Dare to Write: Making the Time to Write

Welcome to the first in a series of posts – and podcasts – called Dare to Write.

Dare to Write is all about encouraging writers to overcome their blocks and write fearlessly and for the love of it.

Over the years, I’ve taught a lot of writers in my workshops, one-to-one sessions and talks and one gripe that comes up time and time again is that it can be so hard finding the time to write.

This used to be a real issue for me too because I’d always tell myself that if I didn’t have a good chunk of time to devote to my writing – at least two to three hours – then it wasn’t worth bothering at all.

The trouble is, with so many different things competing for our time – family, friends, work, Netflix, the inter-bloody-net and all of its updates and newsfeeds and notifications – how often do we get a spare three hours to spend writing?

It wasn’t until I changed my thinking and began to write for shorter periods of time more regularly that I started to get things done.

In my book Dare to Write a Novel I talk about how, as writers, we need to see ourselves as the tortoise of Hare and Tortoise fame. Slowly but surely wins the race – or in this case, finishes the book. I even keep this tortoise on my desk to remind me.


Books, screenplays, scripts and short story or poetry collections take a long time to complete. But, even if we aren’t able to hare along, we can still get the job done if we can summon up the grit and determination to keep showing up at the page, day after day, for smaller chunks of time.

Below, author, poet and screen-writer Paul Ebbs sums this up brilliantly as he talks about how he makes the time for his writing…

“This is not about having the ideas that’s the hard bit, this is about doing the donkey work the easy bit.

There are no obstacles to you writing except the ones you accept to be obstacles. 

I firmly believe this.

If you don’t have the time to write, then write one word a day. Just one. You can do that. You can make that time. Then there’s no obstacle. Unless you want the thing you’re writing to be finished more quickly. If you want it finished more quickly then that’s an obstacle that you’ve put there yourself. If you want it finished more quickly, then write two words a day – you’ll be finished in half the time.

Writing is about not accepting the obstacles that you’ve put there yourself.

It’s about breaking down tasks – If I’ve got a script to write, or a book I don’t think about the whole thing (once I’ve had the idea) I break it down – for a script I set myself the entirely reasonable target of five scenes per day. I know I can write more on a good day – but not every day is a good day. For example while I’m here writing this today, there’s a young guy next door to my office tiling our kitchen. So with all the scraping and spinning of the tile cutter, it’s difficult to concentrate. So do I accept that as an obstacle? No. I write this piece for Siobhan – it’s something I can achieve while Daniel is doing the tiling. He’s very good by the way if you want his number.

So I break tasks down, I don’t get daunted by the whole thing by tricking myself it’s only five scenes, or it’s only 1000 words or it’s only a few paragraphs for Shiv.

If you can write 100 words a day, you’ll have a 100,000 word novel in three years. If you can write 300 words a day (maybe in three 100 word blocks) you can do it in a year.

This piece for Shiv is 389 words long. It took me 18 minutes while Daniel tiled the kitchen. At 18 minutes a day, I can reasonably expect to have a 100,000 novel in 300 days and change.

The only obstacles in your way are the ones you put there yourself.”

[Paul Ebbs is a screenwriter (Doctors, Casualty, The Bill, films in development hell) an author (Doctor Who, Harry Hammer) a poet (Telling the Page, Black White Blue) and a human (breathing, farting, looking with at stuff with his eyes, thinking etc). If you want to have him write scripts for you contact his agent Christina Pickworth at Imagine Talent.]

WRITING DARE: What tortoise-style step could you take today towards finishing your work-in-progress? What amount of time, however small, could you devote to your writing? Even if it’s just fifteen minutes, fire up the laptop or grab the pad and pen and write. See how much better you feel for doing it. Try and make it a daily practise.

COMING NEXT ON DARE TO WRITE: How to Handle Criticism, featuring the toe-curlingly true story of a writer who was told by a theatre producer that the play she’d written was so bad it was a shame she’d recovered from cancer to be able to write it. She went on to pen a best-selling novel. In the next post she talks about how you can use even the harshest of criticism to fire you up.

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Ever since I started coaching writers it’s been a dream of mine to write a book about writing. Now – finally – that day has come.

DARE TO WRITE A NOVEL is like having your own personal writing coach in book form, with expert advice on every aspect of the writing, editing, re-writing and pitching process.

You can find out more about it here.

You can buy it on Amazon here.

And if you don’t have a Kindle, worry not. You can buy it as a PDF to download to your computer or other reading device here:
Buy Dare to Write a Novel

“While there are many books on the technicalities of writing, there are few which deal with the problems that face the aspiring author in the other aspects of writing – the personal. Siobhan looks at those areas – why do I want to write, how do I make time, how do I justify the effort, how do I motivate myself – and draws on her experience as a life coach, and as a successful author and editor to provide strategies to work towards achieving your writing dreams and aspirations. Yes, there is sort-of technical stuff there, too; to do with how to develop characters, how to plot, how to keep track of your characters and plot, how to defeat “blocks”, but none of the formulaic “write to the beats”, “6/7/8/9 basic plots” stuff that so many writing handbooks trot out. You even get audio chapters, where Siobhan talks you through the process of visualisation, a technique very few self-help writing books I have come across ever mention, but one that I find particularly useful. I’ll mention here that I know Siobhan; I was a member of one of her writing workshops for a number of years, and benefited greatly from receiving these lessons and strategies first hand. Now I live too far away, this book makes a great replacement for her personal mentoring skills, and I can highly recommend it to any writer who is contemplating starting out on the journey, who is struggling in the process, or is looking to re-ignite their creative fires.” Amazon review

Please feel free to share it with your social networks and any writing friends.

Thanks so much!

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