Wednesday, April 25, 2012

"I don't have time to write!"

When I started writing, I had a two-month-old baby. When he was four-months-old, he came with me to my first RWA chapter meeting, where I breast fed him throughout the entire thing to keep him quiet. That was a long, long meeting. What amazed me, at the time, was the everyone seemed to have the same complaint: "I never have time to write."

Okay, some of these were self-explanatory. There amount of free time in every day is precious and finite; if you spend that time quilting or working on a scrapbook, then no, you're not going to have time to write. There are things we all have to do, like walk the dogs and make sure the house is clean enough to live in. Some people have kids, some don't, and if you fall into the former category, congratulations, you probably have even less time to write. Back in those days, I heard women saying things like, "My husband goes to bed at eleven, so I stay up until one, and then I get up at four, before the kids get up at six, so I can steal some writing time." I used to think, "That's nuts, if you want to write, you can find time without sacrificing sleep." I was doing it, and I had a newborn.

After a while, I realized that people weren't saying, "I have no time to write," but "I have no time to write in the way I want to write." I've heard, many times, "Oh, I can't write. I like to sit down with a glass of wine and no distractions." Or, "I can't write, I don't like where our computer is set up. Anyone could read over your shoulder." The fact that there is no place, on earth or outside of it, that exists without distraction, or that they were writing in hopes of publication (where anyone could read it!) never seemed to crack through the obstacle they'd set up for themselves.

Times... have not changed. This weekend, I sat on a panel at a library event. A woman in the audience asked, "When do you find time to write?" I gave her my honest answer, that you should look for the time to write the way a drug addict looks like a place to shoot up. Here are three ways I've stolen time during the days of my career:

  1. Get some kind of recording device and talk out your story. When my son started preschool, we chose one that was, for some stupid reason, a forty-five minute drive into the city. One way. I made use of the drive time by buying a digital recorder and just talking my prose into it. When I'd get home, I'd slap on some headphones and hastily transcribe it. You'd be amazed at how quickly your story fleshes out that way. The most common objection I hear about this one is, "I can't, because I can't stand to listen to the sound of my own voice." If this is you, then I say unto thee, "Deal with it."
  2. Keep a notebook with you at all times. If you're waiting at the doctor's office, or you're on your lunch hour, you can write in the notebook. No, you will not look weird. I've seen people balancing their checkbooks in line at McDonald's. You will look perfectly normal.
  3. Take one of your hobbies out back and shoot it dead. I love hobbies as much as the next person, but let's get real. Do you "not have time to write" because you'd rather be doing something else? Do you really have to finish that massive cross-stitch project this year? Or spend seven hours a week scrap booking vacation photos? Can you sacrifice any of the time you use on those activities to write? Okay. Then do that.
I don't think it's easy for everyone, in every situation, to find the time to write. But I do think that the moment you say, "I can't, because," you're saying a lot more about your desire to write than you are your schedule. If you want to do something, you can do it. You just have to find a way, and every time you throw "can't" in there, you're throwing up another brick wall directly in your own way.

And please, no getting three and four hours of sleep a night because you think it makes you dedicated. It just makes your brain tired. And there will be plenty of time to have a tired brain once your career is firmly established and you've inevitably over-commit yourself to all the great ideas that sprung up while you finished the first book.

Stop looking at me like that. I don't get up at four in the morning to write. I get up at four in the morning because that's the only time the bathroom is free.


Mia Watts said...

I'm totally with you on that. When I sit to write, I get a ton of words out. Even if someone is a slow typer, you still put words on a page. It's actually sitting down to do it that people balk at.

Mine is guilt. If I type all day and don't (empty the dishwasher, do a load of laundry, etc) the house won't fall apart. And now my kids are older. For me, and for them, housecleaning has become their way of contributing to the running of the household. If they want electricity and food and some mom time later, then they let me work while they take care of the other things.

These are our jobs. We all need to treat it like one.

Molly Daniels said...

When I was first writing, it was the two hours during my kids' daily naps, and while at the laundramat betweeen loads. When I'm 'in the zone', I've even taken my notebook to church (that was an extreme time when I couldn't write fast enough).

LOL...I need the spouse to get a hobby instead of telling me to clean...and no, asking him 'what's stopping you?' isn't a valid comeback. So I clean after lunch, then get back on the computer.

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