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Who's Got the Time?

I think every writer at one point or another wishes for a few extra hours in the day. We can't go to work, go to school, cook dinner, make lunch, write papers, tuck the kids into bed, and write a novel with only twenty four hours in the day. I've spent the last three years trying to figure out how to balance a fifteen hour class week (excluding all the papers I have to write), a 17-20 hour a week job, a compulsive need to write all the time, and the itch that is my social life. I like to think that I've figured it out, at least a little.

  1. Don't sleep in: I don't know if this is a writer thing or a Sumayyah thing but I love to sleep in. Friday nights I used to stay up late, and Saturday mornings I used to sleep in until someone thinks I've died. I've since tried to cut that habit. I stumble out of bed, make coffee and use those few extra hours that I was going to be sleeping throw to bang out some words.
  2. Make enough dinner for two nights: This might seem silly, but in the past year it's saved me a ton of time. Instead of having to make lunch the next day, I just stuff it into tupper ware, put it in my bag, and save both time and money. It frees up 45 minutes the next afternoon or night that you can use to write - whether it's a paper on Chaucer or a few pages for your WIP.
  3. Make a schedule: This might seem obvious, but you'd be surprised how much it can help. A mountain of work can be worked down into a mole hill even with a very flimsy 'do these things at some time' sort of list. Whether you're a Monica Gellar sort of person, who needs color coding, and works in bathroom breaks or someone who scribbles in 'write for 2 hours at some point' - attempting to break down your day will make everything more doable.
  4. Know how to say 'no': Whether this is to yourself or to others, saying no has saved me a lot of time. Whether it's to your urge to write or to that dinner invitation, prioritizing what is important to you and your schedule is really important. On the other hand, know when to say 'yes'. We all need a break from the to do lists, the schedules, and yes, even the writing. Knowing when enough is enough and when you need a break is important to keeping yourself sane and your mind functioning.
  5. Relax! This is the most important! We make mistakes, we run out of time, and we can't do everything. And you should be okay with that. A constantly stressed mind will over heat and explode - and then it's useless. So be unafraid to close your manuscript, put away your text books, and just drink tea or enjoy an evening out with friends. 
How do you balance your life with your writing? I'd love to know!
Somaiya Daud

Somaiya Daud received her BA and MA from a university in DC in English. She is currently working on her PhD. When not writing or studying, she spends too much time on the internet yelling about comics and robots. Her first novel, Mirage, is coming 2017 from Flatiron Books.

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  1. I make schedules, but I'm usually overly ambitious so I over run and then the rest of the schedule is useless, sigh!h

  2. These are great tips. I also try to limit the time I spend just poking around on the internet. That can take up huge amounts of time that might better be used for writing.

  3. I used to think I couldn't write unless I had two hours to sure down and really focus. But as I never have that much time, I've taught myself to write in short bursts. I keep my laptop in the kitchen and write a paragraph while I'm cooking dinner or my kids are coloring. It isn't much, but it's better than not writing at all!

  4. I meant sit down. That's what happens when you try to comment while feeding a baby!

  5. ...Can I say No to getting up early? :P

    I like to take myself away from the Internet so it can't be a distraction.

  6. Great tips! I do a lot of what you mentioned, but I also have a set 'chore' day where I don't make writing my priority. I clean up around the house, plan my menus/grocery lists (which in turn saves me time during the week, because I know what I'm coooking), and try to get some reading done. This has helped me spend more time during the week on writing.

  7. Love this list. Especially "make enough dinner for two days" and "know when to say no." Both these things were like epiphanies when I first realized them, and my life has been much happier since!

  8. Glad to know I'm not the only one trying to fit writing into a tight schedule. It can be done! My trick is having something to write on/with everywhere. I have pads of paper in my car, in the kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, never know when the words will just start to flow. So much of my debut novel The Descendants was written using the notes application on my Droid phone.

  9. I make myself a to-do list so I can organize what I'm doing, but there's no set schedule. I have reserved Mondays as cleaning days because I'm busy on Mondays anyway and because I end up stressing about the house if I don't get some cleaning done. Great advice!

  10. This is really tough. I'm a teacher, so my schedule varies with my work schedule - but I'm also a wife and mom, so that puts some (good) kinks in any plan.

    When I started writing, my husband and I scheduled one night a week as "date night." Then he doesn't feel like I'm spending too much alone time with my computer (and gives me some needed lovely downtime with him!)!

  11. Great post. I try and finish a chapter every four days. Good 17 page, 6,000 word chapters. Its fairly easy to do.


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