I am telling you the complete truth on this: every single morning, I spring from bed with a song on my lips. As I run to my PC, joy bursts out from my very core. As soon as I start typing, the words explode from my fingertips in a geyser of creativity. My future readers will be washed away in soul-shaking paroxysms of…
Oh, skip it. What a load of hooey. Run to my PC? For the first half hour or so after my feet hit the floor in the morning, I’m more Walking Dead than Running Writer. By the time I’m fully awake, it’s time to bathe, get dressed, get to my office, and clock in at work. When I’m done with the workday, the last thing I feel is creative.
Sound like anyone you know? That’s right…I can hear you nodding your collective head. First, there’s the boss, then the kids, then the spouse/partner, then the relatives, then the friends. All with some other plan for your time. Did I get that right?
You need a plan. Preferably one that works. The following three-step plan works for me. Maybe it will work for you, too.
1. Kill Your Most Demanding Friends and Relatives
Yeah, yeah, yeah…before you go reporting me to the constabulary, I so completely don’t mean the heading above. Planning a murder is far too time consuming. You need that time to write, not to research suitable poisons. However, there is a tendency among people who do not create to think of what you want to spend your time doing as unproductive and unnecessary. If you spend the weekend painting your house, they leave you alone. If you spend the weekend painting a still life and you don’t make your living as an artist, you are just wasting time that you could give to them.
Let me tell you about the value of the word “no”. People who can’t find time to write have trouble with this word. So, let me present it as an acceptable alternative to murder. You can say no or you can research poisons. In a forced choice, I’d say the word “no” has a nice ring. I’m not talking about refusing to help your children with their homework or denying yourself a social life. I’m just saying that the PTA will get along without you. Your friends and relatives can probably muddle along if you don’t happen to be available to them 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You don’t have to pick up the phone every time it rings.
So, make a list right now of the things you don’t want to do any more so that you can find time to write. Go ahead. Do it now. I’ll wait.
Got your list? Perfect. Now, repeat after me, “I’m sorry, I can’t. I have plans.” Because you do. No need to explain what those plans are. Those six words are all you need. You may not actually be writing at the time of those plans. You may be catching up on the housework because you are now using the time in which you used to do your housework as your writing time. But it doesn’t matter. Plans are plans. And they are nobody’s business but your own.
2. Break The TV And Silence The Internet
About ten years ago, I realized that I often had the TV on for background noise rather than giving my full attention to it. When it broke, I didn’t replace it. A few years ago, I bought a new one, but it is only hooked up to a computer, my Wii and a DVD player. I don’t have cable TV. It is not even connected to the antenna on my roof. If I want to watch something, I have to sit down and decide what that is going to be. I have to really want to watch a show, and when the show is over, the broadcast stops. I’d say this cut my TV viewing time by at least 75%. Although I use Hulu and subscribe to Netflix, I only watch about eight hours of “TV” per week now.
In most homes, the TV and Internet are always on and always there. It is much easier to turn on the TV than it is to force your brain into writing mode. But if the TV or social networking are time-sucks for you, you must absolutely force yourself to turn them off for an hour or so every day. In many homes TV time is family time, but your family won’t miss you if they are watching one program a night without you. Figure out which show you can skip and make your excuses for that hour.
If the Internet is your personal morass, write at the kitchen table the old-fashioned way — with pen and paper. Your Internet router may even have a setting that allows you to deny Internet access at certain times of day. If you are a parent, set that time to your kid’s homework time, and you can all do your homework together without any chance of anyone sneaking off for a peek at what their friends are tweeting. Brilliant! You can now avail yourself of modern technology without it forcing you to stray from your quest.
The Internet is a big problem for me. I am not much of a social networker, but I am a voracious seeker of knowledge. I subscribe to approximately 100 feeds about the arts, technology, and sundry other topics. Until recently, I read every word on every feed every day. I had to become pickier in what I read. I accomplished that by pledging to myself that I would cut down on my knowledge habit.
I started with my breaks at work, where I get a generous hour and a half free per day in a location where relatives and friendly demands cannot intrude. I used to use that time keeping up with my Internet reading while slamming down my meals. A month ago, I made a vow that I would write instead. And so I did. In the time I now have left before and after work for Internet cruising, I’ve gotten better at choosing specific articles I want to read. I still feel every bit as educated, but now I have a guaranteed hour every day in which I know I will be able to write.
3. Write every day
You have heard it before. Too many times to count. But did you do it? I did, and I found that the more I grabbed an hour a day to write, the more writing time I found at other times of the day. That extra time happens naturally when you allow yourself the freedom to indulge yourself in writing. Your lack of time may actually be avoidance. As William Saroyan said, “A writer has to find time to write every day. You have to get into the routine of writing. You have to get that momentum going” (from Morning Pages: The Almost True Story of My Life by Joseph Sutton).
Momentum is key to keeping me writing when everything in my life is trying to drag me away from it. As I started to meet the goals I set for myself, I remembered that daily writing is such a satisfying thing to do. Many of the distractions I used to face took care of themselves as I started to look forward to that enforced daily writing instead of seeing it as just another demand on my time. I’ve also added my own rules about my daily writing session(s) to keep that sense of momentum going. I now require what I produce to be used in some way, whether it be in a post for this blog, my novel, a planned short story, or an album note for a friend’s CD. It gets written and posted or filed in the proper place for later insertion in to that project. I’m not big on completing writing exercises. I finished my schooling a long time ago. What I write needs to be relevant to my needs right now.
There are lots of ways to use what you write. If you only have the roughest idea for a story or article, then write the outline. Outlining is a critical step in building your articles and stories. Outlining counts as writing time.
Even a review on Goodreads of a book you recently read would work when you are trying to build momentum. You write in order for your writing to be seen, don’t you? Put your heart and everything you know about writing into that review. Make it the best review you are capable of writing. I’ve seen reviews that were better written than the books they were attached to. Writing is writing, so think of it that way. When you do, you’ll see how quickly it leads to your own ideas.
Getting in to lock step with the suggestions above can remove about 90% of the impediments you face in finding time to write. Once you clear out social demands, technological distractions, and force yourself to stick to a daily writing routine, the time to write will be there if you truly want it. If you find that you still can’t clear your time for writing, then it may be time to admit that you don’t really want to write. At least not now. And that would be okay, too. Writing will always be ready and waiting for you when you are ready for it.