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Rocks, Pebbles, and Sand – How to Prioritize Writing Time

Novel writer Renee Walsh discusses how she learned to prioritize her writing time using the metaphor of putting rocks, pebbles, and sand in a jar.

By Renee Walsh

May 23, 2022

To help to prioritize my writing time, I like the metaphor of putting rocks, pebbles, and sand in a jar. The biggest rocks are the most important things that should be placed in the jar first, allowing room for the pebbles and sand, the less important things. When the rocks go in first, there is room for my highest priorities and everything else.

As much as I love to write, though, I’m also a full-time teacher and mother. Career and family are the biggest rocks that fill my jar. Sometimes it might not be practical, or even possible, to give my writing practice “big rock” status. But even when my day seems full before it starts, I remind myself there is still space in the jar for my writing.

Creative Writing Plan

I just need to get creative and plan to sneak some writing into the crevices of my day. It might mean using speech-to-text on my phone while dog-walking or scribbling a page in my journal while my first-graders draft stories of their own. I’ve also learned to edit in the car while waiting for practice to let out. I plan these things in advance, making sure to find time to stick these smaller rocks in my jar.

For me, it’s important to remember that while my creative writing practice can’t always be a big rock, it can still fill up my jar. As long as I keep showing up, I’ll continue to grow as a writer. That’s what keeps me going.

Renee Walsh previously wrote for a lifestyle public relations house in New York City and currently teaches reading and writing workshops to elementary-