Agent Monday: Finding the Time to Write

MP900302970Happy Agent Monday to you all! Today, as we enjoy an extra hour of sunlight (you did turn your clock forward, right?), it’s a perfect time to talk about, well, time!  Specifically, finding the time to write. I’m thrilled today to have a guest post by my client and wonderful author Erin Teagan. Erin, though busy over the years with work and raising a family, has managed to write a number of manuscripts and to work hard at perfecting her craft. She got my attention and offer of representation with a sharp and touching middle grade novel called STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURES about Madeline Little, genius scientist in the making, who keeps her life in control by creating SOP’s like “How to Fake a Bubonic Plague to get out of a Party.” But when her life flip-flops at the start of middle school, and the SOPs no longer do the trick, it’s up to Madeline to discover a new cure for her newly messed up life.

Here’s a look into how Erin finds the time…



Guest post by Erin Teagan


Finding the time to write is a universal struggle for writers. Day jobs, kids, pets, snowmageddons, to-do lists, books to read…there are a million things that require our time and attention before we can give anything to writing.

When I was in college I wrote a terrible YA novel. I worked on it during holiday breaks and in the summer. I pictured what writing would look like when I graduated, churning out book after book with all the time I’d have. A 9 to 5 job? No studying? What else did adults do with their time? Ha!

It took that first year of working to realize that if I wanted to be a writer I had to make it a priority. Because even though I chose a career that rarely required take-home work, it sometimes meant working late. And sometimes it meant traveling and giving up my weekends. It also meant going back to school for a graduate degree. I fantasized about my old college days. What did I do with those huge chunks of time between classes? Why hadn’t I worked on my novel more?

I researched how other writers fit it all in (I’m a scientist. I research EVERYTHING). Lots of articles talked about the time suck of the Internet and TV. But I loved those kind of time-sucks! After working nine or ten hours, sometimes it was all I could do to just sit on a couch with my roommate or husband or 90 lb lap dog and stare at the TV like a zombie. And if you didn’t surf the Internet for at least a little bit, imagine how far behind you’d get on surprise attack kitten videos or dogs romping in the snow? Sometimes you just had to be part of society, you know?

Other articles talked about writing in the wee hours of the morning or into the dark of night. Some of the most successful authors wrote while the rest of the world was sleeping. And I thought, I should give it a try. I was a night person. I used to study into the midnights, I should surely be able to churn out a book or two that way. Except I found that I just couldn’t turn off my to-do list. Those unchecked boxes that remained from my day haunted me, my brain chatter too loud. Was I even meant to be a writer if I couldn’t find any time to write?

I pictured myself fifteen years older, with kids, a mortgage, real-life problems and complications. If I was going to get writing into my schedule, it had to be now. So I tallied my excuses. Why I couldn’t write at night. Why I couldn’t give up my time-sucks. Why I couldn’t possibly write in the early morning. And what I found was I had far less excuses (though they were good ones, I tell you) about writing in the morning.

I remember the first time I tried it. I set my alarm fifteen minutes early. I was on a business trip which meant long, tiring hours. But there were no more excuses. I knew my brain would resist this new schedule so I treated myself to some new books. Plot workbooks. Writing exercises. Books on writing. The first day was a struggle, but I made myself do one writing exercise. I was groggy, the hotel coffee was pretty terrible, but once I got the writer juices flowing, it wasn’t as horrific as I had feared.

This was a big change for me so it took me months. Each week I set my alarm fifteen minutes earlier. By the end of it, I was waking up at 4:45 in the morning and my brain was forgetting that I was a night-person. I felt so successful! At the end of that first year I had revised my terrible young adult novel (and then put it in a locked drawer) and managed to write a somewhat decent draft of a new middle grade. I felt so accomplished! I had managed to trick my night-person brain to be something that could function and focus in the wee hours of the day.

Nearly fifteen years later, with real-life complications, kids and a mortgage, I’m so thankful I took the plunge and made writing a priority in my schedule. It took some trial and error and brain training to figure out what worked best for me, but now I can be sure to check off that one ‘writing’ box on my to-do list every day.

Now if I could just apply that to the rest of my life like going through my overstuffed filing cabinet, resolving that toll violation, or exercising. But really, who runs on a snow day? And is that filing cabinet really hurting anyone? So I’ll leave those tasks unchecked on my list for today. At least I got some writing in.


Erin TeaganErin Teagan has a master’s degree in science and worked in biochemistry labs for more than ten years where she wrote endless Standard Operating Procedures.  She’s an avid reader and has reviewed middle grade and young adult books for Children’s Literature Database and Washington Independent Review of Books.  She’s active in SCBWI and this will be her eighth year co-chairing the Mid-Atlantic fall conference. STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURES will be her debut middle grade novel. Erin is represented by Marie Lamba of The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency.

9 thoughts on “Agent Monday: Finding the Time to Write

  1. This explains why the Midatlantic Fall Conference runs so well. You must have Standard Operating Procedures for that too. I agree with you on writing in the morning. I found if I left it for the evening, I’d be burnt out from my day job, and often be thinking all day about how I needed to write. Writing in the morning feels so much more fulfilling.

  2. Finding time to write is absolutely the bane of every writer’s existence. But your idea of retraining yourself in 15 minute increments is smart. Of course this kind of good advice would come from a scientist.

  3. THIS MORNING, I found a great way to find the time to write. I ran out of real coffee
    beans so I made myself a cup of that (wanna be real coffee) Instant Coffee. (Chase & Sanborn: Awful stuff but I was desperate to jump-start my day) Well, not thinking straight, I forgot the most critical step, I forgot to boil the water so I mixed the granules in a cold cup of water (for 3 min. to get them to dissolve- about the time it would have taken to boil water) and then I put the microwave safe cup it in the microwave for 1 minute. I turned on the micro-wave machine and instantly, I went back in time, but only for a minute. Now I’m working on a way to go back in time for at least an hour at a time, just to write. Great idea huh? Try it some time.

  4. Erin, I think that’s great you slowly changed your habit to find time in the morning. And your key to success was transitioning to it, I bet! I wrote my first novel writing from 4:30 – 6:30am each day for 7 months. Those words do add up! Now on to how to make the most of time – when I do have it! I just bought a timer and trying the Pomadoro technique where you work in 25 min. increments without interruption and then take a small break. Heard its a fantastic way to keep up creativity too. Wish me luck 🙂 And keep up your great time management!

    • Thank you! The Pomadoro technique sounds interesting – taking little breaks works for me too. Most morning it’s usually (see above reply…) to get some more coffee. 🙂 Good luck and I hope it works for you!

  5. this article was really encouraging to me. I’m the mom with the mortgage and 4 kids…I’m a night person, but I’m so tired at night that I don’t think very productively then. I’ve been toying with writing in the morning, but was convinced I wouldn’t be able to make myself a morning person. Reading your experience encouraged me to give it a real try, not one of those fake tries 🙂 Your Middle age novel sounds good, I clicked over and looked for it on amazon, then realized it must not be out yet. Having kids, I find myself pre-reading books for them, and I’ve become a fan of many middle age books, I will keep my eye out for yours.

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