The Sacrifice Table: Making Time to Write


by Gabino Iglesias

Unless you’re a full-time writer, you have to make time to write. Yes, I said make. We all get the same amount of hours each day, and when you subtract the time we spend at work, the time we spend on the road, the time we spend on family, friends, and pets, and, last but not least, the time we spend on things like eating, showering, paying bills, and sleeping…well, time is gone.

I often see writers on social media complaining about the lack of time to write and their very next post is about how they just watched four episodes of their new favorite series in a row. Before we go any further, please understand three things:

  • This is an article in which I discuss a few tricks that might help you make time to write, which means I’m not telling you to never take days off or to not take care of yourself if you feel like you need to watch some true crime instead of writing.
  • Ultimately, you are the only person in charge of your time and you choose how you spend it, so this isn’t me telling you what to do.
  • If you read the preceding two points and still feel the need to argue, you will be ignored. Why? Because I don’t have time to waste on silly arguments.

Okay, so now that what we got those things out of the way, let’s get to the five little things you can do to make time to write:

1. Recognize that any time is a good time for writing

“You should write at night because yadda yadda” or “You have to wake up early and write before the day starts because reasons.” I’ve heard those two and many more. Everyone is right and everyone is wrong; whatever works for you is what works. If you find that early works for you, wake up and kill it. If you start at midnight and that works for you, awesome. I’ve done both. What matters is getting words on the page.

2. Accept you don’t need to have an elaborate/meaningful/theatrical writing ritual

Sit your ass down and write. You don’t need candles or music or coffee or tea or your lucky socks or whatever. I know some of you are mad at that sentence, but the reality is this: if you have half an hour to get shit done and you spend fifteen minutes on your ritual, you spent half of your time on things that didn’t put a single word on the page. If you feel like fighting, please reread the three points above and please wash your lucky socks from time to time. Or don’t, it’s your business.

3. Realize you can write a book in short bursts

When I started writing my next novel I was teaching four classes at a public high school, and MFA courses at SNHU, and had my usual writing and reviewing gigs, so sometimes the only writing I got done was with one hand while wolfing down lunch at school, or for twenty or thirty minutes at night when I was done with everything else. Sure, it was slow, but I managed to write about 40k words that way in a year. Not great, but something. Point is, it can be done.

4. Accept you have to sacrifice things

Yeah, yeah, go read the three points above again. Saying you want to write is easy; writing is hard. I don’t give a fuck about people who say they want something but aren’t willing to put in the work. If you have time to watch four episodes of something, you have time to write. If you have time to post a hundred selfies or pictures of your cat or memes, you have time to write. I’m not saying you have to write, okay? That’s up to you, but good luck selling a book you’ll never finish. If you really want something, you have to make sacrifices, and lounging around or napping for hours when you could be writing is something that kills many careers before they’re even born.

5. Come to terms with the fact that you will never have as much time as you want

This is true even for full-time writers. Responsibilities and deadlines pile up, baby! If you have two hours and you use them to write, you can’t use them to edit. If you use them to edit, you can’t use them to write. It is what it is, so be grateful that you got two hours of work in and start figuring out ways of getting two more.

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