Time to Write, Part I

27 01 2010

I’ve been asked by two readers to address the issue of finding time to write. Ah, the age-old dilemma—or maybe, a more modern dilemma, as we in the United States rush around, trying to do everything and never accomplishing enough. It’s interesting to note how leisure time has declined for many Americans in recent decades and how even leisure time gets quickly filled by many scheduled and overly structured activities: parties, movies, play-dates for kids, etc.

This is all to say that finding and having the time to write comes down to how you set your priorities. I find it interesting that people who work full-time (or more than full-time, as many of my social justice organizer-friends do) get down on themselves for not ‘finding the time’ to write. I used to get down on myself for that too! I realized that I until I prioritize my writing over, say, my job (I left my full-time job last March in order to have more time to write), I would never magically find ‘more’ time to write. It simply didn’t exist. Because work isn’t the only thing I did when I worked full-time, I also needed sleep, social time and relatively sanitary conditions in my home. (Granted, some people don’t need some of those things, and may be able to carve out more time for writing then, but I do.)

Some people can get up and write everyday for thirty minutes, then promptly get up from the computer and eat breakfast, get dressed and do whatever they need to do to start their day. There are successful writers who do (or have done at one point in their careers) just that. I think I remember reading once that Edwidge Danticat wrote her first novel at night while she worked a full-time office job during the day.

But I’ve realized I’m not one of those writers, at least not now. I need more time. I need to get up, have breakfast with my husband, goof around on the Internet, do some exercise, maybe read something inspired and THEN sit down for two hours and get some serious writing done. (Yes, that’s an approximation of my average writing morning). I used to feel guilty for not being more ‘productive’ with my writing time until I began to have writing ‘dates’ with other writers—mostly in order to force myself to sit down and actually write. Those writers felt that they needed at least four hours of solid time in order to eventually get down to business—fifteen minutes’ worth of chit-chat would often start our time together, then getting coffee, then goofing around on the Internet, and THEN…you get the picture.

My left-brain, ‘day-job’ persona, however, loves structure and finds freedom and joy in it. Perhaps that’s why my more right-brain, artistic sides despises it so much. I have to trick myself into writing sometimes—like when I tell myself, ‘OK, let’s just write for ten minutes,” and then gleefully look up from typing at the clock to see that a full half-hour has passed. Or I have to just write whenever the creative impulse strikes—even if it’s five o’clock in the morning and I’d rather be sleeping (yes, this happens too, usually when I’m deep into the revision stage of writing a story and I can’t get it out of my head).

Finding time to write, as many writers will tell you, is not about magically making additional minutes or hours appear in your day, it’s about re-organizing your priorities to make writing one of them. If you want to write, do it—don’t wait until you have ‘more time’. Writing is like exercising—the more you do it, the better you’ll get. The converse is also true: the less you do it, the worse you’ll get.

So write, write write. If you know you need structure, create structure. Start a blog (or two, like I did). Ask a friend to meet you at a cafe to write for an hour. Ditch the trashy magazine while you wait for your clothes to dry at the laundromat and write instead. But just write. Even if it’s only for ten minutes a day. That’s ten minutes that you would’ve spent NOT writing. What are you waiting for?

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24 04 2010
(No) Time to Write « Writing Down the Path

[…] a week jobs ask me often: “How do I find time to write?” I answered that question in an earlier post, and I find myself turning to that post now to remind me that, even though I haven’t had time […]

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