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27 November 2012 ·

Write-Life Balancing

How does a full time writer organize their time? That’s what three author friends and I discussed at lunch on Sunday. Two have young children; the other woman and I started writing when our children were small, but they’ve now left home. She lives alone, whereas I have a husband (and a dog!) In other words, although we’re all full time writers, we all have different life demands to work around.

The main thing we agreed on was that you have to be prepared to use every available moment. Janne, a Danish children’s author, talked of once mapping out every available hour in the following three months, and managing to write a book in those stolen hours.

The distractions of working at home
People often say to me that they want to write a book when they have time. I think that if you need to write, you’ll find the time. My children were 4 and 7 the year I started writing seriously; I worked 3 ½ days a week, an hour’s drive away, and helped my husband on the farm when needed. There weren’t a whole lot of spare hours, but I grabbed what there were. The next year, when my daughter started school, I wrote solidly on my one full free day and frenetically on my free afternoon, about two and a half hours between getting home from work and school bus pick up time.

In fact, in some ways it was easier to remain focused then, because I knew how limited my time was. In the intervening days, I carried the stories in my head, planning the next scene, rewriting the last ones, gathering insights. When it was time to write, the words were ready and waiting to pour out.

It’s not always so easy when you’re always at home, always writing. The washing does need to be put on some time, so why not now? And there’s always another cup of tea to be made, and you might as well tidy the kitchen at the same time. It’s easy for a morning to disappear.

We’ve each used various ways to combat this: working at the library, in a café, even renting an office. Three of us are rigid about exercise routines, feeling we can’t write without them.
In the end, it all comes down to choice. Writing may be a vocation, but it’s also a job. A very strange job, but still a job: 10% inspiration, 90% perspiration, as someone said. You have to fit in the time for the sweating part/ 

But the other side of it being a job, is that paid employment has days off: weekends, public holidays, vacations. So once writing becomes full time employment, instead of a hobby, we need to remember to take some time off too. Decide not just how many hours a week to work, but how many to take off. That can be a much tougher discipline than finding the time to write. Maybe I’ll blog on that part when I’ve worked it out. 


  1. Hazel Edwards Complete agree with the creator/time-management sentiment in this post.Whatever stage of life you are at in terms of interrruptions, fitting in writing is a challenge. In an ironic development, i started writing paid articles about domestic time management which morphed into a book and workshops.
    'Housework in Perspective' was initially rejected by a publisher who said. We don't publish fiction'.
    December 2, 2012 at 7:16 pm · Reply
  2. Wendy Orr Hazel, that's hilarious!
    December 2, 2012 at 7:17 pm · Reply
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Wendy Orr is a Canadian-born Australian writer. Her books for children and adults have been published in 27 countries and won awards around the world. Nim’s Island and Nim at Sea have also become feature films, starring Jodie Foster and Abigail Breslin (Nim’s Island) and Bindi Irwin (Return to Nim’s Island.) Her latest book is Cuckoo’s Flight, a companion to the highly acclaimed Bronze Age novels Dragonfly Song and Swallow’s Dance. Read full bio