Finding time or making time
I’m still planning to write up a more detailed account of the SCBWI Houston Editor’s Day on Saturday, so think of this as a primer.
Finding time to write seemed to be a theme for the writers at the conference, fitting in our novels/picture books/whatever between our day-jobs and families. A number of writers I talked to said they hadn’t written for a while because they were finding it hard to find the time.
My answer to that was, “I’ve been there, but I’ve found a solution: Don’t try to find the time — Make the time.”
Long before I finished my novel, I would write for a couple days, maybe a couple weeks, then get busy and not touch it for months. Then when I got back to, always because the drive to write was so strong it pulled me back, it took a while again to figure out where I had left off and what the characters were doing. I blame this for a lot of my early structural problems with the story, which took me months to fix.
But one day, I realized that finding time to write wasn’t getting me anywhere. If I was truly dedicated to finishing my novel and writing becoming a permanent part of my life, I had to MAKE the time, not wait around for my schedule to free up. (It never will.)
Once I made that commitment to make the time to write, writing became a permanent fixture in my schedule. For me, I set my clock to 5am and get up as soon as possible after it goes off (I have a love/hate relationship with the snooze button). Then I write until my husband gets up around 7:30 and we go to the gym. This is my writing time, and I’m very protective of it. I won’t open my emails, won’t open my iGoogle and look at blog posts — no matter how much I’m tempted. I won’t reply to instant messages that pop up. That time is for my writing. I have set it aside. I have MADE it. So I write. (Of course, I have my off days, and often stare bleary eyed at the screen for 45 minutes before my hands even touch the keys, but I’m still there.)
I don’t get as much done as I would like in those mornings. Remember my goal of six chapters a week for my current revision? I was a chapter short last week and am at only about 2.5 chapters so far this week, and it’s Thursday.
But, making that commitment, making that time, allowed me to finish my novel. Maybe I would have finished it if I was still finding the time, but it probably wouldn’t have been for a lot, lot longer. Also, when you make the time, it’s a state of mind, saying to yourself that writing is important to you, so important that it gets a regular slot in your schedule. You wouldn’t miss an appointment for work, so don’t miss your own appointments for your writing. Even if they’re not paying your way yet, they’re just as important, for your psyche (writers need to write, and if you’re a writer, you know what I mean) and for your future.
On Monday, as I chatted on the phone with my mother telling her about the conference, I told her about my finding time/making time conversations. At the end, she said, “You’ve inspired me. I’m going to start getting up early and making time for the gym.”
I hope my “make the time” pep talk helped my friends at the conference, and I hope this helps you.
How do you make the time to write?