Pamela Koehne-Drube

Written by

Pamela Koehne-Drube

8 November 2021


Writer’s Routines: Writing Any Time

Writing any time

There are no hard and fast rules on when is the best time to write. For many, creativity doesn’t strike at set times, so writing any time becomes important. Hectic schedules might not allow for a routine writing schedule, or you may write professionally, meaning it becomes an all-day pastime.

Many authors do their writing any time that inspiration strikes or they can get a spare moment. For some, this results in prolific output; for others, it’s simply an escape that they snatch when they can.

Too many words, so little time

Isaac Asimov is best known for his Foundation series of science fiction novels and short story collection, I, Robot. What most people don’t realise, however, is that his writing career resulted in over 500 published works, as well as thousands of personal correspondences.

He worked in his father’s candy store as a child from 6 am to 1 am most days, enjoying the long hours. He applied this to his writing life, treating the long hours of writing all day, every day, as his creative schedule. Not only did he write any time, he wrote all the time.

Barbara Kingsolver is another author who does her writing any time. She’s an early riser because of all the ideas in her head that she just needs to get out. The hard part, for her, is stopping at the end of the day. The sheer weight of her creativity is what drives her to write.

“I tend to wake up very early. Too early. Four o’clock is standard. My morning begins with trying not to get up before the sun rises. But when I do, it’s because my head is too full of words, and I just need to get to my desk and start dumping them into a file. I always wake with sentences pouring into my head. So getting to my desk every day feels like a long emergency. It’s a funny thing: people often ask how I discipline myself to write. I can’t begin to understand the question. For me, the discipline is turning off the computer and leaving my desk to do something else.”

Barbara Kingsolver

Writing as a job

Many writers, well-known authors, ghostwriters, and freelancers, end up writing any time (or all the time) because it’s their job. Traditionally published authors often have the benefit of being able to treat writing as a 9 – 5, and ghostwriters and freelancers often have writing as their day job, then do writing for leisure or their personal projects well into the evening.

Contemporary American novelist Don DeLillo keeps a schedule that spans the workday. He starts early, stops for a break in the middle to do something personal, like running, then works again in the afternoon before sitting down to read a book in the evenings. William Gibson, trailblazing author of seminal speculative fiction works, like Neuromancer and Pattern Recognition, follows a similar routine.

“I sit down and try to write. If absolutely nothing is happening, I’ll give myself permission to mow the lawn. But, generally, just sitting down and really trying is enough to get it started. I break for lunch, come back, and do it some more.”

William Gibson

Working around busy lives

Bestselling author, Jodie Picoult, didn’t always have a full-time writing schedule. She wrote many of her books while raising three children. At that stage, it wasn’t always easy to find a set time to sit down and write, so she took the time where and when she could.

“My husband’s choice to stay home was an amazing gift to me – a freedom and ability to write whenever I liked. But for many years, I had to squeeze in my work around child care schedules, and that made me develop a very firm discipline. I write quickly, but I also do not believe in writer’s block, because once I didn’t have the luxury of believing it. When you only have twenty minutes, you write – whether it’s garbage, or it’s good… you just DO it, and you fix it later.”

Jodi Picoult

After her husband became a stay-at-home Dad and took up many of the tasks that Picoult had to schedule her writing time around, she now treats writing as her full-time job. She has a routine now, and it’s not confined to a particular time but to a full workday.

Letting creativity drive you

Vice journalist Nick Greene says his creativity comes in sporadic bursts and sticks to no schedule. He can’t force his mind into creativity as it just doesn’t produce the desired results. Because of this, he is very much a “writing any time” sort of guy – he has to be ready to put pen to paper the second that inspiration strikes.

Ray Bradbury, author of the seminal classic Farenheight 451, was another writer driven by his creativity.

“My passions drive me to the typewriter every day of my life, and they have driven me there since I was twelve. So I never have to worry about schedules. Some new thing is always exploding in me, and it schedules me, I don’t schedule it.”

Ray Bradbury

Rather than setting himself a specific writing schedule, he would work to the whims of his creative outbursts, ready to put pen to paper whenever inspiration reared its head. He believed that, when inspiration struck, there was a reason that it struck at that particular moment which was important to capitalise on.

Are you a writer who puts pen to paper at any time? Do you write all day, or do you just not have a schedule? What is your motivation, and what routines (if any) have worked for you?