Three Ways to Write a Book When You Don’t Have Time for It


Over the last six months I’ve written a book — even though my schedule didn’t seem to have room for it. It’s not the longest book in the world, but also not particularly short; if published it will come to maybe two hundred pages. Efforts to get it published are, of course, already underway.

But how did I write it if I didn’t have time for it? For that I can thank my favorite cafe here in Beersheva — along with a few principles I’ve mastered over the years. I know that many people harbor plans of writing a book, but have trouble getting to it. But even if you think you can’t do it, it may be that you can.

1. Write the book someplace other than where you work — like a cafe.

In my case, I work at home and do the bulk of my work on my PC. If I had tried to write my book in that same setting, the inner reaction would have been, “Oh come on, I’m supposed to do this too?”

But what about my cafe? It’s only ten minutes from here on foot. That means I can tell the always-lazy, always-recalcitrant guy who lives within me: “Come on, we’re taking a little walk. Yes, you’re going to do even more work — but a totally different kind of work. And you’re going to get treats!”

If, like most people, you work at some workplace, it may be that back in your home you can find some niche that’s quiet and pleasant enough to work on a book. Cafes, though, offer certain advantages. To me, it’s mainly that you can keep being alone, without being too alone. Having people around — people you don’t know, so that you don’t have to talk to them — provides a kind of support.

You’ve hit some kind of snag in the flow of your prose? Staring into the void? Look up, and be distracted by the people around you. You don’t have to sit there by yourself thinking “I can’t write. I’m never going to write again…” and all that junk.

2. The cafe should have the proper conditions.

For one thing, it shouldn’t be a cafe with loud music. Only soft music — or no music at all — allows you to hear your inner thoughts. Without at least some access to what’s going on inside, you can’t get much writing done.

For another, if possible, it shouldn’t be a cafe that’s too crowded. Yes, it’s an advantage that there are people around — but not too many of them. Not so many that they’re constantly passing your table and — as you feel in your writerly paranoia — glancing over your shoulder at what you’re writing.

Best of all is a cafe with a view. Mine has an outdoor patio, which, when the weather permits — and in southern Israel, that’s most of the time — is ideal. It looks out on the large, spreading green lawn of the mall; beyond that, the street and some buildings — and all of it under a serene sky.

Love those mornings at my cafe — soft music, soft buzz of people, calming view. Perfect balance between energy and calm. The feeling that the world is on my side.

3. Coffee — speaking of energy — should be drunk.

I’m not trying to turn anyone into a caffeine addict, and if you can get by without this stimulant, that’s great. I’ve observed, though, that most people can’t. That being the case, might as well make the most of it.

Caffeine is especially advantageous when — to repeat — you’re writing a book that you don’t have time to write. Caffeine has a distinctly positive effect on the number of words you can cram into a minute of typing. This is a much-tested, much-confirmed empirical finding.

Of course, there has to be something inside that needs to be said in the first place. No amount of caffeine can concoct something out of nothing. (As in foolish people who say, “The world didn’t need to be created, it just existed” — but that’s a different subject….) In the case of my book, I knew there was something lurking down there that wanted to be said. There is no psychotherapist like caffeine to elicit a stream — sometimes a rapid stream, sometimes a torrent — of words from the shadowy unconscious.

So after about half a year, writing for small segments of six mornings a week, about three hundred words a day (which is not very many), I had a book of about fifty thousand words, which is a decent length. Of course I had to do to touchups and revisions at home — but that, to me, is the easy part. Getting some material to work with in the first place — for that I can thank my perfect, pleasant, temperate, supportive cafe.

(Artwork created using multiple images.)