World enough and time…

I attended a get-together of women who work with words – a group my editor and I put together, because we both work at home alone most of the time and wanted a way of connecting with like-minded women, mainly to keep us from going stir-crazy! The subject of finding time to write came up, and a couple of women told us they write in their cars – parked, of course – one while waiting for her daughter to finish school, and the other in a park or pleasant setting. When I was living in Toronto a few years ago, I would sit on a park bench at the boardwalk and write longhand. And Coffee Shop Author, the contest, was born as a result of my having spent hours writing at The Remarkable Bean. Many writers swear by retreats as their way of allowing them time to focus on their craft.

Now that I have my own business, and one that offers services to other authors in order to allow them more time to write, I find I’m in a situation where I’m working for everyone else, and paying no attention whatsoever to my own need for time to write. I could use a manager or personal assistant so that I can then be the same to other authors. How frustrating is that?

writer's clock

The meeting yesterday drove home the fact, at least to me, that we do have a support system, if we just reach out and ask. I woke this morning thinking, I really need to organize my time so that I’m looking after myself foremost, if not first. I know I can add more time to my day, by taking it away from whatever I do that’s not productive – like sitting at this computer for too long at a stretch. (Although I can somewhat justify that time as not actually wasted, because I need to use the internet to promote those authors I’m working with… a Catch-22 situation?) There are ways to manage time though so that it doesn’t have the chance to manage you.

I have a few ideas as to how I can achieve this – certainly, setting up a schedule and sticking to it would be a good start, but I don’t seem to have the discipline to last for more than a day with a schedule. So I thought I should put this question out there, and see what my virtual support group has to say about it. How do you manage to put time into your day so you can write or create? What tricks do you have to make you more productive? And how do you juggle paid work, or family, with your creative self? Switching off the computer is the obvious answer. What other ideas can you offer that would allow me to grab the time I need for myself, and not feel guilty about it? I’m all ears…

And here’s some appropriate music to accompany your suggestions … Time by Alan Parsons Project


4 responses

  1. This is one of my enduring challenges – balancing writing, work and life (especially when life includes children, exercise, a large amount of volunteer work, a meager amount of socializing and a large house that has to be clean). I like you have tried to set up schedules and failed. Trying to write first thing in the morning has failed (as badly as trying to exercise first thing in the morning) because work always looms during the prime hours of 9:00 am to 12:00 pm and I think if I could just get my work done quickly I can write without guilt. But I tend to go in jags and once started in something like work or writing, I am invested and I can’t shift gears that day. Knowing this about myself I tried to alternate days – write Monday/Wednesday, work Tuesday/Thursday and volunteer or work Friday. This works to a point as long as I do not have pressing work deadlines. If I do, they always seem to take precedence.

    Three things I have found work for me:
    1) Accepting that I will have writing/work jags. I try to take on small work projects that can be done in a few weeks. In between projects, I can write for a week or two in a row without guilt and accept that the next week when I am working I won’t be writing.
    2) Taking writing classes that require me to work on my novel. If I have a deadline I will do whatever it takes to meet it. Right now I am working through Humber. The external motivation of taking a course seems to rewire my brain somehow to forget about the dishes and skiing defer work deadlines and bump my writing up the priority list.
    3) Trying to write most nights from 8:00 pm to 11:00 pm. Not prime time for sure – but if I stick to easier tasks at this time such as light editing, blogging or writing a really bad first draft, it seems to work.

    1. Thanks, Jennifer. You seem to have described my life – without the kids… Some good ideas that I will pursue. I appreciate your comments.

      1. I am finding this whole challenge even more compelling having just finished reviewing John Gardner’s On Becoming a Novelist. He talks about daemonic compulsiveness with respect to writing and says that it is “highly unusual for anyone to become a successful writer if he cannot put in several hours every day at his typewriter.” He later says he at one time worked eighteen hour days seven days a week!

      2. Ack! That’s a bit much, and only possible if you have someone to look after you, and make sure that you’re fed and watered on a regular basis…

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