Time Crunch

I’m sure you’re feeling the same way I am this holiday season: wishing that somehow there was more than 24/7 in a week to get everything done that needs doing.  It’s durn hard to fit day job, holiday shopping, your kid’s holiday play, office parties, sleeping and oh yeah, your writing career in 24 tiny hours.  But it is important to stay connected to your WIP, otherwise January will be spent flailing and trying to get your head back in the game.

Plus, we all have those raw NaNoWriMo pages to deal with.

Every year I struggle to keep momentum going forward, and after ten-plus years juggling multiple projects with real life, I’ve figured out what I need to do to stay in the writing game during busy times.  Maybe these tips will be helpful for you as you struggle to keep your head above water this holiday season.

 1. Carry around a hard copy of whatever chapter or scene you are working on.  
You will be surprised at the chunks of time you’ll find when you are in the least likely places.  Yesterday I worked through five pages while waiting at the dentist.  I also fiddle around with the draft during lunch now, when before the holidays I used lunch to detox.  I’m finding that even short sessions like that can help keep my characters present in my head despite the long list of holiday chores eager to crowd them out.

2. Set aside doable writing time each day.
And by doable I mean 10 minutes, 20 minutes, whatever you can manage to squeeze out, time that is completely devoted to your writing.  Twenty minutes here and there adds up.  You’ll be surprised.

3.  Don’t have room to schlep your WIP?  Carry around a notebook or digital recorder.  I’ve written skeletal dialogue scenes on the back of grocery receipts when I wished I had a notepad.  Now I never leave home without one.

4.  If it’s not gonna to happen, it’s not gonna happen. 
Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t get to your WIP for one or two days.  Life will go on.  Just make an extra effort to hit it when you can.

What are some of the ways you find time to write during the holiday?  Share your tips with us in the comments. We are always eager to hear what works in real life.


About Kathleen Bolton

Kathleen Bolton is co-founder of Writer Unboxed. She writes under a variety of pseudonyms, including Ani Bolton. She has written two novels as Cassidy Calloway: Confessions of a First Daughter, and Secrets of a First Daughter--both books in a YA series about the misadventures of the U.S. President's teen-aged daughter, published by HarperCollins, and Tamara Blake, for the novel Slumber.


  1. says

    For #1 – people with light/small laptops (or netbooks) might be able to schlep that around. Although hard copies do sometimes give you a fresh perspective, vs. the screen.

    For #3 – I’ve been really resistant to the whole voice recorder thing – my parents kept trying to give them to me as gifts thinking it would be good for my writing, but I felt so self conscious using them. I’m a writer, not a talker! BUT then yesterday I was driving home and I started writing out a scene in my head, and I knew I would lose it if I didn’t record it! Well, I won’t go into how I manage to record it — b/c it would be silly and dangerous to open up my laptop while driving on the freeway just so I could use iMovie to record my sentences, and surely I would NEVER do that… — BUT I will suggest that everyone check their cell phones to see if there is a voice memo feature! Mine has one, and I plan to make much more use of it now that I know. (Note: I did not have my cell phone in the car with me yesterday, so my laptop really would have been the only way to record my thoughts. Hypothetically speaking of course!)

    #4 – SO, so important.
    .-= Kristan´s last blog ..All shapes & sizes =-.

  2. says

    This is exactly the issue I have been thinking about for the last two weeks. With full time job, christmas and everything else, it’s been a real struggle getting to my NaNo edit, so I am working on making a plan where I could create a feasible time table.

    but meanwhile, I do keep the story in my head all day, and make little notes here and there if I can’t actually work on it. Though for the most days, I do try to work on it at least for a short amount of time.
    .-= Lost Wanderer´s last blog ..Unfinished Pieces for Another Time =-.

  3. says

    Those are great tips! I like to set a strict word-count goal for myself–one that is challenging but do-able. Then until I reach that word count goal, basically every scrap of free time I can carve out of my day goes towards writing. It gets done in a series of short bursts that way, but it does get done.

  4. says

    Another advantage to bringing your work or research to medical waiting rooms is that you won’t be touching the magazines that everyone else has handled. Especially sick people.

    Because if you catch the latest bug going around, then your productivity will suffer, too.
    .-= RhondaL´s last blog ..Meet Quincy the Horse =-.

  5. says

    Hey. I came across your journal while looking through the interwebs for NaNoWriMo entrants (I was a winner back in ’04 before employment life could distract me– but oh, the rush!). If you think you might want to share your work, we’re running a contest over at BookSwim.com that will let you have your novel read and judged by our readers. The top novel in each genre category (and there will be five: romance, historical fiction, mystery/thriller, speculative fiction, and mainstream / contemporary) will be printed and made available to thousands of subscribers in BookSwim’s catalog!

    Here are the details:


    Maybe this is something you (or your readers) would be interested in?

    Thanks muchly for your time– and good luck with those words! (Are you keeping an eye on your supply of caffeine pills?)

    Chip from BookSwim

  6. Inkylas says

    A journal has been my lifesaver. I see writing like choreography, if you see the sequence you like you have to capture it. I put off writing for so long because of all the excuses that have been mentioned. I refuse to anymore! I will find the time, make the sacrifices. The 9-5 grind will no longer steal the dreams. I find freedom in knowing that there are people that share this struggle and are fighting to get the words down.