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Insane! This Fiction Writer Wrote a Pulitzer-Prize Winning Novel With a Chronically Ill Child on…

  • 5 min read

Calling all part-time writers. Time isn’t something we find, it’s something we make.

Time is finite.

It’s the one thing in life that you can never get back. Once it’s gone, it’s gone forever.

A lot of writers struggle with managing their time.

When I asked my subscribers about what was holding them back from writing more in 2022, reason number one was:

finding time to write (because of job/life, you name it)

If you struggle with time management, this story is for you

So this story is an inspiration for everyone who is struggling with this aspect of the writing process and wants to do something about it in 2023.

I’m a working mom. I’m married and have a two-year-old toddler in the house. I’m not a full-time writer. I’m a part-time writer so the story I’m about to share really resonated with me.

Here we go:

You might be familiar with the fantasy novel Tinkers.


This novel won the Pulitzer Prize in 2010.

Back then, when Paul Harding was in the writing process of his manuscript he had a toddler at home that suffered from a nasty chronic illness:

chronic ear infection.

I recently got an ear infection and I can tell you it’s absolute horror especially if you’re a little child.

Here are just some of the symptoms:

  • A feeling of pressure in the ear.
  • Ear pain.
  • Fluid draining from ears.
  • Trouble hearing.
  • Trouble sleeping.

Paul Harding was in a crazy season in his life

I guess you can imagine that if your toddler has a chronic infection like this it’s hard to soothe or settle it.

Your toddler might cry more than three hours a day (which is torture!) plus you’re sleep-deprived and need to drink a lot of coffee to stay awake and care for your little one who can’t sleep well and is in horrible pain.

Paul Harding was in this crazy season in his life, when he wrote his fiction novel Tinkers.

He had a wife, two small children, and a job as a teacher.

That’s insane, isn’t it?

How the hell did he find time to write his novel?

Every time his toddler started to cry, he’d grab the baby and a notepad and head out to the car.

Then he’d drive around town until the toddler calmed down and fell asleep.

Then he’d pull over and write until the toddler woke up again.

“The second he fell asleep, I’d pull over and write a sentence at a time.” he told The Harvard Gazette

So Harding wrote parts of Tinkers on the backs of sales receipts, post-it notes, and other scraps, working it over for years before publishing it.

Harding said the original version of his book was nearly indecipherable.

“The way I write is the way those robot cleaners vacuum (…) Fiction doesn’t come to me in linear chronology. (…) spread it out on the floor, took scissors and tape, and cut it all up.”

It really worked and paid off for Harding.

His only hope was that his writing would one day become a book although he was in such a difficult season in his life.

When he finally printed his manuscript, no one wanted to publish it. This way rejection became his best friend.

However, work and commitment really worked and paid off for him.

His first novel got published in a small non-profit agency called Bellevue Literary Press.

In 2010, at the age of 42, he won the Pulitzer Prize and the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize among other honors with a small-press book.

The New York Times headlined: “Mr. Cinderella: From Rejection Notes to the Pulitzer.”

Tinkers has sold more than 550,000 copies and counting across all formats.

4 inspiring quotes from Paul Harding about writing and life in general

I found 4 quotes (Vulture) by Paul Harding that are really inspiring.

Let these quotes inspire you to use your time well.

Because once it’s gone, it’s gone forever and you’re one year older.

  • “But as a writer, you can’t think about it all. You have to think about what’s next.”
  • For Harding, the ideal stage of writing is when “I’m not actually thinking up and assigning to it, I’m just taking the dictation.”
  • “My books are smarter than I am,” Harding states. “That’s one of the things I love about art: It’s improvisational.”
  • Paul’s favorite quote is from Eckhart Tolle: “The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation but your thoughts about it.”

Bottom Line

I hate New Year's resolutions. Within a few weeks, most people simply forget about their resolutions.

I love *decisions*!

Decisions are the way to go.

Why not make the decision to dedicate x amount of time per day/ week to writing — no matter in what season of life you’re in?

This way, writing can become a habit!

Half a year after I gave birth to my baby, I started writing on Medium.

This is two years ago,

I’m so glad I started writing online and *made* time to write.


  • I quit binge-watching Netflix.
  • I started creating 80% and consuming 20%, instead of the other way around.
  • I dedicated a few hours in the evening to writing online.

I’m cheering you on!

Your future self will thank you for *making* the time in 2023.

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