The Writer’s Lie – That PERFECT Writing Time

When I first started writing it was at a feverish pace. I didn’t have children at the time and my wife was fine with me scribbling away. I spent a lot of time at the kitchen table writing in our old apartment. This was how I finished my first manuscript. It was a great time for wild publishing dreams, before I realized how much work writing is.

Fast forward three years and my wife and I have two kids. I have a house and growing responsibilities. I realize that sleep is now important as I approach thirty, and that I need to manage my time better. Back in the pre-children days I could plan out my writing time. Now I want to spend time with my children and I told my wife, because they are more important, I will sequester my writing time to early in the morning or late at night. A writer never sleeps, or in my case stays up past 11pm.

I was inspired to write this post because I was lying in bed an hour ago thinking, I’m just too tired to write. And then again, if I am too tired I will probably just write something awful that needs to be deleted. I thought I needed rest. I have to drive until about 1am to visit family in New York so the thought was not without merit.

However, I soon found myself dwelling on the ideal writing time. You know that cabin in the woods, coffee fresh off the pot, the sun is just poking over the horizon across the lake and I am already on page fifteen. The story is flowing out of me onto the page and I am typing flawlessly. I think this is the big lie about writing: That there is this ideal time somewhere out there that will unlock our potential. This is what I was thinking about while lying in bed. Then I realized as I did awhile back that it does not exist.

There were times when I first had children where I thought I could not write on a certain day because I was tired. True. There were times I didn’t feel like it because I stare at two computer monitors at work all day. True. Then I thought I needed about two hours to get my gears going to have momentum to write something well.  However, when you look for the perfect time to write, you tend to look for weeks and weeks and stop writing altogether.  This happened to me when my first daughter was born.

The thing is, writing is a lot like exercising. It can be painful when you do it with consistency at first. But soon you will find that doing thirty sit ups are not as hard as it once was. Just as writing that first sentence is not as difficult as it once was. So, find some time to write. Stick to the schedule. Your novel will not write itself. And stop hoping for your schedule to change, your kids to sleep, your work to become more flexible, or all of the worries of your life to fade away. Pick out a time to exercise your writing muscles, and get that novel done. Start today.

Happy writing.



12 thoughts on “The Writer’s Lie – That PERFECT Writing Time

  1. Thank you! I have a ten month old, am the only parent [single mom], work, and go to college. I have ADHD and a tendency of depression and anxiety- got that whole suffering artist thing down pat- and I’ve been absolutely miserable for a few months now. I realized a little while back that I haven’t written or sketched a single thing since my son was born- so I’ve been waiting for the right time to start writing again. I’m still waiting.

    However, thanks to your post, I’m not going to wait anymore. My son will be fine playing by himself in his playpen for a bit.

  2. You are right! I have the time, but I need to practice my concentration–The laundry! I need to paint this room! Holy cats it’s been a month since I scrubbed the tub! That’s the stuff that derails me all the time.

  3. thank you for this post! i am guilty of waiting for the perfect time…and then, you are so right – nothing gets done. my best writing is sometimes done in the little spaces between picking up my daughter from nursery and writing the grocery list! thanks for writing the words i needed to hear today.

  4. This was exactly how I fell into the habit of getting up at 4am to write. After a while, it wasn’t a big deal to do it and now I feel strange if I ever sleep in until 5:30 or 6. Missing that part of my day is like going without brushing my teeth, or taking a shower, or drinking coffee. It does get easier, but it helps to be consistent and make it a habit rather than doing it half-arsed.

      1. Haha, no, I sleep. I try to get to bed by 10:30. And I crash. The minute my head hits the pillow. I usually sleep pretty well, so I average about 5-6 hours a night. It’s not enough, certainly not over the 7-year span I’ve been doing this. Eventually I’ll figure out a better method that includes more sleep. 😉

  5. Julie Catherine

    Excellent post, Bob. When you deal with health issues there are no perfect times, so that just means that I’m learning to write in the times when I’m able. I used to be a morning person, and still feel that way on the inside, but I no longer go by a fixed schedule these days. The good part is that when I can’t sleep in the middle of the night, I can write without worrying about the time! 😀

  6. Bob,
    Thanks again for some great advice! I have just made writing a part of my everyday life so I am still figuring a schedule that works for me. I tend to follow a routine better, but lately I have been up in the middle of the night thinking of writing ideas. So for now, I will just take the inspiration when I can get it!

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