If there’s one fallback excuse every aspiring writer has to explain why their long-awaited manuscript from last decade still hasn’t been completed, it’s the fabled I just don’t have enough time to write.
I am as guilty of this as the next person. Maybe more so.
We all wish we had more time to write, but therein lies the problem. There’s always something to do before you write. More work to do, more people to see, more times you need to rearrange your desk and the height of your chair and find the right pen to use. And you need to decide if you should finally give up Word and use Scrivener instead, but then you need to read through the instructions and try out the templates and oh hell you still haven’t written anything and now it’s sunny and you should be outdoors building a human pyramid or something.
It’s easy to find things to do instead of writing. It’s hard to put writing ahead of other things.
For those writing at home, there are some options to create some airspace for writing. From what I’ve gathered, quite a few people have success with Freedom, which effectively locks off all internet connection from your computer for a set time. The goal here is to focus you on staying on task, and eradicate the ability to check Facebook, check Twitter, or watch clips of kittens riding baby sloths in the snow. Freedom doesn’t allow you to restore your connection without actually restarting the computer, at which point it figures you either gain control of your actions or hang your head in shame.
The other option is Write or Die, which is a slightly more malicious take on Freedom that works on incremental punishments. Basically, the more you fall behind in your writing, the more the punishments escalate – from pop up reminders, to irritating noises, to the program itself deleting the words you’ve already typed.
However, these really only seem to treat the symptom, and not the cause. It still doesn’t answer the question of how do I find more time in my day to write?
Joseph Heller wrote Catch-22 in the evenings after working a full day. Stephen King wrote Carrie in between teaching gigs and working in an industrial laundry. These stories and others have been told endlessly, usually just to punish people like me even further. Ultimately, there isn’t more time, it’s just a question of making different choices with the time that we have.
In an ideal world, if you want to be a writer then you treat writing like a job. You give yourself set hours and work to them. Time missed then becomes time that must be made up elsewhere. But for most of us, our world already has us working a job. The writing comes afterwards.
Write in the morning
This year I had a plan to wake up at 6:00 every morning and write for an hour before leaving for work. It’s now September and that hasn’t happened once. A lot of people, though, like to write in the morning before anything else has begun – it’s often quieter, less distractions, no phones ringing, no emails coming through, and often the morning provides a clear-headedness that is extraordinarily productive for getting words on the page.
Write in the evening
Then there are those who prefer to write at night. Due to the exhaustion from whatever happened during the day, it’s often a time when the brain is preparing itself for sleep and really fascinating ideas present themselves for good creative writing. Since my morning plan didn’t work this year, I’ve found myself writing late at night more and more; the drawback is if the writing isn’t yet done, the sleep doesn’t happen, and the days get longer and longer.
Write while you work
Difficult, but possible, and it really depends on your work. The first draft of a short story I wrote last year came from the odd minutes I could grab here and there between classes. It took a couple more drafts to remove the piecemeal nature of the writing, but the accumulation of stolen minutes had delivered a workable story in a short amount of time. If you commute to work, write on the bus or the train or the tram. Write when you’re waiting for a meeting to start. Write during the meeting if it’s a useless meeting. Often the best ideas come from writing while trying to focus on something else.
It’s a question of priorities. Every day has obligations that you can’t be rid of. Every single day. But if the writing becomes an obligation – a particularly important obligation – then that becomes a goal for the day. You have to go to work, fine, otherwise they sack you. But you better sit down and write some words, or your story will sack you as well. Treat it as important, treat it as a job, treat it as a goal that you need to achieve in a day, and the day isn’t over until that happens. Whether it’s in the morning, or at night, or in short bursts whenever you can find some clear air, it stillhas to happen.
There is no right time or wrong time to write, there’s just time. So if you want to write, be honest and ask yourself do I have time to write?