Pursuing the Dream When Time is Scarce

As a full-time working mother pursuing the dream of publication, I often feel pulled in a thousand different directions. I know what it’s like to feel overwhelmed, inadequate, and stressed out. I think almost everybody does. After all, we live in a culture where time is a commodity. A precious resource. One we’d all like more of.

But as much as we might wish for the power to forgo sleep (oh, to be a vampire), I don’t see that happening anytime soon. So how can we do it? With our full plates, how can we manage to write too? After doing some reflecting, I came up with a short list of musts when it comes to balancing a hectic schedule and pushing toward our dream of publication.

1. Keep a sacred writing hour

This is crucial if you want to get serious about writing. For me, my sacred time is every morning from 5:00 to 6:00. This is my no-excuse hour devoted to novel writing. Not blogging. Not tweeting. But actual work on my WIP. Maybe you don’t have an hour to spare. That’s okay. Start with something smaller. But be diligent about carving out a set chunk of time each day.

2. Figure out priorities and structure time accordingly

For me, it’s God first, family second, writing third, then everything else. I never want to forget my ultimate pursuit and it’s not publication. It’s Jesus. That means getting up at an insane hour (4:00 am, gasp!) to pray and read the Bible before my writing time. At night, when I get home from work, it’s family time. If I get these three things right each day, I can go to bed knowing I stuck to my priorities.

3. Give up what you can, and cherish what you can’t

As much as we might want to, we can’t do everything. So learn to say no. Learn to ask for help. During the school year, I don’t do the laundry or cook. My husband does that. It’s his way of tangibly supporting my writing career. Might your spouse help more if you asked? Do you have older children who can pitch in? Are there things you can give up? I’ll never be the queen of hospitality or keep up with American Idol. Those are things I choose not to do. But of course, there are things I can’t give up. Like being a wife, a mother, and a Christian. Neither would I want to. Let go of what you can and embrace what you can’t.

4. Set realistic short-term and long-term goals

I’m a huge believer in setting goals. Without goals to strive toward, I roam aimlessly (usually on Twitter or Facebook). A long-term goal might be finishing a novel in a certain number of months. Figure out what short-term goals you need to set in order to accomplish your long-term one. This might be a specific word count each day. Make sure you don’t watch television or surf the Internet until you reach it. Above all, be honest about your circumstances and abilities and make goals that are realistic for YOU. Oh, and don’t forget to write them down.

5. Embrace Grace

We’re all busy. Nobody’s perfect. Everybody has good days and bad days. That same grace you extend to your friends, your husband, your children? Make sure to extend it to yourself too.

Questions to Ponder: Which of these do you already do? Which do you struggle with? How do you make time for writing amidst the chaos that is life?

* This article was first published in July of ’10 in the My Book Therapy E-Zine. I thought it would be appropriate for today’s post since summer is officially over and I’m back at work. You can view the original article here.removetweetmeme

29 thoughts on “Pursuing the Dream When Time is Scarce

  1. Jeanette Levellie

    This is a constant challenge, isn't it?

    I'm great at setting goals, and mostly keep them, but I'm not so great at giving myself grace when I mess up.

    I hope you have a wonderful school year!

  2. Mary Aalgaard

    It warms my heart that your husband shows his support by doing the daily chores. That is a gift. Truly. I'm divorced, and when I was married, I had to beg, steal, and sneak time for me and my dreams. Now, as a single mom, I have MORE time to pursue my God-given talents.

  3. Kelly Lyman

    Great post, Katie. This is something I struggle with. I'm not much of a morning person and I like to go to bed early to read, which leave the afternoon for me. However, if I don't keep up with the house and play with my children, I feel guilty. My husband works long hours, so I feel as though it would be unfair to ask him to help with housework (esp. b/c I chose to stay home full-time). I really need to make out a schedule. Sometimes I think it would be easier for me to balance everything out if I were still teaching. I always seem to do better when I have a full plate.

  4. Caroline Starr Rose

    I wasn't able to keep the writing/parenting/teaching roles working in a way that allowed for living (and sleeping!), too. I'm very impressed that you have found a system that works so well.

    All the best this new school year! Will it include THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH?

  5. Kristen Ethridge

    What great advice, Katie. And it's nice for writers to know they're not alone when they feel like they can't carve out that time. Writing is kind of a solitary pursuit–it's always good to see that others have the same challenges and that we can support each other with tips and ideas.

    And on another note…you can't possibly be back at school! Where did the summer go?

  6. Jill

    Finding the writing time, for me, is easier than finding time to blog and twitter. I guess I'd just rather be writing. Ultimately, it comes down to that, though. I make time for what I want to do and what I feel I have to do. It also helps having a husband who supports me. Without that, I wouldn't be a writer at all.

  7. Erin MacPherson

    Hi Katie! This is SO true… especially when you have kids underfoot. There was a time that I thought I could maybe do a little writing while my kids played quietly but I learned really quickly that my kids need my attention and can't focus on writing with them around… so I have to find dedicated kid-free AND work-free AND email-free AND blog-free time to write… and that's so, so hard!

  8. Rhonda

    This is so good! "Seek ye first…and all these things…"

    Sounds like you've got your order just about right.

  9. D.J. Hughes

    These are all great suggestions! I'm definitely a goal-setter, but I haven't set aside a specific time of each day/week to devote to writing – unless, of course, late at night after everyone is asleep counts. 🙂

    I'm glad I happened upon your blog. It's nice to "meet" you.

  10. Carol J. Garvin

    Oops… that's "get" my brain into gear! I thought one thing and my fingers typed another. 🙁

  11. Carol J. Garvin

    I am so not a morning person! I wish I were, but I've never been able to gain my brain into gear much before 7 or 8 a.m. I write at night instead… an hour or two after the household goes to bed. I'm pretty good with your #'s 1, 2 and 4, but 3 and 5 are hard for me. It's taken me years to be able to say even an occasional "no" without feeling guilty… if there are things I can do I think I should do them, but the stress of trying to cram everything in is teaching me the need to go easier on myself.

    I like the order of your priorities. God will honour your faithfulness!

  12. Bess

    Love this post. Blogged about it today. You have inspired me 🙂

  13. Susan J. Reinhardt

    Hi Katie –

    What dedication! What energy! 4 a.m.! I'm still trying to wrap my brain around that one.

    I've got the devotional time and family time set. I don't have a specific time dedicated to writing because my schedule is fluid. I do write something every day.

    Susan 🙂

  14. Donna Hosie

    I'm the same as you: a full-time working mother and like you, I get up and write between 5 and 6am.

    I figure I will sleep when I'm dead!

  15. T. Anne

    Great article! Time is absolutely scarce for me as well and I do need to prioritize to get things done. For me I place a high value on my writing, it's my work and not my hobby. I make sure the family understands, and they do. Happy first day of school! Eat a carmel apple or something. 😉

  16. Beth Mann

    Great advice, Katie! First, up at 4 am? Wow, that is hardcore girl!

    As soon as my kids are back in school I will have back my sacred writing hour(s)! 🙂

  17. Jena Carper

    5-6 am? Oh man. I would probably laugh when I reread all the "writing" I did during that time. I need to figure out a set time to write my novel. I start classes next week and it's got to be done by Dec!

  18. Laura Marcella

    Great advice, Katie! Depending how you look at it, I suppose I'm pretty lucky in that I'm unemployed and my hubs and I don't want any children right now, so I have a lot of time other people don't. Sometimes that can be harder to manage, though! It's much easier to waste time when you have a lot of it. So I set daily and weekly writing goals and have specific times each day for writing and job searching. It keeps me on track with forward progress!

  19. Sarah Forgrave

    4am?! Wow!

    I'm all about setting goals and deadlines for myself. I use life events, like my daughter's due date or the ACFW conf. to set my long-term goals. Then I sketch out a daily plan to get there. I figure I might as well start now since I'll have real deadlines once I'm published.

    Hope your first week back to school goes well!

  20. Heather Sunseri

    I love this post, Katie. I'll be heading back to work, myself, on Wednesday. I've fallen off the goal-setting wagon the past week after sending my manuscript off to an editor. But, I've been thinking a lot about what is next and I'm ready to get back to it. Thanks for the pep talk with this post!

  21. angela cerrito

    I love the idea about an hour to yourself…I carve out two times per day …before they wake up and after they're in bed.

    These days I do have time…but I remember one thing that kept me going back when I could barely find time for anything…

    One of my favorite authors said in an interview that she wrote her award winning book by working on it just 15 minutes / night before bed…

    I've written – waiting in line at the supermarket, waiting to get carryout, when my kids are in activities, in my car between errands, all kinds of places.

    The book I mentioned above is WHAT JAMIE SAW by Carolyn Coman

    thank you for taking the time to write such an encouraging blog!!!

  22. MaryC

    Thanks for sharing these ideas, Katie. I wish I could say I follow them, but I've realized I tend to treat my writing as a reward rather than a business. As a result, I put everything else first.

    You've given me much to think about.

  23. Jeanette Levellie

    Oh, Katie. I need to talk to you, or read this, at least once a month. You are so wise. I admire you getting up at 4 a.m. to be with Jesus and sit at His feet. I thought my 5:30 was early!

    My husband cooks most of the time, too, since I work full-time. He also folds laundry. What a gem!

    Blessings on your school year, sweetie.


  24. Terri Tiffany

    I think having a supportive mate is crucial to juggling our lives. I am glad you have one of those!

  25. Carrie

    Thanks for this, Katie. It's a reminder for even us non-writers to keep our priorities in order. Have a good day!

  26. Wendy Paine Miller

    Embracing the grace is sometimes the hardest for me. Hope your first day back goes well.

    I love that hour. Love, love, love that golden writing time.
    ~ Wendy

  27. Jody Hedlund

    Awesome article, Katie!! I can't believe you're back at work already today! I'll miss seeing you on Twitter during the days!

  28. patti

    WONDERFUL advice–as usual. You go, girl. I am so proud of you.


  29. CJ

    Great advice, Katie.


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