31 Days: Finding your space and time to create

This series of articles running through January will explore ways of keeping our head above water in physical, mental, emotional and creative areas. There will be creative challenges, competitions and giveaways. For the full background see here.

No-one has the time

None of us really have time to write or follow other creative pursuits not unless we are ultra successful and even then we’ll probably be spending a large part of our time travelling to the Nobel prize ceremony, various festivals and doing interviews with the broadsheets!

I’ve talked before about How to write a novel when you don’t have the time. I’ve spoken to many busy mothers (some with five children and jobs)  about how they manage to juggle writing, work and raising a young family so feel free to browse those posts to get ideas.

I’m also aware that it does little or nothing for creativity for us to be annoyed, worrying or guilty about trying to find time to do the things that are part of us and make us happier and more satisfied people. This post on Writing and Life, what to do when you just can’t has really touched a chord with people. The thrust of the article is the heart of what I want these 31 days articles to be about, it says that we can’t be creatively productive when juggling and time management is all too much.


I don’t want to sound New Age, but speaking from my own experience I know that there is hard work in creativity, it’s not just the muse speaking on high, we have to push on through fatigue and doubt and we need energy to put into it. If we’re pushing ourselves too hard and not enjoying life then we have none of the necessary energy. Yesterday I looked at running and walking, physical energy and stamina that we can build up and use.  Just having a chance to follow our creative interests gives us satisfaction and energy. I know that if I get to work even just a little on a project each day I feel much calmer and get a sense of accomplishment and progression.

Announce your intentions

I’ll talk more about this within the 31 days but just letting other people know that your creative endeavor is important to you and what you hope to accomplish gives them opportunities to support you. Acknowledging to yourself and to others that you want to write or paint or whatever it is can legitimize the time you spend on it. You’re not just hiding away scribbling when no-one’s looking!

 Space and Time

You might hold down a full time job, be raising a family, volunteering, trying to do a bit of DIY around the house at the weekend, minding a sick relation or a combination of the above. There’s hardly any time, don’t I know it. Yes, there may be hardly any time at all but there is some. In this post Writiing and the Space Time Elastic I talk about many of the clever ways you can make time, on the commute (you could even use a voice recorder if driving!), early mornings, late at night, in your lunch break, at weekends. There’s usually some available time that you can make use of. Even during periods when you have no time at all to write there are ways of being a writer when you are not writing.

Choose your moment – on the fly or on a schedule

On the fly

Have you got 15 minutes during your lunch break or commute to jot down a few words?  If you’re courageous (or foolhardly?!) you can just let yourself go and chalk up quite a few words. I know from using programs like Write or Die that it’s possible to write 500 words in 15 minutes, that would be 1500 words in a lunch hour with a sandwich thrown in! (Write or Die lets you set your target wordcount within a certain time with built in reminders or punishments if you don’t reach the target, no excuse for not getting started!) Do you find yourself waiting for appointments? (I once wrote 1000 words while waiting for the dentist!) Can you get up early or write for an hour when others go to bed. If you are grabbing chances throughout the day the main thing is to just go for it, don’t waste time pondering. You can edit your words later and even if you think they don’t work then you’ve informed yourself as to what might be a better direction.

On a schedule

This year my youngest child started school so in theory I have the mornings to write. However in practice I’ve found my most productive times to be at about 5am in the morning. Of course I don’t get up every morning but when I do it works brilliantly well. I think that transition time between waking properly and sleeping is a creative one and there are always distractions later in the day. Pick a time and stick to it most of the time, if holidays or life events take over, make a note and don’t worry, shorten the time, move it or pledge to come back to it on a certain date. Control your schedule but don’t let it control you. Be flexible and hopeful. Keep a record of your progress/hours to show yourself what you’ve achieved.

An ideal arrangement is one where you have a regular slot of 1 or 2 hours each day. You are ready for it mentally and can build up progress and feel satisfied as you go about the rest of your day.


What schedules and routines do you use and what works for you? If you grab moments when is it likely to be? What works and what doesn’t. Can you share your tips with us?

If you want to make sure to receive all the 31 ways to keep your Head above Water posts, sign up for email notification on the sidebar. I’ve also set up a twitter account specially for this. It’s @31HAW (the more obvious handles were taken!) Otherwise I’m at @alisonwells. I’ll also hashtag on twitter mainly under #31haw and #headabovewater.

5 thoughts on “31 Days: Finding your space and time to create

  1. Great advice thank you Alison! I am currently pondering how best to utilize my time, and I think perhaps I should start getting up when my husband gets up for work at around 5am, and then I can get in a few hours of actual writing before my toddler wakes up around 8am. Of course, being more of a night person this will be a huge challenge, but I also know it will give me more fulfillment and a better chance to achieve my 2013 goals.

    1. alisonwells

      It certainly is a great time to get things done though I must admit it was harder to do when I had babies and toddlers as they would often wake about that time. If you’re a night person, perhaps working late at night might suit you too, depends how you can work round other commitments.

  2. Alex Gutteridge, children's author

    Hi Alison, everyone is different aren’t they? I work best in the morning when I’m tackling a body of work but in the late afternoon, often whilst peeling vegetables and getting supper I come up with ideas and jot down a line at a time. Parts of my first published novel for children, Oven Chips For Tea, were written one Summer holiday whilst the children sat down and watched half an hour of television – a short paragraph here and there, not necessarily sequentially. Later on I slotted these passages into the story and in my opinion they form some of the best bits of writing within the book. So I think that little and often can be better than a big binge and in our busy lives is much more manageable and less guilt-inducing..

    1. alisonwells

      Yes! Exactly, I do think that the drive behind these small pieces of writing that are fit in around other activities can make for intense and vivid writing. This is something I’ve discussed with other parents. Little and often can definitely work. I also found that on my first writing retreat that I could only concentrate and produce in short bursts anyway, the longer stints didn’t necessarily mean better productivity. Perhaps the opportunity we have is enough, as long as we use it! Quite an uplifting thought!

  3. Pingback: Top Picks Thursday 01-09-2014 | The Author Chronicles

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