I call myself a Time Warrior because I know how to make time to write. As someone who juggles family, freelance jobs, environment activism, pets from pre-dawn to good-night kisses, I can still get in two hours at least of writing every day. My fast-action schedule doesn’t leave a lot of room to savor experiences, but at least the dishes get done daily, in-box is in a reasonable state, and my creative flow is constantly running.
Mind you, I came to this station in life mostly out of necessity, and not because I enjoy feeling like a cross between a Jedi and a minivan.
At the root of my harried life is my need to write stories. I have never found being a writer an easy thing. I was not born with the gift of storytelling, but rather the passion. I don’t think I could survive without writing, but it’s the kind of self-indulgent craving that can’t equal in comparison to childcare or grocery shopping. Writing is often shunted to the side when something a bit more critical comes up.
One of the reasons creativity tends to suffer in hectic lifestyles is because we don’t know how to equate it to feeding our kids, paying our bills, or watching our television shows. For me, guilt was a tough obstacle to overcome. How could I justify working on my novel if the laundry was piling up or if my garden was filled with weeds?
That guilt stopped me from writing for an extended period of time a number of years ago. I struggled a lot with that need to write even though I wasn’t making any money from it. Somewhere along the line (as growth never happens overnight), I realized not writing was not healthy. I had to take action. No one but me was going to make the time to write, which meant no one but me had to make some serious decisions.
HOW BADLY DO I WANT TO WRITE?
This was an easy question for me to answer, but tough to commit to, because I knew what I was up against. I never considered myself to be in the same league as wonderfully talented writers. Somehow I believed they didn’t struggle with making time to write because writing came so easily to them. A part of me felt hopeless–no matter how badly I want to write, it will never matter because I’m not good enough anyway. So why struggle so much?
AM I WILLING TO GROW AS A WRITER?
This next question helped me feel better about my down-in-the-dumps feelings from the previous question. While my real-world self is decidedly not the adventurous sort, my writer self cannot get enough of exploring and learning. Growing. If I truly felt that negative, then why not build my skills and learn how to be a good enough writer?
MAKE WRITING A PRIORITY
Sometimes I have to be dastardly to myself, especially when I stall from my low self-esteem. This is why 4 am is my wake-up call, pretty much every day, even weekends. There was no excuse for not writing at this time of day, because I was awake anyhow (thanks to my son’s erratic sleeping schedule).
I know dark, early mornings are a dreadful thought for most people, but I learned that my creativity is in high flow at this time. Everyone can make writing a priority–if they choose to make it a priority. It starts with our choice, what is in our hearts, and then we flow from there.
But what about schedules that are in flux, even at 4 am? This has happened to me, on a number of occasions, when that wake-up call is suddenly hijacked by a sick child, a poor night’s sleep, power loss from a storm.
JUST 15 MINUTES
That’s all. Everyone has 15 minutes each day to devote to their passion. It might feel awkward or troublesome, and you might not get that much accomplished at first, but it’s a matter of training.
You need to train your creative self to unwind during mindless jobs, the down times of your day. Trust me, they are there. You just have to learn how to recognize them.
“The best time for planning a book is while you’re doing the dishes.”
Even though I may not have pen in hand while I’m gardening, washing dishes, vacuuming, or even taking a shower, my mind is usually spinning all around the characters in my alter worlds.
This is a form of time management–making the most of the time when you’re not obligated to help with homework, talk to a teacher, deal with customers, pay bills, argue with your spouse, answer the phone.
The biggest opposition I hear to this idea is that we aren’t physically writing, so how can it be considered writing?
My response? How did you come up with your story idea in the first place?
IMAGINING COUNTS AS WRITING
Those precious few minutes of unharnessed thinking are as valuable as the set-aside blocks of time. You’d be surprised at what you can uncover in just fifteen minutes of imagining.
If you’re worried you won’t remember what you write in your imagination, then keep some writing tools in strategic places. Record your ideas as they come to you on your phone (either with a voice-recording app or a note-taking app). Keep a magnetic notepad on your fridge, sticky pads in every room of your house, a travel-sized notebook for your purse or car.
Take one minute to jot down a reminder of your thoughts, just enough so that when you’re ready to actively write, you can incorporate your ideas into your project.
HOW TO GROW 15 MINUTES
The funny thing about ideas is that they are always around us, but if you’re not intentional with looking for them every day, you will miss out. Open yourself to the world around you, purposely, intentionally looking for ideas. They will start hitting you on the head in all of their brilliance.
When you begin paying attention to ideas on a regular basis, you’ll automatically write that much more. If you don’t keep track of your blossoming ideas, they’ll fade away.
Soon, that 15 minutes will grow, expand, just so you can write down all your ideas. This isn’t magic, per se, unless you consider feeling inspired magical. And I guess it is. But, magic aside, this is really how the process works.
When you’re feeling inspired, you will be more motivated and determined to write, which means you’ll write more. 15 minutes won’t be enough. Time will avail itself to you because you’re wanting it more. You’re looking for it more and doing things to make writing a priority.
As long as you want to write, you will write. You just have to write.
PS–Check out my free writer resource, How to Fill Your Creative Well, for more ideas on ways to make time to write.
Have a writerly day!