How to Generate Creativity When You Don’t Have Time to Write

GrubStreet Instructor, marketing consultant, writer, and mother of two, Allison Pottern Hoch knows how to squeeze maximum creativity from every spare second. She’ll be covering this topic and more in her class Writing Like a Parent, Parenting Like a Writer on July 7th, but until then read on to find out how to engage creatively right now.



We’ve all heard it, and we’ve all said it: “I wish I had more time.”


Before I had kids, I never felt like I had enough time to write. There was always day-job work to do, or housework, or travel, or grocery shopping, or TV. But now that I have kids—two under the age of six—I’ve learned what it means to actually not have time to write. Because all those spare moments between errands, work, and sleep (when I can get it), have been filled up by children and all the things they need that I never seem to have time enough to provide.


Author and artist Julia Cameron gives her take on writing time in her book The Right to Write: “The myth that we must have “time”—more time—in order to create is a myth that keeps us from using the time we do have. If we are forever yearning for ‘more,’ we are forever discounting what is offered.” This speaks to a deeper truth: it’s never about “time,” not really. It’s about what we’d do with it, given the chance. That constant reaching for more time is often a distraction from what can be done right now, what we truly want. What innermost need are we trying to meet by seeking out more time?


Whether I’m talking to writing-parents/parenting-writers in my classes or to writing colleagues, everyone seems to agree: the hardest part is making the space in your life for your art. Whether it’s physical space, mental space, or the space in your schedule, learning to prioritize yourself and your art is hard when the stakes feel so high: being present for your family, your job, and your health is crucial too. It isn’t always easy or straightforward. How can we balance our obligations with our creative needs? How do we find creative energy, even if we can’t find the time, to write?




The simplest place to start is physical space. “If you have not yet claimed and made for yourself a room of your own, begin to do so. Do what is possible: love it, use it, and dream of the day that you can take the next step,” says Pat Schneider in her book Writing Alone and with Others. Is there a corner of your home where you can enjoy an occasional moment of creative reflection? Populate it with things that inspire you: books, art, plants, or fresh sheets of blank paper.


If there’s no space at home, try a local shop or park where you can regularly spend a few moments enjoying people watching or nature. By carving out a physical space for yourself, you are also carving out small pockets of time to spend there.


“We have a fantasy that there is such a thing as good creative time, an idyll of endless seamless time unfolding invitingly for us to frolic in creatively,” says Cameron in her book The Sound of Paper. “No such bolts of limitless time exist for most of us. Our days are chopped into segments, and if we are to be creative, we must learn to use the limited time we have.” Finding ways to be resourceful with the few spare moments we have is the next step toward building creative momentum.


Every way that we find to touch art is a creative act. Read a poem, listen to music, watch a film, or savor a delicious meal; these are all ways we can absorb inspiration from the spaces and moments around us. Listening to an audiobook or podcast or reading short articles in your subject area can immerse you in writerly life even if the rest of your world seems full of bills and Legos. This may not be putting words on a page, but it fills the creative coffers, feeds the muse, fertilizes our mind for the moments when we can sit down and fill a page.


There are also micro ways to engage in writing when time feels scarce or fleeting. Have a notebook on hand for the occasional idea, line of poetry, or misheard quote to stay in touch with your art as well as in the world around you. Write a paragraph in a journal each night or morning to create a habit of showing up to the page and committing ten minutes to the act. Read a book and underline passages you love, or write a short review, as a way to engage with literature and keep learning. Or—my favorite—meet up with a fellow writer (even if your kids are with you!) to talk about writing.


Building a habit of small but regular intentional acts of inspiration and creation primes us for larger projects. A novel is made up of chapters, scenes, paragraphs, sentences. It’s okay to start small—what helps most is being consistent. “I don’t know why we fail to talk about art in terms of humble diligence,” says Cameron in The Sound of Paper. “As artists we can make our work daily and doable enough that we give it its daily measure of time and consistency. We can ‘show up’ for our artist and, if we do, when we call it, our artist will show up for us.”


Sometimes, we really don’t have time to sit down and write. But by making a space for yourself to reflect and allowing yourself to engage in art and creative thinking, you’re preparing yourself for the day when you do.


Working on a novel or a memoir? Check out these Six Tips for Staying Motivated for Big Creative Projects.

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About the Author

Allison Pottern Hoch is a writer and event coach with over a decade of experience in marketing, publicity, sales, and event planning. She spent four years promoting academic titles at The MIT Press before she went to work for Wellesley Books as a bookseller and event coordinator. She organized, hosted, and promoted over 150 events during her tenure, ranging in size from intimate workshops and lunches to multi-media events with over 700 attendees. She worked with veteran authors, celebrities, and debut authors alike. She has a B.A. in Creative Writing from Carnegie Mellon University where she coordinated the Adamson Visiting Writers series. Allison is currently working on her second novel and teaching courses on writing and marketing at Grub Street and The Writer's Loft. For more information on her workshops and coaching services, visit

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