This is probably the most life-appropriate title I’ve used yet.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been juggling a highly demanding job with an unnecessarily-complicated move. It’s been exhausting: days full of summer activities and evenings full of packing and planning. I love the job, I’m super excited about the move, but it’s incredibly consuming and you only have so many hours in the day. I mean, there’s a reason this post is a day late: when I had the time to write I did not have the energy and when I had the energy I did not have the time.
And that’s just the blog, and my poem-a-day. Editing the novel? Forget it. Every time I open up Clara Delaney it’s felt like someone dropped a sack of potatoes on my shoulders.
Here’s the problem: I love being busy, and this isn’t the first time my life has been crazy chaotic. It’s definitely not going to be the last. My writing can’t go by the wayside every time something turns it upside-down.
What steps can I take to squeeze more time out of the day? How do I find time for what I love?
What’s the real problem?
Everyone wants to write a book.
I know for a fact there are a couple people who are going to read this post with a bit of a sinking feeling. Quite a few of those people are in fact wonderful writers with amazing stories inside them: that doesn’t mean they’ve written a word of prose in the past five, ten years. Or that they have the time to sit down and actually work on their book right now.
This is my advice to those people: sit down and think. Don’t berate yourself for not doing it. Don’t think about what you should be doing. Sit down and ask yourself, “Why am I not writing?”
The usual responses: I don’t have time. I’m just caught up in work right now. I’m just so busy right now. Those are legitimate responses, but here’s the thing: they’re usually only partially true.
I’d bet money the time does exist, you just spend it doing something else. Gardening. Going to bars. Playing video games. In my case, the vice is watching Netflix and crocheting. Or reading. Or getting stuck in the black hole that is Reddit. For me, when I say I’m too busy to write, what I really mean is that I’m using my downtime to give my brain a break. And possibly making lacy bookmarks.
So the next question is, “Is that what I want to spend my time doing instead?”
Sometimes the answer is yes. Maybe you have a small kid: they’ll grow up fast, so spend time with them now. That’s a great reason not to write. Maybe you’re literally working 12-hour days and using the remaining 4 hours of free time to eat and commute. That’s also a great reason not to write, although it makes me hope you love your job. Hell, maybe you’re just nuts about your garden or video games or jogging or whatever other passion is taking up your time.
And if that’s the answer you come to, awesome. Stop being so hard on yourself, close this blog, and go do something you love. You’ve got a pretty good life. Enjoy it.
But if that’s not your answer…
Ask yourself what you like about how you spend your time.
If you, like me, are addicted to Netflix… Why? What appeals to you so much about that time? Personally, my job is pretty mentally demanding and it’s nice to turn off your brain a little. Whereas editing? Still pretty mentally demanding. I don’t want to think when I get off of work, I want to relax for a little bit. And “for a little bit” usually means “until it’s time to make dinner/go to bed”.
But (for me) it’s more than just that. It’s a way of isolating myself. I spend all day being incredibly social, and putting in the headphones means no one’s going to talk to me. Having a book in front of your face is a similar signal: “Don’t talk to me unless something’s on fire or bleeding.” (And if you’re one of those people who ignores that signal: for the love of all that is decent in the world, get your act together. People are trying to read.)
So, no matter your time-waster: what makes it so appealing? Why is that something that you look forward to at the end of the day? Why is that what you do to relax?
And once you know that…
How can you apply that appeal to writing?
I isolate myself when I write for a number of reasons. For one thing, it’s practical: I’m not going to edit my novel at a nightclub. But mainly, it’s nice. I go to a coffee shop or the library with a pair of headphones, plug ’em in, and watch my characters do their thing. It’s pretty similar to television, actually, when you get in the zone: relaxing, entertaining, and when I get going I’m as much along for the ride as any reader.
Basically, you have to change what you look forward to at the end of the day.
Don’t look forward to taking your pants off and potato-ing it up in front of the TV: look forward to your hour of quiet isolation at the coffee shop before you go home. Find the similarities between what you do regularly and what you want to be doing, and focus on them. If there aren’t similarities, find a way to make them. It’s not about making writing a priority, but rather wanting it to be.
This isn’t just about writing.
This works for anything. Want to start jogging? Find a reason to love it. Want to start gardening? Find a reason to love it. Want to be the type of person who makes impossible space engines in their garage on the weekends? Maybe start off by playing Kerbal Space Program, but you’ll get there. Just find a reason to love it.
Don’t fight who you are. Figure yourself out and trick yourself into being who you want to be.
Anyway, my blog post will be on time next week.