When You Write is as Important as What You Write

When you write is as important as what you write, but as many writers know, time is often an elusive commodity in the writing life.

I’ve read a couple of writing books that address the issue of time, and the one thing that always annoys me is that the author is writing from a place of success, i.e., he/she is financially stable enough to do nothing but write. And that’s great for him/her.

The rest of us, however, still have regular jobs as spouses and parents, not to mention careers that take us outside our homes. Of writers who comprise this group, I extend much grace to the parents, especially if their children are still young. But hear me, O Potential Writer parenting babes: those little ones won’t be little for long, so enjoy them now.

In the meantime, jot your fabulous story ideas into a notebook to be revisited upon your child’s/children’s growing independence. Right now, the best thing you can do is raise them with love and devotion. This also applies to the writer caring for elderly parents or children who will always be with you due to circumstances beyond anyone’s control. Grace and peace to you as you set aside your dream for just a little while. I promise it will be waiting for you when the time is right.

Probably everyone who reads this post is old enough to remember his/her childhood when the days seemed endless, and sometimes, they even became boring because we exhausted all the great, fun things we wanted to do. Of course, we also know that the days aren’t any shorter now. We’re just busier with all the activities vying for our time and attention.

Gaining time at this stage of the game is a matter of prioritizing activities. I find that a calendar helps. Start by blocking off chunks of time when you’re required to complete non-writing activities (outside-the-home job, shopping, mowing, laundry, bills, cooking, etc.) and see what’s left. Analyze how well you’re doing some of these tasks and strive to do them better. Example: instead of running to the grocery store every time you need something, make a list and shop all at once. It really is that easy, and the minutes you’ll gain add up.

You’re going to have to sacrifice to make time for yourself, too. The first place you can do this is by cutting the amount of time you spend on social media. It’s crazy how much time we give to scrolling through nonsense that adds nothing of any value to our lives. Yes, it’s fun but pay attention to how long you’re actually on social media. It follows us everywhere, and like slaves, we attend every beep on our cell phones as if we absolutely must respond to that cute kitten picture or comment on the recipe for a triple-stack burger with peanut butter and jelly.

In fact, because writing is such hard work that requires a large amount of focus, you may need to separate yourself from technology for awhile until you have established good writing habits.

Giving up television is another way you can gain large amounts of time. TV has become as invasive as social media in that it’s possible to watch your favorite shows everywhere. I include the endless quantity of videos watched on YouTube in this category. Now that we live in the age of on-demand viewing, TV/YouTube/any streaming service needs to be monitored lest it continue to consume our lives.

Another time saving/time gaining measure is the ability to say, “No, thank you.” By this I mean choose what invitations you allow to take you away from your writing. This one requires some tactful maneuvering on your part, especially when the invitation is to a family function. Grandma’s 99th birthday party? Yes, you must go. Uncle Jimmy opening the pool for the season? You can miss that.

You may need to be strong with friends who don’t understand your commitment to writing. Multiple coffee dates, long phone chats, and just hanging out can chew through your writing time faster than hungry teenage boys through a pizza. Instead, schedule a dinner date with a group of friends to maintain your relationships.

So, you’ve bought back some time for yourself, but guess what? There’s still more to be had!

I find travelling with a single-subject, college-ruled, spiral-bound notebook and pen to be a lifesaver. This is especially true when I must leave the house in the middle of a fabulous writing session and I don’t want to lose the flow of the story. My husband drives and I write.

I also keep pens or pencils and notebooks around the house for the same purpose. While working in the basement, I’ve maintained the flow of my story by jotting down details in between folding t-shirts.

Enlist the help of others toward building your writing time. Politely explain your need and work out times when you can create uninterrupted. Even fifteen minutes a day can go a long way to building your writing confidence. To minimize the amount of time it takes to get back into the groove for your next session, quickly note the next idea in your chain of thought. You can use it as a launching point rather than scrambling to remember what you intended to write next.

There’s always getting up half an hour earlier or going to bed half an hour later, but I urge caution here because sleep is so essential in our 24/7 world. Then again, if you’re at the age where you’re awake for long periods of time through the night, grab that notebook beside your bed and jot something down. Remember to be considerate of the person who may be sleeping next you to.

Make good use of the recording feature on your cell phone while walking the dog or rocking the baby to sleep. Your speaking voice will soothe both.

Ask someone to take dictation when you’re elbow deep in a sink full of dishes or while your grease-stained hands are working under the hood of your vehicle. This is a great way to get words on the page as well as draw loved ones into your writing process. Not only will they come to understand your vision, but they’ll also get to spend time with you in a way that is productive rather than interruptive.

So, you see, there are many ways to accumulate time for your writing passion. Again, writing is hard work, and one way in which you may feel as if you’re wasting your own time is when you find yourself staring at the blank page or computer screen without having produced a single word. In this instance, you’re going to have to extend yourself some grace. It happens to every writer.

I will caution you against believing that it’s writer’s block. In truth, you haven’t found your groove yet, the muse isn’t speaking, or you’re a little unfocused. Don’t beat yourself up and don’t stop writing. Try again the next time you’ve scheduled yourself to write or the moment presents itself.

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