I’m back from maternity leave! In fact, I’ve been sort-of-back for over a month. But this post maybe explains why the blog has been so quiet…
Kitty and Nick, May 2015
I’m going to take a shot in the dark and guess that you’re pretty busy.
You don’t have enough time to write everything you want to write.
(And it doesn’t matter what your time looks like on paper. Heck, even if you’re a millionaire with no need for any paying work, you may well still find yourself incredibly busy.)
In 2011, I was busy. I was coaching writers, working on Aliventures, writing blog posts for clients, working on a small e-publishing company with my brother, editing and self-publishing my novel Lycopolis…
In 2012, I was busy. I was coaching and blogging and publishing and (badly) promoting Lycopolis, and writing Publishing E-Books For Dummies.
In 2013, Kitty was born. Pretty quickly, I realised that the only reason I’d been on top of my work before was because my wonderful husband was doing the vast majority of the housework and cooking, and because I was working into the evenings.
In 2014, my easy-going baby girl was suddenly a stroppy toddler. I took on more of the childcare while Paul finished up his MA thesis. And the novel I’d been working on, the sequel to Lycopolis, floundered.
On Christmas Eve 2014, Nick was born.
2015 is the busiest, by far, that I’ve ever been. (And my writing time is way, way, down.)
But Even If Your Life Doesn’t Look That Busy …
It’s easy to get frustrated about the time I “wasted” in the past. I remember (dimly!) spending whole Saturday afternoons watching episodes of TV shows, back-to-back, with Paul, in the days before children.
I remember evenings where we sat around after dinner, trying to decide what we wanted to do, because there was nothing to watch and we were bored with all our games.
And now that weekends and evenings are taken up with children and housework and sometimes trying to find the energy to work … I feel that I should’ve used that time far, far better.
But I probably couldn’t have.
I was working full-time, back then. Writing and editing and coaching takes up a ton of creative energy … and I needed the downtime to recover.
If you feel like you “should” have lots of time to write, but it’s just not happening, maybe this is why.
(The wonderful Charlie Gilkey has written some good stuff on this, including Use the Two-Hour Rule to Make Progress on Your Creative Projects.)
Sure, procrastination can be a problem. And it’s definitely worth looking at ways to be effective about your writing time.
But if you’re telling yourself you should be writing for six or eight hours a day … you’re setting yourself up for guilt and failure.
You Don’t Have to be Superhuman
Some writers do seem to write insane amounts. Johnny B. Truant produces a crazy, crazy number of words (like, hundreds of thousands per year – you can read about his workflow in Write. Publish. Repeat.). And I wish I could do the same.
But hey, I don’t know the details of Johnny’s life. He’s definitely a super-efficient writer. But maybe he also has more hours available than me. Maybe he thrives on four hours’ sleep.
Heck, maybe he’s secretly identical twins.
There will always be other writers writing more than you.
And there will always be writers spouting advice about what you should do.
Back before I started Aliventures, when I had a day job, I was making myself miserable trying to live up to Stephen King’s advice to always write a thousand words a day.
It just didn’t work for me.
I’m not superhuman. I need sleep, preferably eight hours of it. (This, sadly, rarely happens with a teething baby in the house.) I need downtime. I’m only human.
You’re the same.
In fact, as writers, we perhaps especially need that time.
We need time to live. Time to drift. Time to browse the web idly and stumble across that next great idea.
Some Practical Thoughts
If you want to make more time in your life to write…
#1: Work on projects you really love.
If life is manic, you’ll find some time (even if it’s only a tiny bit here and there) for a story or blog post or poem that you’re truly keen to work on.
#2: Make your writing environment as ideal as possible.
Use headphones to block out distractions. Get out of the house. Pad your chair with a cushion to make it more comfortable. Turn off your wifi. Whatever it takes to help you stay focused.
#3: Find a single slot, once a week, when you can almost alwayswrite.
(If that’s not possible, shoot for whatever is.) I got this idea from a Writers’ Huddle member, and I love it. My slot, going forward, will be Sunday evenings, 7.45 – 9.45pm. I’ll let you know how it goes.
#4: Work with a timer running.
Set a timer: write till the time is up. Don’t check email or do the dishes or take Buzzfeed quizzes. Even if you think you can’t write in short bursts, give it a try. I got a surprising amount written in a few 15-minute chunks when Nick was teeny, and before Kitty dropped her afternoon nap.
One final thought:
You don’t have to be writing to be a writer.
If you don’t write for a day, you’re still a writer, obviously enough.
And if you don’t write for a month or a year, you’re still a writer.
Sometimes, life really is madly busy. Sometimes, a rest period might be just what your novel or blog or memoir needs in order to flourish.
If you can’t write much, or at all, right now, see it as a time for seeds to germinate. A time for ideas to strike. And keep a notebook handy.