Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Making Time to Write

by Deren Hansen

In a session on organizing the writing life during Life, the Universe, and Everything (LTUE) 2011, Julie Wright said, "Time is always made, never found."

So how do you make time to write?

At one level, it simply comes down to the question, "What are you willing to give up in order to write?"

Of course, saying it that way makes you sound less than committed if you're not a writing hermit.

So how can a person who has a life outside of writing make time?

Consider the following techniques (all of which were discussed in the LTUE session I mentioned above).

Ways to Make Time in General:


Many of us treat our writing as a hobby--not that we're lacking in commitment but rather that we approach it more like a leisure activity. Let me hasten to add that there's nothing wrong with writing as a hobby if you're satisfied with the time you are able to devote to it. If, however, you wish you had more time to write (a lament I've heard from nearly every writer I've met), raising the priority of your writing to the same level as, say, exercising, would mean that it's no longer optional.

Sandra Tayler said, "When I write first, the laundry gets easier."

Little Systems

Now that you've raised the priority of your writing, how can you make time by spending less of it on other things? There's an entire industry devoted to offering answers to that question. And every situation, of course, is different. That said, I've found the pattern of making little systems to be surprising powerful for something so simple.

I've discussed little systems elsewhere. In brief, a little system is anything that helps you streamline a recurring task. For example, I sort mail (the paper kind) over the trash can because most of it will end up there.

The most effective sort of streamlining is to remove decisions points. If you like to write in the morning, but find it hard because of the time it takes you  to get ready for the day, choosing your clothes the night before means one less decision to make in the morning.

Ways to Make Time to Work on Long-form Fiction

Clear Space, Both Physical and Temporal

Creativity is a safe, adult-appropriate word for play. In order to sustain the focus we need to create long-form works, we need a place in time and space to play. We need a place where we can leave our half-built castles in the air while we attend to other things secure in the knowledge that they'll be there, undisturbed and ready for us, when we return.

In this age of convenient mobile computing systems, setting up your writing environment may be no more complicated than opening a laptop and firing up a word processor. Clearing your schedule and your internal worry processor are more difficult. This is why many writers will go to a library or a cafe. Whatever you do, the key is to find a time and space where you can focus on your project.

Create Stability

Emergencies will derail your writing. You can't prevent all emergencies, but you can take care of things under your control so that you're not creating problems for yourself.

If, for example,you paid your bills when you receive your statement, you'd never run the risk of leaving it all to the last moment and then having a fire drill to get everything paid. I know people who, as a matter of principle, pay their bills at the last possible moment in order to deny the entity whatever interest it might have earned having the money a few days earlier. I prefer to discharge my obligations as soon as they come due so that I can devote the time I would have spent keeping track of my unpaid bills to my writing, secure in the knowledge that it's safe to play.

Deren blogs at The Laws of Making.


Julie Daines said...

Time is a valuable commodity. And I think it's important to seriously ask yourself how much time you are willing to devote to writing.

Serious writing takes a lot of time, and time spent writing means time taken from something else. It's important to keep a good perspective and carefully evaluate priorities when delegating time.

Thanks for this post.

Sarah said...

Saying you'll find time to write is like saying you'll find enough money to live on. You don't/can't "FIND" anything. You have to make it-- make time, make money. You have to be more active about your approach or it doesn't get done.

Great post. I like the laundry quote. I believe I'll put that on a 3X5 card and put it on my wall. :o)