You will never find time to write your novel

Over the past few months, I’ve written a lot of articles to help promote Career Mums. You’ll find an extract in this month’s Madison, a story coming up in Cosmopolitan Pregnancy, a series of stories on, and a range of others. All different angles on the rich subject matter that is working mums.

One story has given me more food for thought than others.

I interviewed Emma Grey from WorkLifeBliss for an upcoming story. Emma is one of the experts who features in Career Mums, and she is my go-to girl for simple tips about balancing work and home life. I won’t give too much away, but I wanted to share one quote from the story that really stood out in my mind – and which neatly sums up much of her advice in our book.

“You won’t find the time to do the things you want to do,” she said. “You have to make the time.”

I used this quote with gay abandon (fully attributed of course) last week when I was talking to a group of businesswomen about how working mums can make time for themselves in the melee of work and family life. But the same advice could be directed at writers.

Just as you will never write your book if you wait for the perfect place in which to write it, so too you will never write your book if you wait for the perfect time. You have to fit it in. Get up early if that works for you (as it never has for me). Stay up late. Write when the baby is sleeping, or when the children have a rest after lunch. Squeeze it in.

I don’t think I’ve ever put aside an entire day to write. It would scare me. I would end up cleaning the fridge and washing the windows instead. Over the past eight years, I’ve written four published books, one soon-to-be published novel, three unpublishable romance novels, and the opening chapters of a children’s book. These were my ‘side projects’, written in and around and between countless mortgage-paying magazine articles and the fulltime, then part-time, then full-time, then part-time care of my two children.

I am now child-free, during school hours, five days a week. If I had waited for the perfect time, I’d probably just be starting out now. Or washing my windows.

The time to start is now.

If you’re struggling to find time to write your novel, my new on-demand course ‘Make Time To Write’ will help to get you started. All details here.

Comments 35

  1. I love how you think.

    I am currently working full time again due to staff shortages in my day job. I have had to be so organised that I have actually managed to do a bit more writing than previously when I had more time. (Although the fact that my boss is subsidising a nanny/housekeeper may be helping on the organisational front rather than me being a super mum.)

    The concept of waiting for a perfect time is a bit like trying to decide when to have kids. If you waited for a perfect time you would never have them.

    Take care.

  2. This resonated with me. I keep procrastinating about my writing at the moment. Last month I was good, this month not so much. I like the idea of having to make time. Will start that tomorrow. Good luck for your journey. And congrats on all the publicity for your book. x

  3. I’ve been wincing as I look down the barrel of the crazy year I have ahead, chock-a-block with uni study and new business and family life and the-book-that-must-be written. Thanks for reminding me that it’s probably exactly what I need.

    That kitchen window of mine could do with a clean, though…

  4. I live by that very statement, I make time. When I started blogging I decided to wake up 30 minutes early every weekday so I could write posts and read other blogs before work. I don’t watch tv at all so admittedly I have a bit of time at night (I work fulltime) but I give myself permission to spend dedicated time to writing. And I believe, just like we allocate time to do chores, work, spend time with out kids, it is essential to dedicate time to our passion and what brings us most joy.

    I wrote an eBook in December, I remember finishing it and thinking OH MY GOSH how much spare time am I going to have now! And I do. Spare time to write more. 🙂

  5. Loved this post! I’m an author too, and have sacrificed SO much of my life and time over the last eight years in order to do 18 books. Even now, at12.54am, while my family is sleeping, I’m still writing. (A children’s novel, which is VERY hard to write at 12.54am!) Anyone can write a book. It just takes TIME!
    Janelle McCulloch

  6. Making the time can be applied to anything that matters: busyness is bullshit. It’s more about making good decisions day in, day out. No easy, but easier with practice.

  7. Thank you I needed that reminder — the perfect place and time are not coming. I just need to gut it up and get it done. Thanks for the prodding. I think I was really wishing someone would come write it for me — I think I’ve lost my writers voice. 🙂

  8. Great post, Al.

    Getting a piece of writing finished, whether it’s a feature story or full-length book, is just about grinding away. And grinding away. And…

    Personally, I can’t do mornings – and really late nights (my old friend) seem out these days, too. So, I write at lunchtime, and in-between jobs at work, and on occasional weekend afternoons when I get gifted a few hours of child-free time for some random reason. Basically, I’ve just got to be able to hit the ground running, because most of these opportunities come out of the blue and there’s no time to be wasted.

    I have to say, that working in advertising and publishing has really honed my ability to write quickly under pressure, and just get anything on the page. Fortunately, I do my best work that way.

    My experience of writing is certainly not romantic. But it’s comforting to know there are other people out there doing it just as unromantically!

  9. Another timely post, thanks Al! I constantly battle with the perfect time and place for writing thing.

    I do find, however, now that I’m no longer in sunny, sexy Sydney and I live in Tassie where the weather’s generally cooler, rainier and moodier, it’s easier to stay seated (not my best virtue). Once I’ve stopped complaining, bum on seat usually equals words on page!


    PS: Could you change your settings so that links open in new windows?

  10. Why are the romance novels unpublishable?
    Do a little editing…..add or subtract here and there…make them more (or less) steamy, you might find yourself with a best seller or three.

  11. Inspiring advice. I’ve just written the first 1,399 words of my first ever book. Will it be a best selling novel? I don’t know, but it certainly won’t if I don’t make time to finish it!
    My son isn’t at school yet and I do often think ‘when he goes to school…’ but your story proves it can be done, and fitted in, and that there is no need to wait. Thank you.

  12. It must be kismet that I read this now. I’ve been faffing about all day, having put it aside to ‘write’. No time like the present to get back on track – thank you for the much needed kick up the bum!

  13. Just found this post now. It’s a nice sentiment and I’m glad you’ve managed what you have. But some people, especially women, find young children extremely overwhelming. It is hard to be a constant-don’t-waste-a-minute-in-a-day person if you are perpetually exhausted because your toddler is always sick, your baby is still waking all night long, you have crappy relationships with your should-be-supportive extended family etc etc. You can do all the positive self talk imaginable and it won’t change the hard fact that human beings have physical and psychological limits. There is a time to sit like a lump in front of the TV. It doesn’t necessarily mean you’re unmotivated or lazy. It might just mean you’re exhausted.

    1. Thanks for your comment. I agree that small babies are overwhelming. My boys are now 8 and 5 and still overwhelming!

  14. Pingback: Six reasons you should begin writing your novel now | Allison Tait

  15. It’s taken me 18 months to write 85000 words of my first novel with toddlers in tow. It’s been hard; time is an elusive thing I’ve had to seek out. But the end is finally in sight and I cannot wait to feel that sense of accomplishment when I type ‘The End’. I can’t help but feel my girls have been a huge part of the process. Without them, I don’t think I would have pushed myself so hard. I hope they’ll be proud one day. And I hope I always write in harmony with motherhood. For being a mum is the most important thing. Thanks for your words of wisdom, I enjoy listening to your podcasts for AWC.

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