Can’t Find Time to Write? Jennifer Walkup Has Six Solutions for You

Jennifer WalkupJan here: As Halloween approaches, I can think of two good reasons to introduce you to my  friend Jennifer Walkup:

1. She’s going to tackle a scary topic for most of us: how to blend motherhood and writing in a way which doesn’t compromise both and leave you with two areas of failure.

2. We’re celebrating the release of her debut, Second Verse, which Kirkus called “A supernatural murder mystery with a love interest rooted in the past and present. … A fast-paced thriller best read with the lights on.” (Blurb below the post.)

Take it away, Jenn! 

Hiya everyone! Thanks so much to Jan for having me here at her blog.

Okay, so one of the things people are forever asking is: HOW DO YOU FIND TIME TO WRITE?

Short answer: Stop separating your lights and darks.

Long answer: What I mean is, cut corners where you can, and don’t sweat the small stuff. (Also, by the way, you really DON’T have to separate lights and darks. I discovered this quite by accident, but seriously, try it sometime. IT’S LIBERATING!)

But, I digress. Back to the topic: Finding time to write.

Here’s the thing. I have a job, two young kids, a husband, a dog and a house. Plus I freelance edit for a few publishers and a literary magazine. I’m pretty good at multitasking and I think I thrive off keeping busy. But there is still only so much time. And, there are things I won’t cut corners on. I will never sacrifice time with my kids and husband for anything – not even writing. There will always, ALWAYS be time to play with my kids, take them on outings and cook meals for my family (my second favorite pastime, I do love to cook, SO MUCH more rewarding than laundry, by the way!). It is tough to balance family time and writing time, but the kids will only be little so long, so I want to soak it up while I can.

So where to find the time then? It has to come from somewhere. Here are a few ways to find balance when juggling the mom/wife/employee/writer roles (and whatever others you may be balancing!). It isn’t always easy (as a matter of fact, it’s often a struggle), but there are some tried and true ways that I’ve found helpful.

1. Cutting corners.

Besides separating laundry, obviously (tee hee), there are other little things too that I cut corners on. There are probably too many weeds in my garden, and the dust hangs around longer than it should. But those are my choices. I choose family time and writing time over the small things I could be doing. I know this approach isn’t for everyone, but letting go of all the little “have-to’s” really makes room for the things that feed your soul. The “need-to’s.” (Need to’s = need to for you, those things that make you feel alive, the things that are much more personally satisfying, once you learn to let go.)

2. I don’t watch tv.

This isn’t to say I don’t waste time, because I do (I’m looking at you, twitter!), but TV is not something I’ve ever really been into. If you don’t watch tv, you have a lot more free time (even with the internet distractions, which I’m working on!)

3. Actually enjoying the writing.

This is a tough one because it’s not a choice. I have written many different things and some have been fun and some have been a chore. The ones that are fun, are obviously easy to eek out. The ones that are a chore, less so. But still, I do enjoy writing so much when it’s flowing. Without it, I think I’d be a bit lost, which is why making the time for it is easy a lot of times, when I’m in the groove. There have been times the writing has been my life-preserver, and others it’s been my nemesis, but mostly it is like a private little bubble of ME that I can hunker down in happily.

4.  Being accountable.

This is the BIGGEST one that keeps me in line (when it does keep me in line, that is) and also the biggest hurdle. One of the hardest parts of staying on track is that it’s up to you to keep yourself there. Luckily, I have a lot of writer friends and we egg each other on. Sometimes it’s just “meeting up” online or through text messaging and having a “word war” where we write for a set amount of time and report in with our word counts when we’re done. Or making a set time to write and then posting snippets and give each other feedback, or even just favorite lines. Knowing someone is counting on you, makes you get it done. It’s kind of like a work out buddy.

6. Support system.

Absolutely vital. My family is amazing, in particular, my husband. He’s an amazing dad and he’s also a huge help with housework and the like, giving me the extra time needed to work. And, he understands my pattern. When I’m first drafting (which luckily for us all, is usually a pretty short process, usually one month-ish), things get pretty neglected. He picks up the slack and knows I’ll be back in the game soon. I am so incredibly grateful. Even with trying to balance myself and the house and kids and the jobs, there is no way I could write without that support. I’m lucky.

So you tell me, any ways you’ve found to sneak in writing time and find work life balance. Let me know in the comments. I could always use some new tips!


More on Second Verse: Bad things come in threes. In Shady Springs, that includes murder.

Murder Now
Lange Crawford’s move to Shady Springs, Pennsylvania, lands her a group of awesome friends, a major crush on songwriter Vaughn, and life in a haunted, 200-year-old farmhouse. It also brings The Hunt: an infamous murder mystery festival where students solve a fake, gruesome murder scheme during the week of Halloween. Well, supposedly fake.  

Murder Then
Weeks before The Hunt, Lange and her friends hold a séance in the farmhouse’s eerie barn. When a voice rushes through, whispering haunting words that only she and Vaughn can hear, Lange realizes it’s begging for help. The mysterious voice leads Lange and Vaughn to uncover letters and photos left behind by a murdered girl, Ginny, and they become obsessed with her story and the horrifying threats that led to her murder.  

Murder Yet to Come
But someone doesn’t like their snooping, and Lange and Vaughn begin receiving the same threats that Ginny once did. The mysterious words from the barn become crucial to figuring out Ginny’s past and discovering how their own past is connected to hers. They must work fast to uncover the truth or risk finding out if history really does repeat itself.

When Jennifer Walkup isn’t writing or reading, she’s spending time with her husband and young sons, listening to Red Hot Chili Peppers, and coming up with costume ideas for Halloween. She’s obsessed with good coffee and new recipes and likes broccoli on her pizza, flowers in her hair, flip-flops on her feet, and the number 13. A member of SCBWI and RWA, Jennifer also serves as fiction editor for The Meadowland Review and teaches creative writing at The Writers Circle. Second Verse is her first novel.

You can find her online at, Facebook, and on Twitter (@jennwalkup). 

18 Replies to “Can’t Find Time to Write? Jennifer Walkup Has Six Solutions for You”

  1. Good stuff! I’ve never bothered with separating laundry, much to my wife’s chagrin. I can’t keep straight what does and doesn’t go in the dryer, so unfortunately she has to do her own (I do all the rest, including the sheets and towels, at least.)

    And I don’t really struggle with finding time to write, although that’s not to say I don’t procrastinate. So #3 resonates for me. In fact, alongside Liz’s post on WU today, I’m pretty sure the universe is speaking to me through you two, Jenn.

    For the last two weeks, I’ve been doing everything but actually enjoying the writing. And the stupid thing about that is, I have a story that I actually love, and it needs work. And I know where the story goes after that work is done. And I love the idea of actually writing on from there. Get to it, right? Duh!

    So thanks for the nudge, Ms. Universe. Your book sounds fab (as I’ve said before, you have great taste in character names). Best of luck with it! Thanks for having her, Jan!

    1. I find it hard to know the difference between when writing is a struggle because I need a break, or when I just need to push through. I suspect a trilogy would make the distinction that much murkier. Hope you’re able to find your zest again, V.

    2. Enjoying the writing is not always easy at all! Sometimes it is such a chore for me too. But when I enjoy it it’s much easier for me to stick with it. And it sounds like you have some good stuff right around the corner, so good luck slogging through the tough parts!

  2. All of these are good points. I don’t watch TV at all. Haven’t for years. Wish I could say I had a husband who understood my writing pattern. I don’t, but he still helps by taking on a big share of childcare during the time I have deadlines.

    1. Don’t know if it’s any comfort, but the ToolMaster is similar. He doesn’t read fiction, doesn’t particularly enjoy art, but despite that, comes through in practical matters time and time again. And to be fair, I do the same for the technical things which send him into a state of bliss. I can facilitate, and be happy for his happiness, but I don’t “get” it the same way another engineer might.

    2. Sounds like you have a good support system. Just having someone to share the day to day with the kids is a huge one, for me, especially during deadline time. Thanks for your comment!

    1. It doesn’t eleven occur to me to watch TV unless there’s something big on the news that I wish to follow. Even then, I listen while I cook dinner. If I’m going to watch something, I prefer to do it via DVD. Commercial interruptions waste so much time.

  3. Great post, Jan and Jenn. My biggest time waster is TV. I use it as my “decompression” after working in the office all day, to chill out when I’m stressed and just because I’ve taped shows I became addicted to! I am making a pledge to myself now to watch less TV.

    Vaughn, it is very odd how many male traits there are across the board and the laundry sorting thing is one of them. I do my own laundry also, because I’ve lost count of the number of clothing items my husband has either shrunk or discolored.

    1. You’ve always struck me as an excellent time manager, Deborah.

      Despite his tech savvy, The ToolMaster can’t be left with any special-care fabrics. Like maps, he thinks labels are for wusses. 🙂

    2. Thanks for the comment Deb! I still maintain that not everything needs to be separated, but with three boys in the house, we have nary a sensitive fabric in these parts! Haha!:)

  4. I have been looking forward to reading Second Verse for a while now, Jenn, and this interview seals it.

    I don’t watch much tv either — but I do waste way too much time on the computer. I’ve started taking my laptop with me so I can write in those ‘spare’ half hour blocks when I’m waiting for the kids to finish up a game or get out of school.

  5. Smart thinking, Liz. I should do the same. I find myself surfing way more than writing when online. I need to bring along the old word doc and get to it. And thanks so much for your interest in Second Verse!:)

  6. Great tips. And I’ve been pretending I haven’t been hearing the success of morning writers for years, but now out of desperation I have been waking up at 5:15 a few mornings a week (up to three now) to get in some time. You know–shoot–it works. I always claimed I could never be a morning person. Guess I proved myself wrong.

    True about TV too. I had netflix for a month, got addicted to Scandal and Orange is the New Black and fell so behind on the rest of my life.

    1. Good for you, Nina! I’m not surprised; you’re obviously disciplined and hard-working, but I’m impressed.

      We haven’t succumbed to Netflix yet. We have so many DVD series that it seems foolish to invite in another point of media consumption. Also, I like the lack of urgency that comes with owning a physical copy. We never have to worry it’ll disappear from the queue.

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