Written by Emily Harstone September 24th, 2020

How to Make Time to Write: COVID-19 Edition

“All writers have this vague hope that the elves will come in the night and finish any stories.”

― Neil Gaiman

Time for writing doesn’t make itself. This might seem like a ridiculously obvious statement, yet it is a trap writers fall into all the time, myself included. If you have a good writing habit and you write regularly, this article isn’t for you.

This is article for writers like myself, who have to work hard to make the time to write, particularly during altered circumstances

As a parent, I live a highly regimented life. If you’re like me, you might work eight hours a day and only have a small period of free time each evening or morning. Particularly since lock-down started in March, I’ve struggled to find time to write, with the kids always around the house.

The first step to make time for writing is to be deliberate about it. Look at your calendar, and write in time reserved for writing. It can be a half hour each day. It could be three hours every Saturday morning. Whatever works.

However the most important thing isn’t writing it down calendar, it is protecting that time. If it is on the calendar it can make it easy for you to tell friends who ask to meet on Zoom that you already have plans.

If you have a relatively flexible schedule (as I did once), it can still be hard to make time for writing. It is easy to think that there will be time, that each day the muse will visit you and tell you that the time to write is now. That rarely happens. One period of not writing leads to another. The only reliable way to get the muse to visit you is to sit down and write.

Set aside a part of your day that belongs to writing. Be deliberate about it, even if it isn’t on the calendar, make sure there it is something you do every day.

If you are in a part of the world where you are still limited to working and living in your home, try to write in a different part of the house than you work in.

Even now that coffee shops have opened up in my region I am no longer comfortable working in them, but in the evening I write in the parts of the house my children occupy during the daytime, and also weather permitting, outside.

Now I want to say that when I say writing, that is what I mean –  writing. Below are a number of things that can often be confused or conflated with writing, but are not writing and for that reason they should never take place during writing time.

  • Reading
  • Research
  • Editing
  • Submitting (your work to publishers)
  • Talking (about your writing)
  • Self-promotion
  • Emailing
  • Facebook

Don’t let those things steal your writing! Those things are the opposite of the (unfortunately non-existent) elves that Neil Gaiman talked about in the opening quote.

I think a lot of people convince themselves they are doing writing, when in fact that “writing” is Facebook messaging a friend. If you need to turn off your internet in order to get focused writing time – do that!

All of this information might seem obvious and self-evident. But I can tell you this: every author, from the ancients to contemporary, has struggled with it.

Emily Harstone is the author of many popular books, including The Authors Publish Guide to Manuscript SubmissionsThe 2019 Guide to Manuscript PublishersSubmit, Publish, Repeat, and The Authors Publish Guide to Children’s and Young Adult Publishing.

She occasionally teaches a course on manuscript publishing, as well as a course on publishing in literary journals.

You can follow her on Facebook here.


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