This first part may sound like bragging, but it’s not. I wish I lived in a world where I could just write all the time and make ends meet. Instead, I have a law practice that requires my attention for 50-60 hours a week. Outside of work, I have a wife and two young kids that I want to spend as much time with as possible. I have several writing projects going on. When people ask me how I’ve had time to write two books in the last two years, I could give them a cop-out answer, and say, “I don’t know.” But that’s not the truth. The honest answer is that I make time in the margins to write.
Every weekday, I get up at 5:00am. Most days, I use that time to get an hour or two of work in before heading to the office. But some days, I use that time to write. On the weekends, I get up early and use that time to write or maintain my writing business in other ways. Today, I had this particular idea while taking a short walk around the parking lot at my office. So I came back inside to write it down before it left me. Some days, I’ll dictate into my phone while driving to a hearing. These are the margins of life in which I make time to write.
My work schedule varies from day to day. No week in my law practice looks similar to those surrounding it. If writing is to be a priority for me (and it is), I have to make time in the margins to do it. Most of us don’t have the luxury of blocking out chunks of time to work on our writing projects. We have to create smaller blocks of time in which to write . Then we have to endeavor to be consistent with our discipline, or at least give consistency a good go.
How Author Phillip Lewis Makes Time to Write
In 2018, I interviewed practicing lawyer and author of The Barrowfields about how he made time to write his first novel.
I met John [Grisham] recently and the very first thing he said to me was that, as a writer, you have to have rigid discipline that includes setting aside time to write every day. I think he still follows this routine, and obviously it has worked well when you consider that he’s now published more than 25 books and he’s still going.
My writing schedule for The Barrowfields, with first one young child at home, and then two before the book was finished, did not allow for anything approaching regularity, but I nevertheless found myself working on the book at every spare moment of the day. I’d often get up and write in the mornings while everyone else in the house was still sleeping. For me, this writing time was the best and the most lucid, but it was also the shortest. I would often write for a few hours once I got to work, before I was overwhelmed with client e-mails and telephone calls and appellate deadlines and the like.
On days when I had court, I’d get to the courthouse early and write before my hearings started. Anyone who knows me well knows that a lot of my CLE time was spent writing and working on The Barrowfields. At night after work, I would resume writing once the children were in bed—a few ounces of good bourbon at the ready—and this time was good for reviewing the day’s writing and reading it aloud to myself to gauge for tempo and rhythm and meter. Wherever I went I had a notebook with me, and usually a laptop computer, so that if I found myself with any amount of time, I would set to work on the book. At the bar in Poe’s Tavern in Charleston was a favorite place of mine to write.Phillip lewis (full interview here)
Writing in Life’s Margins Is a Choice
I almost called this article “Finding Time to Write …” but the truth is you aren’t going to find time. Taking the time to write must be a decision. If you aren’t making an affirmative choice, time is going to fill itself with other activities.
My choice is that some mornings, when I get up before everyone else, I’m going to work on one writing project or another. Maybe it’s this blog or my law blog. Maybe it’s one of my book projects. That decision is also up to me. But if I don’t consciously choose to write, it’s not going to get done. And I’ll be a guy who wrote a couple of books once upon a time, rather than a writer with a catalogue of books to my credit.
Your schedule is likely different. Your internal clock may set your most productive and creative hours at a different time of day than mine. But what remains the same, is that if you don’t intentionally make time in the margins of your life to write, you’ll always be an aspiring writer, rather than the person who is doing the work of writing.