How to Write When You’re Actually Busy and Stressed and Everything is Chaos

Because it’s not always an excuse; it’s a real problem.

Many aspiring writers make up excuses in an attempt to explain why they haven’t been writing. Things like “I’m busy” and “I’m tired” are among the most common go-tos. “I don’t know what to write about” is another, but there’s no justifying that one. Write anything. It doesn’t matter what.

But these things aren’t always excuses. It would be unfair of me — or anyone — to assume that when you say you’re too busy to write, you’re somehow faking it or exaggerating.

Many times, excuses are excuses, and the only way to get past those is to suck it up and do the thing(s) you don’t want to do anyway.

What happens when “I’m too busy to write” isn’t an excuse, but instead a legitimate problem preventing you from writing as much or as often as you want to?

While I’ll never ease up on my no-nonsense approach to writing — I have no patience for your excuses and neither should you! — I’ve definitely softened toward the segment of aspiring writers who really can’t seem to get a handle on making writing fit into their lives.

You can probably thank my first baby (she’s a dog, but still) and my first long-term relationship for this subtle change in perspective. It turns out 23-year-old me had the right idea when she said busyness isn’t a reason not to write, but she kind of didn’t understand what happens when you’re no longer the only living thing you’re responsible for.

Ah, adulthood. Isn’t it great?

So basically, I get it. It’s 8 p.m. on a Thursday night and while you technically have an hour of space open to write and you might even know what you’d start working on if you did, by the end of a long day, there’s sometimes just nothing left. It’s not that you don’t WANT to write or that you’d rather be doing other things. It’s that you physically and mentally cannot push yourself any further than you already have.

Does that sound familiar? I bet it does. Because no matter your age or how experienced of a writer you are — no matter how driven you might be to accomplish your goals — everyone gets tired.

And while “tired” may not seem like a great reason not to write on the surface, you can’t usually help it when you’re in it. Sometimes I get so tired my entire body aches. That’s my body begging me to stop forcing it to do things. Could I keep going — write just one more page? I could. But should I?

What do we do about this? If we’re really busy and stressed and tired and it’s keeping us away from writing — and we can’t just drop things to make writing fit — what the heck comes next?

Our two-word solution is as follows: Writing. Schedule.

Now, I know a lot of you might hate schedules and/or the idea of scheduling out your writing time. But (ah, here it comes, the tough love train CHOO CHOO BABYYYYY) sometimes you gotta do things you don’t wanna do if you want good stuff to happen to you.

We often end up scheduling all kinds of things we’d much rather do spontaneously to increase the odds we’ll actually follow through on the promises we’ve made to ourselves or others. Workouts. Alone time with our significant others. Family dinners. Taking our puppies for walks.

And writing. Writing, writing, writing.

You are busy and stressed and tired. And when you know you can’t push yourself further to write, on most occasions, you really shouldn’t have to.

But if you take a moment to step back and look at your routine, I can pretty much guarantee you will find spaces here and there where writing is possible. And you’d better fill at least one of those spaces with words — even if it’s only a 10-minute time slot. Fill it. Not all your free time. Just some of it.

And let those around you know that — as much as possible — that time, whether it be 10 minutes or an hour or one afternoon per week, is for you, for writing. If they support you, great. If not, do what you can to try and make it work. I know not having support is frustrating, but make do with what you have, as much as you can.

Schedule it, plan it … and then do it.

When it comes time to write, treat that time like writing time and get to writing. Don’t use that time to shop, check social media, or eat (uh … unless you can eat and write simultaneously). Sit down and do it. Even if you don’t feel like it. This is your time — maybe the only time you have. Use it wisely.

I obviously can’t speak for every person individually here. So if you’re struggling with this and there’s a specific barrier standing in your way that doesn’t align with what I’ve written here, tell me about it. I want to help. If you want it.

Is making time for writing hard? Yes. Is it possible? Most definitely, yes.

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

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7 thoughts on “How to Write When You’re Actually Busy and Stressed and Everything is Chaos

  1. Meg, you are so correct in emphasizing a writing schedule. This has helped me a great deal as I have able to devote uninterrupted time in the early morning for my writing journey.

  2. This is true! personally, I find it easy to come up with excuses but that’s only to make myself feel better about not writing when I know I should. A writing schedule is something that everybody could use and like you said the amount of time doesn’t matter as long as it’s being used to write.

  3. I have definitely known days where I am exhausted, days where I might be able to put words down, but I also know that pushing myself like that will also cost me on the following day.
    I think part of the challenge is feeling like it’s not enough. Sometimes it feels like 10 minutes here and there isn’t enough, or the results of a writing effort are not enough.
    I definitely struggle with wanting to do more, achieve more, etc.
    I think one thing that can help is trying to find at least one day a week where writing can really be the focus for that day.
    Of course, part of the challenge is the reality that, on the one hand, we can only “try”, but on the other hand, we do need to try our best, whatever that happens to be.

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