Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Making Time for Writing

A writer e-mailed me to ask, "How do you make time for writing with such a busy schedule?"

I have yet to come across a writer for whom this isn't an issue. And that includes professional writers as well. So whatever fantasies you may have about, "As soon as I graduate..." or "As soon as I sell my first novel..." Banish them now. Those thoughts will only make you crazy. I've often thought to myself, "Once my kids are in school, then I'll really be able to buckle down and crank out some books."

No, I won't.

So first, recognize this is a struggle that will be with you for as long as you're committed to writing.

We all have things that pull at our schedule. The writer who asked the question specified that she works three jobs. Um, yikes. That's a full load. I have a 2 1/2 year old, and sometime in the next month I'll be adding a newborn to my "must take care of" list. I have a husband who likes spending time with me. I have a house that doesn't clean itself. (Oh, for the days I lived at home and clean laundry magically appeared in my drawers...)

It's important for us to have lives outside of writing. And something we can do during our time-away-from-storyworld to maximize our time-in-storyworld is think about your story. Sometimes it comes naturally to me to think about my characters and plot away from my computer, and other times it doesn't. When it doesn't, force yourself. Think through different possibilities of what could happen next, of what kinds of surprises you can throw at your unsuspecting narrator. This way, when you're finally able to return to storyworld, you won't feel as removed from it. You won't be doing the whole, "Wait, so where was I going with this...?" thing.

Learn to use even the smallest amounts of time. By which I mean, if you've got 5 minutes, use it to write. I would love to have huge blocks of time to write. Sometimes I'm able to schedule these for myself. When I'm not, I use the time I have. Waiting in the doctor's office? Use it write. You're dressed and ready to go, but having to wait on the others in your house? Write. Or take care of something that will mean more writing time for you later. When I'm waiting 2 minutes for water to boil in the microwave, I unload whatever I can from the dishwasher. Or peek in the fridge to see if there's anything that needs throwing out.

Cut, cut, and cut some more. I feel I've been called to both be at home with my daughter and to write. I gotta tell ya - these two things don't leave many extra hours in the day. And I'm a girl who needs her down time, so going, going, going does not work for me.

So I cut things. I used to be in charge of a book club, and I really enjoyed it. But it took up lots of time. I used to be in a writing group, or "crit" group as we call them. Again, it took up lots of my time, and I found I didn't need a crit group and an agent and two editors giving me feedback on everything I wrote. So it had to go.

You may not be at this place yet, where your writing is that important to you. But I learned quickly that if I wanted this to be my career, I would have to make it the priority.

The last tip I have at the moment is leave your characters hanging. When I'm wrapping up writing time, I try very hard to not to end at the close of a scene or chapter. I like to leave my characters mid-conversation, mid-catastrophe, mid-thought. I've found it's way easier for me to jump back in the next day.

On the occasions that I do have to stop at a nice-and-neat point of the story, I take a few minutes to jot down thoughts about the next scene (Anna gets ride home from Dallas - he tells her his dad has bought the building) so that I can get back into storyworld much easier.

So those are the few tips I have for making time for your writing, or making the most of your writing time. Anyone have any other nuggets to share?

1 comment:

  1. You covered my thoughts exactly. Back when I worked two jobs, I would spend moments of mindless tasks mentally writing. When I got home and had that half hour or whatever of free time, I could then sit down and just hammer it out, squeezing a lot of pages into those few minutes. I'd get up early to squeeze in a few more. Once I got a laptop, I would take it with me from the kitchen to work and write in those two-to-five minute swaths.

    With two kiddos, I've learned to make use of my fractured attention span. I may only have a minute and a half between tugs on my elbow while they're playing, but I can write a sentence or two in that amount of time. It seems like it'll never add up, but it does! And a lot faster than if I waited for a whole day, LOL.