A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.—E.B. White
Over the years when people found out I was an author, many have told me, “I have a book I want to write—it’s a great idea! But I just don’t have time to work on it.” Or “I started writing a book but just didn’t have a chance to finish it; I’m so busy with my kids and my job, so it’s been sitting in my drawer along with some papers and bills.”
While I can relate to these situations, we all know there’s no perfect time to write our books. Do you dream of going to a mountain cabin or desert island (with all meals provided) to write your great American novel? Or maybe like my friend Melanie, who had a fantasy that when her house was clean and quiet, with dinner simmering on the stove and her preschool daughters entertaining themselves in their room, then she could write magazine articles and stories.
The reality was far different. Sometimes as she worked at her desk, her two-year-old was climbing up on her to ride mom like a horse and her three-year-old was spinning around and around in the chair next to her. Often she’d get everybody in bed and carve out time to write a Guideposts story that was due. Like me, she carved out time for writing wherever she could.
I know some writers who get up early before their family wakes up and the demands of the day come roaring in. Others go to a local coffee shop for writing time or write in the park while their children play.
In my first years as a freelancer, all three of our children were school-age, I wrote when they were in school. Then when they came home I closed the office door and was fully mom and enjoyed every minute with my children. When I was teaching part-time, I wrote at night or whenever I could edge in a little time.
I worked while waiting in the doctor’s office for an appointment. I could spend ten minutes looking the magazines stacked on the table in the doctor’s waiting room and find a statistic, an idea, or even the name of an expert who’d be good to interview (I call it “research on the go”). If I had some manuscript pages of an article I was working on, I brought them along and got some editing done.
I’ve also gotten a lot of writing done on road trips—when my husband was driving. Once during a ten hour drive back to Oklahoma City from a winter family trip in Colorado with our three children in the back, I was able to write about half of a book project I was working on, Christmas Treasures of the Heart, about family traditions at the holidays.
The important thing is to write! As bestselling author Jodi Picoult said, “If you have a limited amount of time to write, you just sit down and do it. You might not write well every day, but you can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.”