How you can write a book on fragmented time

Ask any writer what’s at the top of their wish list (behind a publishing contract) and they’ll most likely tell you they’d love to write full-time. They’ll lament their full-time/part-time job, their unpaid parenting work, and other general unavoidable responsibilities which form a barrier to writing.

And I completely agree: they suck. Not very eloquent of me, I know. Forgive me, I’ve had one of those weeks.

Time Confetti: the party animal of your writing life

Recently I read a fantastic article in the Sydney Morning Herald about how women have to deal with fragmented time. It’s here in case you’re interested.

In the article, the author referred to fragmented time as Time Confetti. I loved that. Because that’s how my life feels a lot of the time. A little bit of blue confetti over here. A sprinkle of pink over there. Yellow, red, orange, blue, green . . . shit, that confetti stuff is all over the place!

To someone like me who is desperately organised (that’s a nice way of saying I’m a control freak), time confetti can be pretty unsettling. Sure, it looks pretty, but it’s everywhere! Just everywhere. And how on earth am I supposed to give it any sort of order? It just won’t behave itself!

Life is a lot like that confetti, it’s messy. I continually feel like I operate in fragments: a fragment for work, another fragment for family, friends, the housework, exercising, after school activities . . . oh, and writing. Somewhere in there is writing.

How to write productively with fragmented time

A few of my friends have commented something along the lines of: you are a writing machine!

Writing machine

Um, no. I’m not. I’m just very, very determined and I’ve got to tell you, sometimes it seems there’s so many fragments in my life I might just shatter into a million pieces and not achieve one single thing!

But here’s what I’ve realised: you can’t have a big party with only one piece of confetti.

Grab those half hours, those early mornings or late nights whenever you can. It often doesn’t feel very productive or that you’re getting anywhere at the time, but all of those fragments add up. Five hundred words here, two hundred there. Keep at it and eventually you’ll have a chapter, then half a book and wow, a whole book!

When my son was a baby I used to write during his nap times, or late at night. Now he’s at school I try to grab a couple of hours on the weekend, at night, or if I have a quiet work day, an hour and a half may be all I need to get 1,000 words down. I won’t deny those short blocks of time can be frustrating, but they can be productive.

Every fragment of time counts when writing a book

bang-your-headI’m not saying fragmented time is the ideal way to write a book. It’s not. But unless you’re Stephen King or Nora Roberts or some other very, very well-known published author, life isn’t going to just hand you the time to write a book graciously. There will be situations where you’ll feel you have to claw those minutes from the universe in the most ungracious manner possible.

And if you’re thinking along the lines of ‘When I’m a published author . . .’ Stop! Now. I’m a published author. I know quite a few other published authors. A lot of us work in jobs that are not writing, because we have to. We all write because we want to, and that means an ongoing battle with the time gods.

In the article I referred to, it highlights the importance of creating meaningful time. As well as those time fragments, when I’m writing a book I try my hardest to find decent blocks of time when I can too.

All I’m saying is that if you think your busy life is an insurmountable barrier to getting something done, like writing a book, it’s not. It can be done. Bit by bit.

And hey, let’s look on the bright side. When you’re done, at least you’ll have plenty of confetti to throw a celebratory party!

How do you deal with fragmented time as a writer? Does it drive you insane or are you learning to make the most of it?



3 Replies to “How you can write a book on fragmented time”

  1. Loved this post! So many writers I know are able to devote most of their time to it. I can get quite jealous, but I wouldn’t trade my life, so I’ve just learned to write confetti style. You’re right, confetti can be messy, but you can’t have a party with one piece. Thanks for giving me a writerly boost.

    1. Thanks, Dawne! Glad I was able to give you a boost 🙂 It’s funny. When I have too much time to write, I find I’m far less productive. As frustrating as confetti time can be, I’ve found I’m generally a better writer when I’ve got other things going on in my life. But it’s a delicate balance! Thanks for reading and commenting.

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