So, you want to write that novel, short story, or screenplay that's been simmering in your mind for ages? Fantastic! I'm here to tell you that you can do it, even if you're knee-deep in the wonderful (and occasionally maddening) world of full-time work and/or parenting. Before you scoff and shout, “But you don’t understand how busy I actually am!” let me tell you that I should know it’s possible—I'm a published author of 3 books, I've got a demanding full-time job, AND I’ve got two kiddos running amok! Wow. I’m tired just typing that.
Now, if you don’t have endless hours to dedicate to your craft, you might be wondering, "How on earth does anyone find time to write in the midst of this chaos?" Well, my friends, it's a juggling act, but it's totally doable. In this blog post, I'm going to share some of my hard-earned wisdom on how to carve out those precious moments to nurture your writerly dreams.
1. You have to REALLY want it
Writing a book is hard. Finishing a book is even harder. If you took a poll of the people who flippantly say, “I want to write a book,” and looked at the results, you’d probably see that the majority of people give up because they just don’t want it bad enough. But if you do want it bad enough, then nothing will be able to stop you. Not your job, not your kids, not your social commitments, nothing.
Remember, writing is a priority, just like work and family. If you want to make it happen, you'll need to give it the attention it deserves. This might mean skipping your nightly Netflix binge sessions or saying no to nights out with your pals. Sacrifices, my friends, sacrifices. Now, I'm not saying you should become a hermit, but a little reordering of your priorities can go a long way. Be intentional about where you invest your time, and ensure that writing gets its fair share.
2. Early bird or night owl
Finding time to write may seem impossible, but here's the secret: it's all about discovering your magic hours. Are you an early bird who can't help but wake up at the crack of dawn? Or perhaps you're a night owl who thrives after the kids are in bed? Identify those golden hours when your creativity is at its peak, and protect them like a mama bear guarding her cubs.
For me, it's early mornings. I set my alarm for an hour before my little ones wake up. It's quiet, it's peaceful, and the world hasn't started demanding my attention yet. Whether you're a morning person or a night person, make that time sacred.
3. Steal moments like a master thief
Let's face it; sometimes, life will laugh at your plans and toss curveballs your way. But guess what? You can still write in those stolen moments. Waiting for your kiddo to finish swimming practice? Write a few paragraphs. Heading onto your lunch break? Jot down some dialogue instead of scrolling on your phone. My third novel was written in 10-minute stints while the kids were happy playing. Those moments add up.
My secret weapon? My notes app. Whenever inspiration strikes, I can quickly scribble down ideas, scenes, or even whole chapters. Your phone is your trusty sidekick; use it wisely.
4. Include the kiddos
This is a fun tip for parents that people something gape at when I share it. Get your little ones involved! If they're old enough, ask them to create stories with you. At the weekends, while my youngest naps, I sit down with my 7-year-old by my side, and we create stories together. I’ll work on my novel, and she’ll create some incredible fantasy adventure complete with illustrations and bound together with sticky tape and string. It's not only a fantastic bonding experience but also a great way to teach her the magic of storytelling.
If your kids aren’t old enough to do that, try sitting them beside you with their colouring books while you write. It makes them feel involved, and you get more writing done. Win-win!
5. Set realistic goals
Writing a novel while juggling a job and parenting isn't a sprint; it's a marathon. So, set realistic goals. Don't pressure yourself to write 10,000 words a day. That’s for those lucky teenagers who don’t have a million other commitments to contend with. Instead, aim for a manageable word count that you can consistently achieve.
I set a goal of 500 words a day. It might not sound like much, but it adds up over time. Plus, it's much less intimidating than staring at a blank page and wondering how you'll ever finish that book. I can get it done in just under an hour (usually during the aforementioned quiet time in the early mornings), which means I’m starting my day having already achieved my goal. Whatever extra words I squeeze in during those stolen moments are a bonus!
6. Join a writing group or find a mentor to work with
Writing can be a solitary endeavour, but it doesn't have to be. Consider joining a writing group or finding a mentor. These connections can provide motivation, accountability, a sense of community, and they can really help to improve your writing.
I had a mentor while I was working on my first novel (a published author who just happened to generously offer mentorship at the exact time I needed it), and I’m honestly not sure if I’d have gotten published without her. The advice she gave me was invaluable. It helped me spot issues with my manuscript that hadn’t even occurred to me, and the monthly Zoom calls we set up meant I had a sort of deadline to work towards – I couldn’t just turn up to our calls without having written anything since the last time we spoke!
It can be tricky finding a mentor or a writing community who you can trust to be honest and provide you with valuable insights into your work. Writing courses are a fantastic option that offer both – you get the expert advice from your tutor or mentor, and your fellow students are your community to help cheer you on and pick you up during the hard times. Those hard times will, unfortunately, come. Surround yourself with the right people before you travel too far down this path.
7. Learn to say "No" (Politely)
Sometimes, you'll have to turn down social invitations or additional work commitments. It's okay to say no, and you can do so politely while still being assertive.
I have two sources of income – my books and my full-time job. Both, I do from home. I’ve noticed that this gives others a false sense of being able to just ‘drop in’ or the expectation that I should be able to come out whenever I feel like it. I’m not really working. It’s not a real job. This is where you have to be firm.
When friends invite me to events that I can't attend because of my writing schedule, I explain my situation and offer to reschedule or plan something for another time. People will understand if you're honest about your priorities, and the more you re-emphasise the fact that writing isn’t just a hobby for you but something you’re hoping to turn into a career, the more they’ll learn to respect your time.
8. Be kind to yourself
Life is hectic, and there will be days when you can't write a single word. That's okay! There’s always tomorrow. Don't beat yourself up over it. Be kind to yourself and acknowledge that you're doing your best.
I have days when my kids are sick, work is demanding, and the muse has taken a vacation. On those days, I remind myself that it's okay to take a break. Writing will still be there when life settles down.
9. Having said that, don’t leave it too long
The worst mistake I can make when it comes to my writing is to allow my few days of not writing because of XYZ to turn into a full-blown writing rut. The longer I go without writing, the harder it is for me to get back into it. Don’t make the mistake of going days, weeks, even months without thinking about your project (unless you’ve made a strategic decision to step away for the sake of your mental health – absolutely do that if you need to!).
When I do find myself slipping into a rut, I find writing prompts extremely helpful. Just getting a few sentences out that might not even have anything to do with your current project helps to flex those writing muscles and get you back into the habit of getting words onto the page.
10. Don't be afraid to seek help
If you have a partner or family members, don't be afraid to ask for their support. Share your goals and let them know how important writing is to you. They may be more than willing to help with chores, childcare, or other responsibilities to free up some writing time.
If you’re further on in your journey and you have an agent and/or publisher, reach out to them. It’s far more common than you’d expect to extend deadlines. They’d rather you take a little more time than for you to rush it and deliver a sub-standard piece of work.
Teamwork makes the dream work!
11. Find inspiration in everyday life
Another big mistake I used to make was waiting for inspiration to strike. I thought that if I didn’t have the perfect setup (scented candles, a cozy blanket, the perfect writing snacks, rain pattering at the windows, etc.) I just wouldn’t be able to get any words down. The trouble with relying on a specific setup or for that rush of inspiration is that moments like this are difficult to come across, especially when you’re a parent or work full time.
My advice? As a parent and a working professional, you're exposed to a wealth of experiences and emotions every day. Use them to your advantage. Draw inspiration from your interactions with your kids, your colleagues, and the world around you. Some of my best writing ideas have come from everyday moments—like the time my toddler told me she’d forgotten how to fall asleep. Yes, that ended up in a book! Real life is a goldmine of material.
12. Go on a writing retreat
This goes hand in hand with accepting help, but sometimes you just need to get away. Once a year, I’ll take myself off for a long weekend to dedicate to my writing. Because I’ve decided that this is a getaway purely for writing purposes, it instantly puts me in the right headspace to be ultra-productive. I don’t want to waste those valuable hours as they’re so rare, so I get my head down and get to work.
If a long weekend isn’t possible, take a mini-retreat every now and again. Arrange childcare for a few hours, book it off work (or schedule it for the weekend), and take yourself off to somewhere you can concentrate. It might be a coffee shop, a library, or even a park. As long as your focus is on getting those words written, it counts as a writing retreat.
13. Accept imperfection
Finally, embrace imperfection. Your writing won't always be perfect, and that's perfectly fine. What matters is that you're making progress, learning, and growing as a writer. Remember, even published authors like me have first drafts that make us cringe. But that’s why we have these incredible people on our side called editors. It's those imperfect drafts that eventually become the polished gems you're proud to share with the world.
So there you have it, my fellow parents, full-time workers, busy bees, and aspiring authors. Finding time to write in the midst of life's chaos is not only possible but also immensely rewarding. Embrace the chaos, prioritize your writing, and celebrate each word you put on the page.
Becca Day lives in the middle of the woods in Surrey with her husband, two daughters, and a cocker spaniel. Miraculously, she manages to juggle her full-time role as Marketing Manager at Jericho Writers with her writing career and her mum career. Her debut, The Girl Beyond The Gate, was an instant Amazon bestseller, and her exploration of the dark side of families has continued into her second novel, All Her Little Lies and The Secrets We Buried. You can find out more about her books here.