So… you want to be a writer, but life is too busy? When will you ever find the hours to write a novel? Now, that’s REAL fantasy, right? Simply finding time to write, period!
That’s the situation I found myself in several years ago. My four children were between the ages of 6 and 16, and very busy! We had a small army of animals which included two dogs, two chinchillas, and two cats. Yes, pretty much the entire food chain right there inside my home. And just to make things interesting, my husband lost his job, leaving me in the role as primary breadwinner. This forced me to quit the part-time job I loved at the school district to take full time work at a call center.
And I wanted to add writing to all that?
Or, in my case, continue writing? Because when life had been less complicated I’d dabbled in the art. I’d even gone so far as to start a writing group with a couple of local friends. We’d do critiques for one another, send out encouragement, and meet just to talk about our woes or victories. But eventually, we drifted apart because… life. It happens to us all.
As the stress piled up, I stopped writing, and the stress got deeper. One day I realized, I had to write or lose my mind.
But how? And when?
Identify the Problem
Several years before, I’d read a book about time management. At the roughest part of my life, the memory returned. The premise of the book was that a millionaire becomes rich by watching where their pennies go. It’s natural for anyone to notice when dollars go missing, but if we lose a few pennies, we tend to shrug it off as not being worth much. Over a lifetime, those lost pennies can add up to a lot! The people who notice and act to save those pennies, reap rich rewards.
But what does this have to do with finding time to write? The book went on to point out that time, like money, is also a commodity. A few people are rich in it, but most are poor. We know where our hours go, but how often do we stand in a grocery store or some other line, staring at the wall, reading the covers of magazines, wasting time for five or ten minutes? Perhaps, even longer. Then there are all the menial tasks that don’t require any thought. Things like, cleaning, washing dishes, commuting, etc. They have to be done, but repetition means we don’t think about how to do them. Those minutes and seconds get wasted. And what choice do we have?
I started thinking… what if I could use that time to do something I wanted … like write?
Granted, carrying a piece of paper to scribble notes, or making people believe I’d lost my mind by dictating into a recording device while standing in line, wouldn’t be very practical. What I could do, however, was use that time to plot out the next step in my story, or to develop a character, or even just people watch to get an idea of what I could write next.
When I sat down in front of my screen before starting this practice, I’d spend the first ten to thirty minutes of my ‘writing’ time wondering what to say. When I finally figured it out, I had to go do something else. As a result, I never got anything written.
When I started using my spare minutes and seconds to come up with the ideas, or to problem solve writing issues, I found that I no longer struggled to write. Even when I only had five or ten minutes to sit down in front of the screen before I fell into an exhausted sleep at night, I could write the entire time.
What had happened? When I analyzed the situation, I realized the time I used differently had resulted in a mental investment in my story. As a result, the ideas flowed, and my fingers flew when I sat down to write. Suddenly, I was productive, no matter how little time I had.
That’s when I realized… that fantasy I talked about earlier, I was living it!
I’ve read a lot of writer’s hacks that talk about having a schedule, doing the same thing every day, treating writing as a job, getting next to no sleep so you can make your dream come true, etc. I think those things work for some people.
What works for me is, instead of making time, I use my spare seconds and minutes to think about what I want to write, how I want to write it, and what I want that world I’m creating to look and feel like for my reader. As a result, I don’t worry so much about what I wear, or whether or not I had coffee or tea for breakfast.
Now, my children are grown, my husband is the main breadwinner, and I have a lot more time to write, but I treasure the memories I have of those stolen moments of peace that got me through a very stressful time in my life and let me live the dream.
Life isn’t perfect. People aren’t perfect and neither is writing. But I know from experience that living your best life doesn’t have to be a fantasy, even in the chaos and pain of reality.
How do you find time to write? Here at the Motley Writing Guild, we know each person is different. We would love to hear how you make your dreams come true in the comments below! Maybe something you share will inspire someone else and help them make their ‘fantasy’ a reality!
And, if you don’t have trouble finding time to write but instead have the opposite problem (you have time but lack motivation), check out our blog post on Procrastination!