Wednesday, June 22, 2011

making the time to write

Inquisitive friend/family member/acquaintance/stranger: How do you find the time to write?
Me: You make the time.

sounds simple enough, right?
take a few minutes, sprinkle in some seconds and a big helping of hours... and voila! you've made time.

or if you're not so great at following recipes, you can do as your friend/family member/acquaintance/stranger suggested and find the time. maybe time just slipped in between your couch cushions or got pushed under the bed. really, it has to be around here somewhere...

yeah, making and finding time hasn't really worked for me either. here's why:
there are only 24 hours in a day.
there's just no getting around it. i have personally tried to squeeze an extra few minutes out of that last hour of the day, and still the clock flips to Midnight, and a new day begins.

see, when we writers tell people we "make time" to write, what we're really saying is:
we make sacrifices; we make tough choices; we make ourselves sick from lack of sleep.

if you're anything like me, you have a day job that makes it impossible for you to write for 9 hours out of the day. you also require a minimum amount of sleep. (for me this is about 6 hours a night with the occasional good solid 9-hour slumber thrown in to catch up.) it's also hard to avoid about 2 hours each day of eating, driving, attending to personal hygiene. (please do not neglect the hygiene, i beg of you.)

so we're up to what? 17 hours out of 24 gone. well that leaves a full 7 hours! surely that's plenty of time to write.
yes, by all means spend your 7 hours writing.

OR - start subtracting the time you spend:
attending your children's dance recitals and sporting events, talking on the phone to family and dear friends, paying bills, cleaning your home, running errands... those 7 hours are disappearing right before your eyes.

making/finding time to write is HARD, and you have my empathy. it's all about figuring out a schedule that works for you. maybe one day you spend your 7 free hours running errands and doing chores. another day or 2 or 3, it's all about attending to your family. but some days - some days - you will find that those 7 hours are wide open. and then you have to choose. you can spend those hours catching up with your TIVO, connecting with people on social media, playing your favorite video game, lounging by a pool, reading, working out.... the list is endless.
but at some point, you have to choose writing.
and to make this choice, you should enjoy writing as much as you enjoy all of those other things. it doesn't have to be your top priority (like family - or hygiene!), but it should be A priority.

for example, i love TV. i mean, i looooooove TV. whenever Handsome suggests we cancel cable, i get a clutch in my chest. don't take away my TV! but i am equally entertained - and a hell of a lot more fulfilled - by writing. so about 80% of the time, i will choose writing over television. that means, while i TIVO my soap opera daily, i only watch one episode a week and delete the rest. other shows have been wiped from the recording schedule altogether.
as a writer, cutting back on TV was my first step toward making time, and i've never regretted it.

i've also sacrificed having a spotlessly clean house. "picked up" and "not obviously dusty" are now good enough.
i let my roses get 5 feet tall before trimming instead of obsessively sculpting them at a perfect 3 feet every few weeks.
i found the time to write in my rose bushes and under the pile of dishes in the sink.

and still i don't write every day. heck, i don't even write every week. i take long breaks between drafts to catch up on life and recharge the creative batteries. and i don't beat myself up about it. i know i am capable of choosing to write, so i give myself permission to sometimes choose something else instead.

holy long-winded post!
all of this is to say... whatever sacrifices you are making, however you are stealing your moments, you are doing OKAY! you don't have to write as often as anyone else. you don't have to feel guilty for sometimes choosing yourself over your characters. as long as you are making some time to write, you are on a good path. some days you'll find more time, some days less, but set your own pace. and - above all - write as often as you need to to scratch that creative itch, but only as often as you can and still love it. make the time to write because you want to.

Inquisitive friend/family member/acquaintance/stranger: But how do you make the time?
Me: *sigh* Let's just say I borrowed this time turner from my friend Hermione...


Megan Miranda said...

I LOVE this -- it's so true! I never thought I'd stop watching television, but I did. Turns out, I like writing more. We actually did cancel cable this year.

Oh, and my house. Yeah, no comment :)

Elissa J. Hoole said...

nice post! I think I usually choose to write instead of sleep. oh, yeah, and work out. *feels guilty*

LM Preston said...

I know how you feel. But I had to take a break from it in order to get ready for vacation.

erinjade said...

Megan, i would bet most folks who want to write could spare some TV time. it's shocking how much time we spend in front of that box.

Elissa, i put writing ahead of working out too, but in the weeks i don't write (like this one), i try to workout daily to make up for lost time. same with sleep. haha!

LM Preston, i <3 vacations. when i'm prepping for vaca, EVERYTHING else falls down the priority totem pole - including writing! ;)

Linda said...

Having insomnia has really freed up my schedule. Although I understand that not sleeping is not exactly a viable option for everyone. And I don't watch much TV either so that helps too. But yeah, I've met so many people who can't "find the time to write" yet they have time to spend hours watching TV or playing video games. It's all about priorities.

erinjade said...

exactly, Linda. :) and i think it comes down to enjoying the writing. it has to be as fun as TV or whatever else people give up. even when it's hard work, it should be fun or why bother?