Original question from Quora:

How does one afford the time to write a book?

Do most authors work traditional jobs and write books during off hours? Pitch books to publishers for an advance? Or some other combination of strategies to afford time to create and work? We don’t often hear about the lives of authors who aren’t already on the bestseller lists.

My Answer:

I’m writing my next book right now and I’ll tell you exactly how I am writing it.

Every day I find myself in front of a computer because my day job is to write software. It’s a rewarding job and I get paid well enough to keep doing it. I earn far more writing software than I do writing books.

So for now, I write software.

But I’m an author and I have stories to tell. Some of them are big, grandiose stories that I think are amazing and want to tell people about.

Thus, I am a storyteller.

And to me I like to write and it feels natural enough that I write my stories down.

Thus, I am a writer.

And I’ve self-published a book and people buy it and like it enough that I plan to write more.

Thus, I am an author.

How did that happen?

I show up to write every single day.

If you want, you put your laptop away, close Quora, etc. because every single answer will sound something like “write every day” and there is a very good reason for it.


Consider this…

A novel is probably going to run about 80,000 words plus or minus twenty thousand. That is what it takes to hit around 300 pages.

Now, if I have a bad day of writing I get 0 words. Crap. That sucks.

If I do okay, I might get 500–1,000 words. Cool. 1 > 0.

If I do great, I’m over 2,000 words in a day.

Imagine I crank out ten times more than a very good day by going on some kind of crazy 24 hour writing binge…

That is 20,000 words.

Even a heroic effort doesn’t dent a book. Writing books isn’t about being Hercules and lifting an giant boulder over your head one time.

Writing books is about building pyramids one brick at a time. It takes months and sometimes years of daily, ongoing effort to finish a book, even as a rough draft.

With my day job, I’m happy to do 500 words a day with the periodic 1,000 or more when there is time.

But the trick is always to show up enough times to finish.

On my current book I’m 21,583 words in to what I estimate to be around 85,000 words on the rough draft. That means I’m about 1/4 of the way done.

I’m going to keep showing up every day and it will take me 60–120 days to finish the rough draft. That is 2–4 months of every day without missing a day.

When I miss a day it could take a total of six months to cross the finish line on a rough draft.

Alright, so how do I make time for that every day? The same way I make time for anything.

I just do it. It’s easy to just make time for it and be committed to finish.

All I need is to sit down for 30–60 minutes and write. If I get that done, I have a good day.

I prioritize it and make sure I show up and write every day and every day and every day until I’ve built the pyramid that is my next book. And after that I’ll do it again and again and again.

That is how you write books.

Even Stephen King clocks in at something like 2,000 words as a full-time bestselling author. That means he can crank out books probably 2–4x faster than me, which is amazing.

Also, that means Stephen King has to show up every day for months to finish a book. He has amazing writing ability and yet, he has to go through the same slog that the rest of us do.

The moral of the story being, if Stephen King has to show up every day and Brian Knapp has to show up every day and every other author has to show up every day to finish a book, the only question is…

What are you willing to do to show up every day and write your next book?

Ask yourself that over and over until you have an answer. It doesn’t matter how long you show up or how many words you write.

It matters that you show up every day until you finish.


P.S. I unpack more ideas in Creative Genius.