I want to talk to the people who can’t find time to write. You know who you are. (The rest of you free to read and comment—we’re all in this together–, and you may have suggestions to add that will help.)
First off, let me apologize. I’m not one of those people who doesn’t have time to write. I have the time to write–rather I make time to write. I do have a luxury that some don’t: I don’t have a job or a boss or deadlines to write around. My work involves volunteering (a lot), and I set my own schedule. I also am blessed with an encouraging husband and a son who thinks it’s cool that Mom writes stories.
The only real deterrents to my whipping out page after page daily are the occasional bouts of Writer’s Block (often in the form of Brain Drain or fear) and me.
It’s the second one that causes me the most grief, and I’m betting it’s the same for you.
You see, I know how much you are writing and posting and tweeting about not being able to write. I wastespend a lot of time on Social Media too.
I has a hard time finding time to write recently too. I mean, where are those hours of time we hear about? When do we set up these precious “office hours” that writers are supposed to have to develop their creativity to its fullest?
Maybe they just aren’t there, or we cannot find them without sacrificing all our sleep and destroying our relationships.
That doesn’t mean you can’t find time to write—you can. Here’s what I did. May it help you too.
First, I gave up the myth of uninterrupted creative time. But even then, I still needed a goal to reach toward; I needed something to reach for and measure. Something concrete and yet easy to achieve.
Now if you’ve been around the ROW80 for a while, you are probably familiar with Kait Nolan’s Test Mile. If you are not, take some time to read up on the concept before I share my personal test mile.
You ready now?
It is to write five sentences (I bet you knew that already, didn’t you).
Yep. That’s it. Write Five Sentences, and they can be as short or as long as I want to make them.
There is one other rule. The sentences have to be creative writing. Tweets or Facebook comments don’t count. A new poem? Cool, but it won’t necessarily count unless I want to write poems or the poem somehow fits into my present Work In Progress. I can still write something along the lines of this:
David ate the squash. A bird had pecked one end. He tossed that in the road. He felt exhausted. Nearby a truck chugged past.
It took me less than a minute to scribble out those sentences. Yes, they need some tweaking, but there is a definite sense of a scene here. I see a vagrant who’d picked up a zucchini from the end of a garden, then finding that it probably had been tossed off because some animal had nibbled at it. He’s hungry and eats the squash anyway, tossing off the bad part. He’s tired of wandering. The truck matters to him…
Why? I haven’t written that yet.
When a scene comes easily like this, I might keep writing if I have time. That is the main point of a test mile—to get you started. But it also serves the second purpose of getting something written no matter how busy we are.
So one minute, maybe two… at most five. Five sentences, five minutes, maybe two less tweets or one last skim of your NewsFeed. We all have time somewhere in our day to use for writing. It may not be five minutes at once, but there is time. A sentence written while standing in line at the bank is still a sentence written. Add the next one, spoken into a phone’s speech-to-text app while driving or doing those thirty minutes on the treadmill (and maybe two or three more!) and you’re almost there. Another line, this time at the grocery store? Another sentence…
See how easy it is? If you promise yourself to write sentence as soon as you wake up and one more before you turn the light off at night, then you will be done, if you want to be.
As for myself, I actually don’t own a smart phone. If I’m not glued to my computer, I write on paper. I make sure I always have some kind of little notepad to scribble in (and often much bigger notebooks too, just in case I discover one of those mythic hours of creative bliss).
And for those who may be wondering,… no, things didn’t start out smoothly . I didn’t get up one morning and suddenly every day I was getting those sentences written. I had a day or two where I fell asleep in the middle of the third sentence; I had a few days I missed completely, and despite the best intentions, I didn’t make those missed sentences up the next day either.
I’ve planned poorly. As reigning Queen of Mislaid Plans and Sub-Empress of Disorder, I have scrambled to get those sentences in before bed. I’ve spent several nights recently writing my five sentences on the bathroom floor where I could make sure the light didn’t wake up my husband or son.
I still wrote them. I wrote a full page the other night. It took me ten minutes after brushing my teeth. I started while I brushed…using my left hand for some mirror writing just to get an idea I kept forgetting all day down before I slept and forgot it permanently.
They say it takes 30 days to build a habit. I’m not so sure of that. I still have to be prompted by seeing my fellow writers posting about their wordcounts or the fact that I can’t walk through my house without seeing an open notebook nearby begging for some word love and pen scritches.
Five sentences… If you can’t do this, then perhaps you might not be as serious about writing as you say (and that really is okay too). However, Writers write as fellow ROWer and sponsor Alberta wrote last round. Being someone who writes part of who and what we are, and we will always find a way to write. There may be ebbs and flows to our productivity; after I’d broken my wrist in December, I didn’t write–I mean, I did write; I wrote notes and blogposts, but nothing I considered creative. But Writers Write, and I made a way.
So start small. You won’t always manage these sentences daily. Try treating your writing like a job in that sense and give yourself a (scheduled) day off here and there. Use a five day work week with your two days off spread out (say Tuesday’s and Friday’s off or something like that). It’s easy to get in the habit of not writing when you’re already fighting yourself for control over your dream. Don’t let yourself down… write at least every other day. And allow yourself to have a few bad days (forgiveness is important, as important as self-discipline).
If you can’t do that; if you can’t find five minutes for something you say you want to do, then you need to find out why. That’ll have to be the topic of another post however. For now, just write those five sentences.