Writing With Stolen Time

by Mercedes M. Yardley

There’s a difference between being a writer and wanting to be a writer.  There are plenty of conversations about it, about whether payment, time spent, or day jobs land you on either one side or the other. But the consensus seems to be one major thing:  writers write. Wannabe writers want to write, but they can’t seem to find the time/interest/inspiration.

Words on page. That’s the difference.

Some writers are lucky enough to have an office with a door that closes and time to write. That’s fortuitous, and can certainly help with word count. But not everybody is in that situation. What about the writers who write during breaks at the day job? Who try to fit words in around kids and the house and other responsibilities? Who don’t have the luxury of a two hour block of writing time, but are forced to scrape together their minutes?

Here are a few ideas to help those who are forced to write in bits and spurts:

Time Yourself.   Knowing you have a set time limit lights a fire under you. Get a kitchen timer. Or type “Set Timer for 15 Minutes” (or 5, or 10, or 20 minutes) into your Google search. It will act like a stopwatch. And when it’s your time to write, then WRITE. You only have a few minutes! Make it count!

Block Distractions. There are so many distractions that you can’t block. Children, for example. Earthquakes. Calls that you have to take. So block the ones you can. If you waste your precious writing time playing on the Internet, then use a blocking program like Self-Restraint or Self-Control to temporarily block access to your favorite sites. Need to check your email 50 times a day? Fantastic, but not during your writing time. Block it. When you’re finished, unblock it. Easy.

Utilize Non-Writing Time for Writing. Think about your story while washing the dishes. On your commute. Turn off the TV while folding laundry and plot instead. Ask your kids what they’d suggest in a scenario you’re working on, if it’s child appropriate. Find time to let ideas stew. Then when you have those precious moments of keyboard time, you won’t be sitting there  awkwardly and staring at the page. You’ll already have your scene lined up.

Use Dropbox.  Or a similar program. Link up your computer, tablets, and iPhone. If you’re standing in line and find a few spare minutes to write a paragraph or two on your phone, it will save your work to a folder that’s available on every linked device. You can be on the move and use whatever device is handy. When you’re working with scraps of time, it’s a wonderful way to keep everything together and see your stolen moments add up.

Alternate Responsibilities.  Again, use the timer. Devote fifteen minutes to your WIP. Then fifteen minutes on your house, or throwing together lunch, or another responsibility that you need to get to. Fifteen minutes of moving around, thinking and getting your blood going. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. How many times? As many as you can. Maybe only once a day. Maybe a couple. You’ll keep yourself moving forward.


This takes a little discipline, yes, but not as much as you’d expect. Having a plan makes it much easier. You want to be a writer, not a wannabe writer. Put the effort in and see the magic you will create.


Mercedes M. Yardley works for Shock Totem Magazine. She has been published in numerous anthologies and periodicals.  She is represented by Jason Yarn of Paradigm, and her first collection of short stories is Beautiful Sorrows.  For more information, stop by her website.