she loved participating in the 2013 cast of Listen to Your Mother. Nina lives in Minneapolis with her husband and four children.

Latest posts by Nina Badzin (see all)

85 Responses to Two Hours to Write (And Why it Works)
  1. mairedubhtx
    April 3, 2012 | 7:15 am

    Sarah’s suggestions make a lot of sense. If you know you only have a certain amount of time to devote to writing, or a hoby or whatever, you’ll make the best used of that time and really work of on it during that that and not day-dream or procrastinate. I know I’m better at writing when I know I have an hour or so to write because I pour all my attention into the task. She majes a good point.

    • Sarah Baughman
      April 3, 2012 | 12:49 pm

      True. It’s so much easier to get distracted when you feel like you have the luxury of time to do so.

  2. Renée A. Schuls-Jacobson
    April 3, 2012 | 7:15 am

    I need to write everyday or I can’t remember my characters! I would never be able to maintain a blog AND work on my WIP. As it stands, my real-life friends are mad at me because I’ve been holed up all winter writing.

    But…

    I figure, I’m at 70K words. I’m almost finished with draft 1. I know where I’m going and how things need to end. And then it will go to beta readers who can help me revise. So I’ll have a little break. But, for me, that schedule doesn’t work.

    At all.

    I’d never finish anything!

    And as a teacher, well… I spend more than 2 hours a day grading other people’s essays. I figure my own work is worth at least as much as my students’ stuff.

    Teaching is my job, but writing is my calling. So I have to make time for it. And that is why I am generally awake at 1 am. This probably explains why writers are often beavy drinkers. After reading this post, I need some Manichevitz!

    • Sarah Baughman
      April 3, 2012 | 12:58 pm

      Renée, I’m an English teacher too…oh, the papers. I have to confess that last year when I was working full time and parenting my 1.5-year-old, I didn’t make enough time for writing. I wonder, now that I’ve seen the importance of the regular schedule, if I could do a better job of juggling writing with parenting and teaching. It’s definitely challenging when your outside-the-home job requires so much work AT home too.

      At 70K words, it sounds like you’re doing a pretty darn good job of mastering the balance though…even with lack of sleep and a few drinks thrown in!

      • Renée A. Schuls-Jacobson
        April 3, 2012 | 3:04 pm

        I’m not! My family wants to KILL me and I’m staying up until ridiculous hours! Seriously! I have to finish this thing ASAP.

        Also, your hand-off thing? Yeah. That sounds excellent. I don’t have that kind of support. But it is fabulous that you do! ;-)

        Nice to meet you!

        • Sarah Baughman
          April 4, 2012 | 12:25 pm

          You too, Renée! The hand-off thing is a blessing, I know. I definitely try not to take it for granted. I give you major props for keeping your writing alive while teaching and managing family life at the same time. Wishing you all the best on your WIP–and your sleep!

  3. Galit Breen
    April 3, 2012 | 7:16 am

    Oh Nina and Sarah, I so get this.

    It’s so very hard to block out big chunks of time when you’re juggling anything – but children are the ultimates, aren’t they?

    I write for a block of time in the morning. I used to try for two hours (5-7) before my kids got up. But “magically,” they heard me, and found me. An hour at a time is what i manage, too. And it does work.

    (As far as self sabotage Nina, I have no idea why, but I think that we all do it to some extent. Fear of failure is what (I think) is at the core.)

    Fantastic post you two, thank you!

    • Sarah Baughman
      April 3, 2012 | 1:00 pm

      Thanks, Galit. For some reason I have a really hard time focusing on writing if I’m the one the kids will need if they wake up. At those times I just don’t feel like I can easily step out of that “parent” role. If my husband is on duty or if the kids are in bed for the night, it’s easier for me to let go and really get into the works in progress.

      I’m glad the magic hour is working for you too!

    • Nina Badzin
      April 3, 2012 | 5:13 pm

      I think fear of failure is a huge piece of it. I have written two books and did the agent rounds with one and get somewhat close. Hard to picture going through that again.

  4. The Grown Up Princess
    April 3, 2012 | 7:23 am

    You caught me with the first sentence. I always start getting serious about a project when everything else in my life gets too crazy for me to work on it. And I’m guilty of putting off projects because I’m always looking for a big chunk of time to set aside to write, but I really like your suggestions. Thinking back, some of my best pieces have come under a tight time crunch… I’d never thought about that before.

    • Sarah Baughman
      April 3, 2012 | 2:02 pm

      I’m so glad the post helped! I always used to be picky about big chunks of time. I also used to want all these other little random tasks (laundry, dishes, clean desk, etc.) to be finished before I could really focus on writing. I’ve thrown all those expectations away though, and am writing much more productively as a result. Sounds like you also have tapped into the power of the time crunch! Best of luck to you.

  5. annegreenwoodbrown
    April 3, 2012 | 7:36 am

    “a much improved version of myself”

    I couldn’t agree more! Being a good wife and mother is hugely important and something I take pride in, but I’m able to be a better wife and mother because of the time I spend just on myself (aka writing). People ask me what my kids think about my book, and the answer is simple–in fact, my daughter told me this just last night: “I like that you’re happy.”

    Thanks for this post, Sarah and Nina. It’s a good reminder that it doesn’t take a lot of time to make a big difference.

    • Sarah Baughman
      April 3, 2012 | 2:03 pm

      I love that quote from your daughter. It’s so revealing– kids are extremely perceptive and can sense in their parents the satisfaction and contentment that comes from pursuing their own interests. If we want to fully be there for our children, we need to start with ourselves.

  6. jeandayfriday
    April 3, 2012 | 7:38 am

    Great post! Right now, I am trying to find the delicate balance between finding time to write, spending quality time with my family and being a good teacher. It is a difficult to juggle!

    • Sarah Baughman
      April 3, 2012 | 2:05 pm

      That is a really tough one! I’m taking time off from teaching this year and even though I still “work” all day taking care of my two young children, I notice a big difference in my evenings and weekends– no more paper grading or lesson planning. Obviously, this frees up a lot of writing time. Last year, when I was teaching full time, I wrote much more sporadically. I wish I’d had more of a schedule, even if it was just an hour a week when I KNEW I could write.

  7. TJ
    April 3, 2012 | 7:48 am

    It’s true: The more time I have to do something, the less likely I am to do it. It’s a weird paradox. I am guilty of being a procrastinator. I fool myself into thinking I have plenty of time to do something later, and I let myself get distracted.

    When I have too much to do, however, I get more done. When time is limited, It forces me to prioritize and actually make a decision.

    Someday, I want to get to a place where I just decide to do something and do it right away. I like the idea of scheduling time, even if it’s in smaller chunks.

    Maybe the problem is that we lose sight of our future goal by letting our immediate present distract us–I have too much to do, I don’t feel like it, etc. We have time for whatever we decide to make time for, though. Maybe another solution is to figure out a way to keep our goals in front of us in a way that we’re constantly reminded of them. That way, they become a priority instead of a forgotten dream.

    Thanks for giving us tangible ways to move forward, ladies! =)

    • Sarah Baughman
      April 3, 2012 | 2:10 pm

      Very well said, TJ. There’s such a delicate balance to strike between taking care of present needs and focusing on the future. When we dwell too much in either one we tend to lose sight of the other, when really we need to pay attention to both. I like your idea about keeping goals front and center– even just writing them down and posting them in a visible place would be a great way to bring a long-term perspective to short-term obligations.

  8. Stacy S. Jensen
    April 3, 2012 | 7:58 am

    This is a great strategy. This year, I wrote five pages, five days a week. It helped me finish my “vomit draft” of my memoir. Later this month, I begin revisions and I’m a little nervous this will be a much larger task. I love hearing how other moms do this. I think we do become more focused, however, I still can’t seem to keep the house completely straight. Of course, this may have more to do with priorities than time.

    • Sarah Baughman
      April 3, 2012 | 2:15 pm

      Stacy, congrats on your five pages/five days plan– I’m so impressed! What an excellent, concrete method for getting a draft in place. Who cares if it’s a “vomit draft?” Revising certainly is a substantial task, but at least you have something to revise.

      Priorities definitely do shift. I can’t seem to keep the house completely straight either, but there’s give and take. I COULD keep the house perfectly clean, but then I’d probably be resentful that I had no time to write, and that would come out in awkward ways.

    • Nina Badzin
      April 3, 2012 | 5:56 pm

      Totally inspiring, Stacy!

  9. Running from Hell with El
    April 3, 2012 | 8:48 am

    Ever since my third child entered all-day kindergarten I’ve been able to get really serious about my writing career. I am selfish and obstinate and even obsessed about my writing time. Okay, that does not sound pretty, but I’m being real with you. I am a writer and my career matters just as much as my legal career ever mattered. Scratch that. My writing career matters a heck of a lot more than practicing law ever did. I dedicated 2012 to the year I completed this novel and I won’t stop until I am done. GREAT post. Thank you for making me think and giving me a little bit more motivation to get my work done today.

    • Sarah Baughman
      April 3, 2012 | 2:27 pm

      Hey, it’s important to cultivate a little selfishness and obstinacy sometimes. Pursuing what matters to us benefits the people in our lives, too. Kudos to you for knowing where to place your priorities!

      I can definitely see how having children in school full time would help. Best luck on your novel– I’m sure 2012 will be the year for it!

    • Renée A. Schuls-Jacobson
      April 3, 2012 | 3:07 pm

      That’s my writing partner, up there. We are selfish about our writing. We love our kids, but our baby (books) must be born, too! ;-)

      • Running from Hell with El
        April 3, 2012 | 5:51 pm

        Amen amen!! Oh, and hey Sarah, I am following your blog now. Pardner gimme some words hun.

        • Sarah Baughman
          April 4, 2012 | 12:34 pm

          The baby books are absolutely necessary!

          El–right back atcha on the blog. I look forward to reading yours.

    • Nina Badzin
      April 3, 2012 | 5:58 pm

      This gives me hope for when my youngest (though he’s only 5 months old!) is in school full time. I don’t wish the time away though and don’t want to get caught in the spiral of wishing the time away. I know one day he and will have much less time together and then I’ll be all nostalgic. It’s a hard balance right now . . . making/taking as much time as I’d like and saying no to the things that get in the way, which is sometimes kid related, but more often ME related (like the blog).

      • Sarah Baughman
        April 4, 2012 | 12:42 pm

        Nina, I totally try to put the brakes on whenever I find myself wishing any time away. Very young kids require so much attention, it’s true (mine are 2.5 and 7 months), but then I also think to myself, “it won’t be long before hanging out with me is no longer their favorite thing in the world…and that will be a sad day.”

        Here’s wishing balance for both of us!

      • Sarah Baughman
        April 4, 2012 | 12:45 pm

        Nina, I relate. I totally try to put the brakes on whenever I find myself wishing any time away. Very young kids require so much attention, it’s true (mine are 2.5 and 7 months), but then I also think to myself, “it won’t be long before hanging out with me is no longer their favorite thing in the world…and that will be a sad day.”

        Here’s wishing balance for both of us!

  10. crytzerfry
    April 3, 2012 | 8:48 am

    It’s that crazy rule of thumb: the more time you have, the less productive you are. At least, that’s always how it works for me, too.

    • Sarah Baughman
      April 3, 2012 | 2:28 pm

      I don’t know why this is true; it’s such a paradox. But now that I know it, I’m a lot more grateful that I don’t have much free time!

  11. fanaveed
    April 3, 2012 | 10:38 am

    Reblogged this on Dear World,.

  12. Jarm Del Boccio
    April 3, 2012 | 11:35 am

    This was so encouraging, Sarah…if you can do it, we all can! And bless your husband for helping you achieve your goals. Great post!

    • Sarah Baughman
      April 3, 2012 | 2:30 pm

      Yes, I am SO grateful for my husband’s support. Obviously I couldn’t be doing any of this without him. We’ve both learned the importance of nurturing one another’s interests.

  13. Anne R. Allen (@annerallen)
    April 3, 2012 | 11:38 am

    Excellent advice. Often a book is percolating in your subconscious while you’re doing other things, and if you make yourself sit down at the keyboard on schedule, those ideas will come flowing out of your fingers, even though you didn’t consciously know they were there.

    • Sarah Baughman
      April 3, 2012 | 2:33 pm

      That is so true, Anne. A lot of writing happens when we’re not actually writing. In fact, probably the more time we spend actually DOING other stuff, the more we enrich our works in progress through these lived experiences.

      And by the way…I also wish WordPress and Blogger could just get along. It’s always a bit of a headache when I try to cross-comment.

  14. Anne R. Allen (@annerallen)
    April 3, 2012 | 11:40 am

    What’s going on with WordPress? They made me jump through so many hoops to comment. They won’t take my Blogger ID or even the Gravatar id any more and make me sign in with Twitter. I guess they’re warring with Blogger, because Blogger has been making it difficult for WordPress people to comment there. Can’t they just get along??

    • Nina Badzin
      April 3, 2012 | 6:01 pm

      I know–it’s painful. You know I hate anything more complicated than absolutely necessary.

  15. Dawn
    April 3, 2012 | 11:44 am

    I have always felt this way about exercising (well, I still do, actually), but lately I, too, have been focusing more on my writing. I’d say it’s paying off in the relatively short time that I’ve changed my focus. Also, I have found that it helps to have something that really motivates you – whether it be a deadline, possible financial opportunity, or simply the support and encouragement of a friend. Oh, and also remembering not to beat yourself up when you haven’t achieved a specific goal you set for yourself. No one is perfect, and some days it’s just not feasible to be as productive as others. :-)

    • Sarah Baughman
      April 3, 2012 | 2:39 pm

      Ah, thank you, Dawn! It is SO important not to get too down when we occasionally fall short of goals. Just picking up and moving forward despite setbacks is what ultimately gets people where they want to go.

    • Nina Badzin
      April 3, 2012 | 6:02 pm

      Exercise is another perfect example. I’ve been doing Jillian Michael’s 20 min workout things. Really, just 20 minutes a day. It’s been a great thing for me.

  16. Everyday Commotion
    April 3, 2012 | 12:31 pm

    Very good points! I definitely struggle with how to fit everything in. Writing has taken a back seat in the years since I first became a mother, but through blogging (and, oddly, Facebook, where I found people responded to my short posts, which I guess is not unlike blogging) I am rediscovering that past love. It’s good to hear other moms struggle with finding the time, but end up succeeding!

    I do agree that having shorter amounts of time to work is helpful – having a deadline, even a self-imposed one, lights a spark.

    • Sarah Baughman
      April 3, 2012 | 2:53 pm

      Parenting is definitely an all-consuming job, and it is easy to let hobbies take a backseat at first. I’m glad you’re rediscovering your love for writing though– social media can be a great tool because it offers such immediate feedback.

  17. julie gardner
    April 3, 2012 | 6:01 pm

    Great post, Sarah, and you’re absolutely right. With many more free hours in the day you would probably take add on other (potentially less important) projects or be less focused throughout the day because your mind wouldn’t NEED to be present.

    You know. Because you’d have plenty of time time time.

    Instead, since you have a set hour you can plan for, you’re sharp and ready in that allotment. It’s wonderful that your have a husband whose schedule can accommodate it and whose attitude embraces your writing need.

    Kudos to the whole family for adapting and finding what works for everyone!

    • Sarah Baughman
      April 4, 2012 | 12:44 pm

      Thanks, Julie! You are absolutely right. My husband is a gem. He’s got a lot keeping him busy as well, but we’ve both learned the importance of facilitating the other’s interests.

  18. jpon
    April 3, 2012 | 9:18 pm

    Sarah, you’re right about realizing the importance of pursuing your passion when there’s less time to do it. I was lucky enough for a couple of years to not have to work, and I wrote a lot, but I also wasted a ton of time on non-writing endeavors. Now I’m back to work, and the few hours a day I can devote to writing are much better spent.

    • Sarah Baughman
      April 4, 2012 | 12:47 pm

      I’m glad to hear you’re still productive with writing despite going back to work. It’s so easy to dream of unlimited time, isn’t it? Still, when we actually HAVE it, it’s so easy to squander.

  19. Michelle Fuller
    April 4, 2012 | 5:37 am

    This is a very encouraging post for me right now! I am 5 months married and wondering what will happen to my dream of writing if kids are next…thank you for sharing your insights! Also- isn’t Germany great? I live there right now too!

    • Sarah Baughman
      April 4, 2012 | 12:50 pm

      What a coincidence, Michelle! Germany is indeed great– talk about high quality of life. If you choose to have kids here, you have nothing to worry about either; the whole health care system is fantastic.

      Everyone says kids will change your life, and it’s true. But it definitely doesn’t mean you need to stop writing– quite the opposite. I think it’s all about recognizing how to work around the new challenge and use it as inspiration, too. Best of luck to you!

  20. gojulesgo
    April 4, 2012 | 9:48 am

    Excellent post! I’m guilty of always saying, “If I only had more time to write…” when the truth is I don’t use my free time wisely! I like pondering the question, “If I only had an hour a day to myself, what hobby would I pursue,” because the first thought that popped into my mind, surprisingly, was hiking/walking (being outside – with my dog!). I’m cooped up at a computer all day for my full-time job, so getting fresh air and MOVING definitely tops my list.

    • Sarah Baughman
      April 4, 2012 | 12:51 pm

      Oh yes– getting outdoors is SO important. It’s probably since I spend a lot of time outdoors with the kiddos that my “free hour” sends me scurrying back to my computer. But I applaud you for valuing the fresh air and the movement. We all need it.

  21. LindseyJoy
    April 4, 2012 | 1:45 pm

    Great post & great advice!

  22. Patrick Ross
    April 4, 2012 | 1:46 pm

    This really speaks to me, and to so many of my blog readers it seems as well. I’m balancing an MFA program, freelance writing, and parenting. I generally carve out 90 minutes each morning — 6:30 am to 8 am — for creative writing, and an hour in the early evening for reading for my MFA. Everything else has to be fit in around that schedule. It’s working so far, but it’s a challenge.

    • Sarah Baughman
      April 5, 2012 | 11:56 am

      I admire that schedule, Patrick. I’ve heard MFA programs can be nice because they provide a structure in which to write, but when you’re juggling so much else, it must be challenging! Keep up the good work.

  23. Kasey Mathews
    April 4, 2012 | 5:45 pm

    The timing of this post is so interesting for me, because I’ve finally learned (after YEARS!) the importance of structure in my day. In fact, just today I came to the realization that if I am able to structure in 1.) Exercise 2.) Household and 3.) Writing/Book btwn 8-3 while kids are at school, I consider it a banner day, and whatever time is left over is for PLAY!! This post totally reinforced this newfound realization! Thank you, Sarah and Nina!

    • Sarah Baughman
      April 5, 2012 | 11:57 am

      It sounds like you have the important stuff covered, Kasey! I hope you have your share of banner days. :)

  24. bethanycaddell
    April 4, 2012 | 7:52 pm

    I struggle with finding time for my hobbies too. I don’t even have kids yet but I still have trouble getting myself to do the things I love to do. I always have other responsibilities buzzing in my head. Yet when I sit down to do things I enjoy, I always leave feeling like a more complete person. It relieves stress and makes me happier. And it is sometimes about what’s most important. When it comes down to it, using my talents, being a saner, more relaxed person is more important than the laundry or the grocery list.

    • Sarah Baughman
      April 5, 2012 | 11:59 am

      I so relate to that last sentence. Whether kids are in the picture or not, we all experience that tension between what we think we “has” to get done and what we “want” to get done. Sometimes we don’t realize the “necessities” are more optional than we think (if laundry piles up, oh well), and the fun stuff that makes us “saner” and “more relaxed” is actually really important. Great points.

  25. Amy Mak
    April 4, 2012 | 9:21 pm

    Great post – this is so me. I have found that I have to write six days a week or I start to lose that thread in my head. When that happens, I don’t want to sit down with the manuscript again. It has to stay in my head or I find other things to do – blog, people.com, cnn, etc. etc. My goal is two hours a day, and with four kids, that can feel almost impossible. But it’s the goal. Run, write, be a good mom. That’s just what I have to do. Thanks for a great post!

    • Sarah Baughman
      April 5, 2012 | 12:01 pm

      “Run, write, be a good mom.” Awesome! That’s my mantra too, except I haven’t figured out how to reinstate the running part yet, and I only have two kids. You rock!

      It is so important to do whatever it takes to keep your brain engaged for writing. If that means six days a week, that’s what it means. We’re better off listening to that voice that knows what’s best…

  26. Shannon Pruitt from 'Mynewfavoriteday'
    April 4, 2012 | 9:46 pm

    Such a great post. It is amazing to think about what I might have been able to do before kids and all the craziness that is life but with that comes prioritization. It’s a good rule of thumb the 2 hours approach. I am looking for ways to focus on my actual writing while like Nina finding myself focused on hitting publish on a blog post. Congratulations on all I sounds like you are accomplishing!

    Nina, another great post. Love the series!:)

    • Sarah Baughman
      April 5, 2012 | 12:03 pm

      Shannon, I also get caught up in thinking “wow, I should have done a lot more before I had kids!” but then I sometimes think that having kids helped kick me into gear.

      For some reason it’s definitely harder to focus on the longer works-in-progress, or as Nina said, the “serious writing.” Maybe blogging just feels safer? I struggle with the same issue.

  27. Kimberly Hosey (Arizona Writer)
    April 4, 2012 | 11:40 pm

    This is excellent advice, and a great strategy. It really is all about having a concrete plan, a consistent system in place.

    Now I just have to get my butt in gear implementing it.

    • Sarah Baughman
      April 6, 2012 | 3:56 pm

      The consistency is what matters–and it can look different for different people.

      Ah, the implementation…that’s the hard part! Best of luck!

    • Nina Badzin
      April 8, 2012 | 3:02 pm

      Yup, me too!

  28. Shari Lopatin
    April 5, 2012 | 2:17 pm

    Sarah, what great advice, thank you! This is exactly the type of time management advice I’ve been looking for, to work on my novel regularly. I don’t have kids, but I do have an extremely busy professional life, a serious boyfriend, and a cat that’s needed surgery and medical attention lately. :-) Not to mention, exercise and weight loss (which has become a health priority, even over the writing).

    Nina, thank you for hosting such a great guest post! :-)

    –Shari

    • Sarah Baughman
      April 6, 2012 | 3:58 pm

      Shari, you don’t need to have kids to be busy, or to need to work to carve out time to pursue your interests! It sounds like you have a full plate– I wish you all the best with finding consistent times to pursue your novel!

  29. Annie Neugebauer (@AnnieNeugebauer)
    April 5, 2012 | 3:26 pm

    This is so true. I generally try to work while my husband is at work, for convenience, and on days when he works from 10-7, I take all day to get my word count in. On days when he’s only going to be gone from 3-6, I get my words done with time to spare. Something about knowing that I’m limited time-wise definitely lights the fire. I wish I could say I put that knowledge to use more often, but the truth is sometimes I like to go slow. But it is a nice reminder that I could try this more often. Nice post, Sarah!

    • Sarah Baughman
      April 6, 2012 | 4:04 pm

      Thanks, Annie. Being able to go slow is definitely great as well. I enjoy getting longer chunks of time when I can. Since I can’t count on them frequently, I’ve really had to adjust the way I work. It sounds like you have a good system in place for adjusting your expectations based on scheduling!

  30. sharon bially
    April 5, 2012 | 3:44 pm

    I couldn’t agree more. In fact, having less time also makes writing less intimidating. When I’m having a bad writing day (which, um, is usually?), knowing I only have 2 hours helps me keep things in perspective. I’ve got two kids and a busy full-time job, so the only way to write is to squeeze it in a couple of hours at a time.

    • Sarah Baughman
      April 6, 2012 | 4:06 pm

      That’s a good point, Sharon. Sometimes when we have unlimited time, we can really build up the expectations for what we need to accomplish. Working in short spurts, we might just end up always pleasantly surprised at what we get done.

  31. Julia Munroe Martin
    April 5, 2012 | 6:10 pm

    I know I’m the odd-woman-out in these comments — but for me I am much more productive when writing is my number one priority. Last year I left a (part-time) job and have been writing full time, mostly fiction, and I’m writing like crazy. The only other time I was at least (if not more) productive was paradoxically when I was a stay-home mom of very young children…. I wrote in spare times and I think my overall high happiness level with being a mom made me a more productive writer. I would say if anything that’s MY key: the happier and less stressed I am, the more productive I am. (I also agree with another commenter that I need to write at least six days a week to maintain the thread in my mind.)

    • Sarah Baughman
      April 6, 2012 | 4:11 pm

      Good point, Julia. Perhaps it’s exactly that– my overall high happiness level and lack of stress with motherhood, as opposed to more limited and concentrated time– that fuels the writing productivity. I might have given the false impression in this post that I literally only write for two hours a week. Like you did as a mom of young kids, I actually sneak it in whenever I can, but the scheduled chunks are lifesavers because I can count on the regularity.

      It’s great that you’ve been able to focus so heavily on writing since leaving your job. I’m quite drawn to this idea that some kind of inner contentment leads to more productive and focused pursuit of hobbies. Here’s to plenty of “writing like crazy” this year!

  32. Lisa Ahn (@Lisa_Ahn)
    April 8, 2012 | 7:32 am

    I’m a big fan of Sarah’s second point — using those short bursts of time, however you can. That’s what I’ve been trying here. Like Sarah, I collect ideas while schooling the kids, doing the dishes, driving . . . and then I scribble them down here and there, grabbing an hour or so when it works. The most difficult part for me is breaking away from that concentration, coming back up for air when the little one wants a snack or a fight breaks out over Polly Pockets! My writing/mom life is definitely a work in progress.

    • Sarah Baughman
      April 10, 2012 | 3:22 pm

      Lisa, I also find it so hard to break concentration when I’m writing–while I do have scheduled writing time, at other times an idea will hit and I enter some kind of “drop everything” mode. On the plus side, ordinary life is so full of opportunities to “collect ideas” that no moment is wasted–it will all lead up to writing eventually.

  33. Natalia Sylvester (@NataliaSylv)
    April 10, 2012 | 10:42 am

    This is so interesting, because I find I’m most productive with my fiction writing when I’m really busy in my freelance writing, perhaps because I choose to make the most of what little time I have. Lately, I’ve been making sure that the first thing I write every day–whether it’s 5 lines of 500 words—is for my fiction. I figure if it’s the most important thing for me then I have to treat is as such.

    • Sarah Baughman
      April 10, 2012 | 3:24 pm

      I really like this idea, Natalia. Starting with the most important writing is a great way to make sure it never takes a backseat. This is a strategy I’d like to implement–lately I’ve been feeling a little overwhelmed with all of the “other” kinds of writing and have to figure out some kind of system to make sure I don’t neglect creative works in progress.

  34. MarinaSofia
    April 11, 2012 | 2:35 pm

    I like your last comment, Sarah. I have very recently re-dedicated myself to writing, after allowing it to take the back seat for far too long. So I started off modestly: any writing was better than none at all, so out it all tumbled, diaries, blog posts, poems, anything really except for the novel.
    But now I think I have got to the point where I spend too much time reading other writing blogs, writing my own blogs, writing various other bits and pieces, tweeting… I do love the contact, exchange of ideas and encouragement, but is it yet another form of procrastination, as Nina implies?

    • Sarah Baughman
      April 11, 2012 | 3:10 pm

      This is a really tricky balance. The social media and “other” writing are fun, productive, and inspirational until they become distracting. I do think they can become forms of procrastination if the primary work in progress gets neglected for too long. Natalia’s suggestion above of working on her fiction first was a good one. For me, dedicating specific writing times where I ONLY do the creative writing is helpful too.

  35. TheJackB
    April 11, 2012 | 3:43 pm

    I never stop writing. Every day I carve out moments and or minutes to do something. It is the reason I keep ridiculous hours but sometimes the only way to find time is give up a bit of sleep so that I can keep pounding the keyboard.

    • Sarah Baughman
      April 12, 2012 | 11:42 am

      It sounds like you are really able to keep the momentum going, and that’s important– even at the expense of some sleep!

      • TheJackB
        April 12, 2012 | 4:46 pm

        I do my best. If I step away from my stories for too long it becomes a bit more challenging to restart them again.

  36. mollyspring
    April 15, 2012 | 12:07 pm

    Turn off the Internet. That’s how I get writing done!

  37. jennazark
    May 1, 2012 | 7:22 pm

    I am so glad you posted this, Nina, thank you! I have come to realize the only way to get things done is write in small doses. Sometimes they turn into larger ones but if not, at least you get a start. My playwright friend Stacey Dinner-Levin wrote one of the most brilliant plays, Autistic License, by writing a page a day. I tell her all the time she is my inspiration.

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