It’s a common lament among authors struggling to make time to pursue or complete their writing tasks: With kids and a full time job, I can’t carve out the time to sit down and create.
Before diving into the advice portion of this post, let me show my prejudice. I wrote twelve books while working a full time job with executive responsibilities that kept me on the road for over 100 nights per year. That’s well over a million published words, all as a sideline. Through it all, I never missed a kid’s soccer game or school event, and my wife and I kept up a robust social life.
In the early days, my inspiration was Tom Clancy, who managed to create the techno-thriller genre while working full time in insurance. Later, I realized that Stephen King, Jeffery Deaver, John Grisham, David Baldacci, Tess Gerritsen, and countless other successful authors were able to squeeze their same 24-hour days in a way that allowed them to create works of fiction that changed their lives.
I put my inner engineer to work and ran some calculations.
Everyone of us starts Sunday with the same 168 hours available for use in the coming week. Including commuting time (if you don’t live in New York, L.A. or D.C.) work will absorb 9 hours per day, Monday through Friday. That’s 45 hours stripped away from your control.
We have to eat, of course, and take care of chores and personal hygiene stuff. Shall we agree on 10 hours for each, for a total of 20? Throw in another three hours as a rounding error (and to keep the math manageable) we’re down to roughly 100 hours of unaccounted for free time.
Okay fine. You want to sleep. And you’re blessed with the ability to sleep eight hours per night. Subtract 56 hours from the weekly assignment schedule. That leaves you with 47 hours to work with. We’re approaching the amount of true discretionary time. That’s almost six standard work days’ worth of time.
Oh, yeah. The kids’ soccer tournament on Saturday. Will seven hours cover it? Give or take a couple, you’re now hovering around the 40-hour mark for free time. That’s a standard work week, folks.
The hours are there. Now it’s a question of priorities. That episode of “Say Yes to the Dress” costs you 2.5% of your writing time. Scorsese’s “The Irishman” will cost a whopping 10% of your creative hours. (And if you’ve seen it, I trust you’ll agree that it is worth no more than 5%–7.5%, tops.)
The time is there, folks. The question that all writers must confront is how important is it to them to finish what they’ve started? Not to bite the hand that is currently feeding me, but recognize that every second you’ve spent reading this post and whatever responses it garners is a second you’ve decided NOT to spend on writing.
It’s all about choices.