Writing - Part Two - Finding the Time

6 February 2012

Katie, I get asked every now and then, Where do you find the time to write?

Katie, in a superhero pose, in a superhero mask. Caption: Fear not, citizen. I shall organize the shit out of this.

I have to admit, I love that question. It makes me feel like a god-damned Wonder Woman. Why yes, I work full time, go to conferences, raise two kids, attend to my SO+, and write a book. What did you do last weekend?

There's another side my situation, though, that I don't often share. I love video games. I cannot live without seeing the latest My Little Pony or Dowton Abbey. I give a lot of money to Comixology every month. I read books filled with explosions and sex and improbable complications and I often lose myself in them for hours and hours. In short, I'm a distractable lay-about, too.

Obviously, though, I found the time to write about something that I'm excited about. So, how did I do it?

Priorities

In no particular order, we all have priorities:

  • Ourselves
  • Our kids
  • Our spouse
  • Other random relatives
  • Our friends
  • Our job
  • Other organizations

If you want to write, you're going to have to start evaluating those priorities. There are things on that list that, giving up, would cost you quality of life. Do you really want to spend less time with your kids? Do you want to lose date night? Are you ready to call your gaming group quits? Will you deprive yourself of anything pleasurable? Will you quit your job? You probably shouldn't, lest you become some bitter shut-in who can only ponder about the good life, rather than live it.

There are, however, some things implied on that list that you can give up without pain. Writing a book gives you the best excuse ever to get out of a baby shower. It works for getting off the 'volunteer to make cupcakes' list, too. You don't want to slack at your job, but maybe you could write on your lunch break instead of eating out, and shave a few inches off of your waist. The kids could so use an earlier bedtime. You know what? That one show you really liked last season is just crap this season? Maybe you can drop it.

Saying no

Katie, happy, with a thumbs up, holding a manuscript. Caption: Tired of random functions? Write a book!

I started saying no a lot more when I started writing. No, I'm not killing myself to make sure my daughter has a birthday party when she'd already had two celebrations in her honor. No, I'm not going to organize a weekly Python meeting, and no, even the monthly one will not have presenters or a rented out space. You'll drink your coffee and like it. No, I'm not killing myself to make dinner for friends when they come over. Indian takeout will not kill them. No, leftovers will not kill the kids. No no no.

My life isn't lessened by cutting the above out of my life. I get more time, and I now have more time to apply to the book and less time spent doing something that would have annoyed the hell out of me in the first place.

Every day

Go read my last post. You're going to have to write every day, not only because it gives you better momentum, but because you're not going to be able to lock yourself away for huge blocks of time. Locking a person in a room is what they do to crazy people. You do not want to be a crazy person. That's what you'll become though, after the third weekend of barricading yourself in the bedroom with your laptop, while the world beckons from the window (or Twitter, if you forgot to block it while in your Fortress of Solitude).

I've seen the people who wrote a book by locking themselves away for months at a time. There's a look in their eye that says 'keep me away from sharp things.' Really.

Finding the small blocks of time is easier, anyway. I was able to write on Thanksgiving and Christmas, two crazy busy days. Both days had small respites in the morning, while I was drinking my coffee, during which I could bang out a few words. I was even able to find time when my family went on a cruise. I can easily make the kids go away for a half-hour by turning on their favorite show. I don't know how I'd shut off the world for a whole weekend. It's like daring the universe to throw obligations at me.

Family

Katie, bags under her eyes, staring off into space. Her daughter has climbed the back of her chair. Caption: I will give you five thousand ponies if you go away.

I admit, when I decided to write a book, I just announced it to the family as a thing I was going to do, hell or high-water. That probably wasn't wise, but I'm lucky in that they're very supportive, and used to me doing things like this.

Still, even though I was the one doing all the writing, they were still going to end up paying for my new obsession. It was uncertain how much time I would need in order to write, and that was time that was being taken from helping to run a household, hang out with the family, or go do cool stuff.

It took us a while, but we finally came to a system that works: I don't go into crazy-write-all-day mode, and they understand if I have to take a half-hour to write without being disturbed. Looking back, I wish we'd just laid this out explicitly before I set a single word to paper.

Had they not been on board, I would have had to find my chunks of time when they're not around, like my work lunch or extremely early in the morning. Not impossible, but having the freedom to write when I want has made this project a lot easier.

TL;DR

Start saying no. Find small chunks of time. Get your loved ones on board. Write every day.

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