Don’t let a lack of time hold you back from achieving your dreams of writing. Try these top 5 tips, along with top advice from successful authors.

So one of your New Year resolution was to write more, write often and don’t give up whatever the headwinds.

Good luck with that.

No, really. It’s tough. Once you’re past the heady days of early January and the nights and the mornings are dark, that early year promise fades quickly, doesn’t it?

I was fascinated by this article in The Guardian by new mother Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett asking, “How do artists balance creativity and the ache for their child?”

Her article discussed the crushing dilemma summed up by critic Cyril Connelly that “there is no more sombre enemy of good art than the pram in the hallway.”

A brief history of no time

Time consuming distractions come in many forms – in the form of a baby, obviously, but also in the shape of work duties, relationships, shopping, eating, keeping fit… how do people do all that and write as well?

Because writing needs a special kind of attention.

Writing requires a space – not just in physical form, but a calming mental expanse too. You have to be capable of going to a place where you let the real world fall away.

I pulled together this summary of how successful authors go about their business.

5 habits of highly successful writers

  1. They set aside dedicated time to write each day. Successful writers often make writing a daily habit, setting aside specific times each day to focus on their craft.
  2. They make an effort to read widely. Reading exposes writers to new ideas, styles, and techniques, and can help them improve their own writing.
  3. They are disciplined and stick to a schedule. Successful writers often have a clear plan for their writing projects, including deadlines for drafts and revisions.
  4. They seek feedback from others. Receiving feedback on their work can help writers identify strengths and areas for improvement, and can also provide valuable perspective.
  5. They are resilient and persevere through setbacks. Writing can be a challenging and unpredictable process, and successful writers are able to push through difficult times and keep working towards their goals.


The key point is that they made it happen. It is an act of will. There’s never going to be a right moment, a perfect conjunction of time, space and mindset. So just do it.

Many successful writers set aside dedicated time to write each day, and they stick to a schedule in order to make progress on their projects. This can involve setting specific goals, such as writing a certain number of words or pages each day, or setting deadlines for drafts and revisions.

illustration of time

Having a consistent writing routine can help writers stay focused and make steady progress on their work.

It’s called habit and it’s an obsession of mine because (as I argue here and here) it lets the mind subconscious be the time manager.

What authors say about time and getting it done

New York Times bestseller Anne Lamott, author of Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, has said:

“For me and most of the other writers I know, writing is not rapturous. In fact, the only way I can get anything written at all is to write really, really shitty first drafts. The first draft is the child’s draft, where you let it all pour out and then let it romp all over the place, knowing that no one is going to see it and that you can shape it later.”

Stephen King, in his book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, writes:

“I try to get in at least six hours of writing every day, more on weekends. That’s my work time. I have a glass of water or a cup of tea, and I write. Sometimes I go for hours without a break, but I always try to get up, stretch, and walk around a bit before sitting down to write again.”

Of course few of us can get six hours a day to write but King emphasizes the importance of setting aside dedicated time for writing each day, and of making an effort to maintain a consistent schedule.

I mean, you can’t write with no time. You have to use some time. 15 minutes? 30 minutes?

So, the point is, make those small pockets of time work for you. Make them precious, and productive.

5 pieces of advice for time-strapped writers

  1. Make writing a priority. If you are serious about writing, you need to make it a priority come what may. This may mean setting aside dedicated time for writing each day or week or finding ways to fit it into your schedule.
  2. Start small. If you are having trouble finding time to write, try setting smaller, more achievable goals for yourself. For example, you might aim to write for just 15 minutes each day, or to complete one page per week. As you become more comfortable with your writing routine, you can gradually increase your goals.
  3. Set a regular writing schedule. Establishing a regular writing schedule can help you make writing a habit and make it easier to fit into your routine. Try to choose a time of day when you are most productive and make an effort to write at the same time each day or week.
  4. Find a writing space that works for you. Whether it’s a quiet office, a bustling coffee shop, or a park bench, find a place where you feel comfortable and can focus on your writing. However strange it might be, habit will make it work – in other words, once you go there, your mind will get you ready to create.
  5. Be patient and persistent. Building a consistent writing habit takes time and practice. Don’t get discouraged if you struggle at first. It’s OK to have off days. Just keep trying and eventually you will find a routine that works for you.

And what about advice for writing when bringing up a baby.

Advice for parents who want to write

  • JK Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series, said, “I was writing the first Harry Potter at home with a baby and a toddler, and that was just a fact of my life. I had to write around the needs of my children and the fact that I was breastfeeding.”
  • Zadie Smith, author of White Teeth and other works, said: “I have a young child, so I get up early and write before she wakes up, and then I write in the evenings. It’s not always easy, but it’s worth it.”
  • Neil Gaiman, author of The Sandman, said: “The biggest problem with being a parent and a writer is the guilt. You feel guilty when you’re with your children and you feel guilty when you’re not with your children. You feel guilty when you’re working, and you feel guilty when you’re not working.”
  • Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, author of Americanah, said: “I try to be very organized and disciplined about my writing. I have a young child, so I write while she’s at pre-school. I try to be very focused when I write and make the most of that time.”

And don’t forget … look after yourself

Finally another thought from Stephen King (and others) who reminds every to get the support they need. A support system can make all the difference. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or to delegate tasks to others in order to free up time for your writing.

Building a consistent writing habit takes time and practice. You might take several attempts at a routine before you find one that works or you might decide not having a routine is less stressful.

Either way, you have to figure out the difference between what you want and what you need and get that balance right.