As a child, I liked to imagine all the other adventures the day had before it got to me. Growing up on the west coast of the States, I felt privileged to be one of the last to experience the day before it transitioned into tomorrow. I would lay out, under the sun, and try to picture what had transpired for others, what events had already colored the day thousands of miles away. It made me less lonely.
Time is an unusual thing. It is ephemeral, slippery, and sometimes a real jerk. It is the natural enemy of the writer, mostly because there is never enough of it.
In many regards, my writing is an extension of my childish concept of time. It is a way to capture time and a way for me to explore all the manifestations and possibilities of the day. With words, I can pause, rewind, or fast-forward. I can do what I wish, and no one can stop me (insert evil belly laugh here). The problem is that I must have time in order to play with those words.
P.S. Don’t get me started on the ephemeral, slippery, and sometimes jerkish nature of playing with words.
Today’s Writer’s Life installment is all about finding time, or, rather, carving time, making time, forcing time, insisting on time. Stephen Koch puts it simply: “A writer writes. Constantly. Obsessively. Every chance that he or she gets.”
There are dozens of quotes out there on the need for consistent writing. Faulkner said, “I think if you’re going to write you’re going to write, and nothing will stop you.” Ray Bradbury instructed, “Just write every day of your life. Read Intensely. Then see what happens. Most of my friends who are put on that diet have very pleasant careers.” Henry Miller advised, “Write first and always. Painting, music, friends, cinema, all these come afterwards.” It comes in many different forms, but the message is clear. A writer writes.
So how do you find that time? Here are a few tips.
Establish a routine:
Play around until you find the time of day when the words flow the best, and you have the most focus. Try to write as often as possible at that time, that way you make the most of your writing.
Communicate the importance of your writing time:
Let your family and friends know that this isn’t just a hobby or job. Writing is something you must do. It is something you are passionate about and driven to do. For many writers, it is something that keeps them sane. Be clear that this time is sacred to you. Those who love you will respect that.
You need to write. You also need to be there for your friends and family. Sometimes the lines between writing life and family life can get muddled and blurred, and you find yourself trying to write but constantly distracted by your families needs or your guilt. On the flipside, you might spend hours with your family where your mind is on your writing instead of what you are supposed to be doing. By scheduling time when you plan to be present and active with loved ones, you unblur those lines and establish limits. Carve out the time to write. Don’t feel guilty about it. But when the time comes to be with your loved ones, be all present. As hard as it may be, especially when a project is flowing, put your words aside and focus on the people around you. By being mindful about creating time to spend with loved ones, and by making the most of that time, you are more likely to be productive during your writing time, and your loved ones are more likely to respect that time.
Don’t let other writerly activities get in the way of writing:
As writers, we have a lot of things pulling us in different directions. Writing groups, critique partners, workshops, platforms, research, and social media are just a few of the items that vie for our time. Don’t forget that your primary job, your prime directive, is to write. Without this, all other writerly activities are for naught. Don’t let these duties interfere or encroach upon you writing time. Be cautious. They can be dangerous tools of procrastination because they are easy to justify. Set limits and restrictions on engaging in these activities, especially if you start to notice them happening in place of writing (yeesh, I sound like I’m writing an article on how to avoid a gambling addiction).
The truth of the matter is simple. You must find the time to write, as often as possible. You must guard this time, especially from yourself, and make the most of it. Time may be a jerk, but she’s also precious and fragile. Don’t waste her and don’t abuse her.
“You will have to carve writing time from the corners of exhaustion and self-denial,” Stephen Koch advises. “And defend it from competing claims that will flow unendingly from family and friends, from your own enthusiasm, and–not least–from your own impulse to escape.”