Thursday, August 2, 2007


Whether writing full time or still working a day job, most writers say they spend 50-60% of their writing time on the business of writing – doing research, marketing, conferences, talking to editors, visiting bookstores. Put in a few hours a day writing, and that leaves precious little time for family, food or sleep. That time spent writing has to come from somewhere.

So what do you give up? A lot of writers say they read less than they used to, an ironic and almost tragic sacrifice. Some will tell you they gave up some favorite hobby, watch less TV, or became vaguely anti-social after they started writing.

One of the more prolific writers I know claims that sleep is overrated, especially if you maintain a disciplined diet of nicotine and caffeine.

You could stop doing the daily crossword puzzle or give up your drinking problem, but you certainly don’t want to stop doing the things or visiting the places that inspired your stories in the first place.

So where do you steal time to write? What sacrifices have you made to finish your manuscript?


Felicia Donovan said...

Good question, Tim. I'll use Sue Ann's prior blog to answer your question: "Housework - It's Never Done."

Just kidding. I try not to think of anything being sacrificed, but prefer to look at the writing time as a wonderful gift that we are obligated to attend to. If it's at the expense of TV, sleep or a social life, so be it. These are all negotiable. Taking care of family is not.

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

Felicia is right about caring for a family. That would be non-negotiable. Not having a family to look after certainly frees up more time for me to write, but even then I still have to limit social outings and plan non-writing activities more carefully so I have time to write on top of the day job. I recently resigned as president of the Los Angeles Chapter of Sisters in Crime because something had to go and my day job couldn't be on the chopping block. During the week, I keep to a very tight schedule, with a little more flexibility on weekends.

Other things I have curtailed in my life as my writing demands have increased: sleep, money (I could be working tons of overtime right now), non-book related travel, movies, reading, time with friends, TV.

But honestly, I wouldn't have it any other way at this point in my life.

Mark Terry said...

Prior to writing fulltime, I gave up TV and probably a little sleep (and lunch hours, by and large, eventually).

Now that I'm a fulltime freelancer, this is almost a more complicated issue.

What I'm probably giving up now is better-paying work that I could do in that time period. (Not to mention whatever other use I might make of the marketing money).

Bill Cameron said...

My social life has certainly taken a hit, though maybe I've just transferred it to the baristas at the coffee shop where I write. I also watch less TV (no great loss) and read less than I would like (sigh).

And sometimes I just have no money. In my day job I'm self-employed, and while I rarely turn down work, sometimes when I'm in the throes of a writing project, I don't put as much effort as I should into finding work. The result is fewer billable hours, but with may more writing hours. It could be that someday those extra writing hours will return the investment. We'll see.

Otherwise, I still put family first. Sleep, not so much.

Mark Combes said...

I've found I had to give up fun weekend stuff more than I'd like. Sailing, diving - and I'm a recent fly fishing convert - all have taken a hit. During the week, I write every night and that's not much of an issue - but the fun stuff on the weekends - I do miss being on or in the water....

spyscribbler said...

I really don't remember, because I gave it up a long time ago. I don't know what I'd do with that time if I didn't write!

But you know the time people have after they get home from work? I don't have any of that time. I get up, write, work, then maybe read a little or watch one TV show, and go to bed.

Oh! I did give up cleaning and cooking. That helps.

G.M. Malliet said...

I used to give up sleep. My first book, Death of a Cozy Writer, was mostly written between 4:30 a.m. and 7:30 a.m., before I had to go start dressing for my day job. I honestly don't know how I did it, but I was highly caffeinated at all times.

Now, I use the time that used to go to social outings. I just tell people I've got a deadline and I have to take a raincheck.

The downside of that is many people have the idea I'm doing something awfully mysterious and terribly complicated and that I simply cannot be interrupted--I call it the Great Important Author I have to work a bit to make sure people know that once in awhile I really, really need a break and I do want to go out and see them. I mean, after all, this is when friends are MOST needed.

It's a delicate balance, always.