7.26.2011

confessions of a time thief

There is no excuse. If you want to write, write. This is your life. You are responsible for it. You will not live forever. Don’t wait. Make the time now, even if it is ten minutes once a week.
NATALIE GOLDBERG


So here it is: I don't have any children.  I have a day job with reasonable hours.  I have what I consider a fairly normal social life - not out every night of the week, but enough.

I still find it hard to find the time to write.

I'm absolutely in awe of those people who balance their three kids and spouse and dog and job and social life and find the time to write novels on the side.  I've got half as much to do, and there are still weeks where I can't manage to fit in a single word.  And for a long time, I couldn't figure out why.  Why couldn't I make it work?  Where was all that time going?

It was like I expected to wake up with hours and hours set aside for writing, and when I didn't, I'd shrug my shoulders and say, "Oh well... maybe next week."  I was waiting for my life to hand me time, as though my schedule were completely out of my control.  If there weren't blank spaces in my calendar this week, then maybe it wasn't meant to be.

I think I thought this way for a few reasons.  The first was practical: I wasn't used to making time for writing, and it took me a while to realize that I'd have to schedule it in if it was ever going to happen in any consistent way. 

But the second was emotional, and it was the more pressing issue, I think: I felt self-conscious about my choice to prioritize writing in my life.  As another writer once said to me, "People think we're crazy, you know?"  Who turns down time with friends to sit alone in a room and write down stories?  Who passes up adventures and food and fun to hang out with their imaginary friends?  And it's a choice that feels particularly insane when there's no guarantee that anything will ever come of those stories.  Writing is time-consuming, it's solitary, and it makes no promises.  Of course people think we're crazy.

But we do it anyway.

I can't tell you WHY you write.  But I can tell you this: if you've got a story in you, and you've made the decision to tell it, then you don't find the time.  You make the time.  You steal the time.  You write when your friends are out at the movies.  You write when you should be cleaning the kitchen or doing laundry.  You write before everyone in your house wakes up, or after they've all gone to sleep.

And you shouldn't feel ashamed of that.  If people think you're crazy - well, trust that you're in good company.  All writers are a little bit crazy.  Welcome to the asylum.

The thing is, time is going to pass whether you're doing what you love or not.  I finally reached a point where I knew I wanted to look back in a year and have accomplished something - have words to show for it.  That year is going by no matter what, and it's up to me how I spend my time, how I direct my energy.  I'm not saying I never spend time with my friends; I'm not saying my house is always trashed.  But when I make the choice to turn something down so that I stick to my scheduled writing time, it's a conscious choice.  Likewise, when I turn down writing to go do something else, I know what I'm giving up.  It's about a balance.  It's about creating a life that I can look back on with satisfaction.


Nobody cares whether you write or not, and it’s very hard to write when nobody cares one way or the other. You can’t get fired if you don’t write, and most of the time you don’t get rewarded if you do.

But don’t quit.

ANDRE DUBUS


What are you doing to strike a balance?

3 comments:

  1. whoa... not only are we name twins, but we might be time twins too. those first two sentences could have been written by me, had i actually written anything this week. i agree wholeheartedly with you on this. some days, it's damn near impossible to rid your mind of the clutter of reality and concentrate on the world of words. right now, i haven't found anything that WORKS for me (i.e. i'm letting reality win), but i have lots of plans. plans count too, right?

    for now, i'll focus on the little victories- jotting down ideas, doing some research, brainstorming with co-author/crit partner. hopefully that will inspire a writerly kick in the butt.

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  2. I totally agree! I love the line "time is going to pass whether you're doing what you love or not."

    I find time by never watching tv or playing games, unless they involve my whole family.

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  3. @Name-and-Otherwise-Twin-Jessica: Yes, I think it's so important to celebrate the small victories as well, because any time you're moving forward at least you're MOVING, y'know? I find that when I don't have the chance to write, jotting down ideas as they come and having serious brainstorming sessions (while I'm on the train, in the shower, doing dishes, whatever) will often get me so pumped to write that I'll do everything I can to make the time to turn those ideas into words.

    @Peggy: Yes! TV is such a time-suck - if it isn't doubling up as QT with loved ones, it's such an easy thing to cut out... absolutely agree.

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