On making time to write

Jul 02

I was going to use the word “finding” instead of “making” in the title of this post, but then I thought better of it. See, thus far in my short, short tenure as a “writer”, I’ve found myself complaining about having enough time to write. Sure, with only a daily blog and a monthly newspaper column to my name at the moment, my deadlines are all pretty loose (if they even exist at all). Even if you count the book-in-progress, all deadlines, save for one, are self-imposed. As such, they are determined by me and thus capable of being broken by me with almost no consequences. Therefore, I hardly ever feel pressed to make myself write. I’ll get to it eventually, I tell myself. Right after this episode of Drop Dead Diva.

I am a huge procrastinator, generally in life but especially with regard to writing. I like to pretend that I work best under pressure, that I need to wait until inspiration strikes before I can produce my best work. I feel like those working on creative projects tend to feel this way. Some people might say that you have to follow your muse, that you can only write/draw/paint/compose when inspired. Well, all of that may be partially true, however, I have come to accept that this kind of writing is really more about discipline than inspiration.

Inspiration is a spark. It’s a catalyst. It’s what puts those first eight bars in your head, or helps you craft that storyboard. You need more than ignition, however, if you’re going to actually go anywhere. I can’t tell you how many brilliant, imaginative, creative friends of mine have come with fantastic ideas, only to come up with nothing in the end. I’m guilty of this myself, though I’m still far too self-deprecating to apply those initial descriptors to myself (out loud, at least.) Despite having crafted, imagined, and discussed the setting and plot ad nauseum, I made excruciatingly slow progress on my novel in the beginning. I went from January to June with barely a single chapter of this book written. I was frustrated with my slow progress (though unwilling to blame myself just yet), but my brother (slash editor, let’s be honest) helped me realize that in order to make progress, I needed to have expectations for myself. It’s not about finding time, because all that really means is that I’m looking for excuses. It’s about making the time, setting up a schedule, and being rigorous.

I decided to devote 1 – 2 hours a day, bare minimum, to writing this book. Some of you might think that’s shockingly little, some of you might think that’s impossible to achieve. With a full-time job and a general proclivity for enjoying far too many TV shows, it can be hard, and I won’t lie to you, I don’t actually do it every day. But on most days, I do. And it’s because of this that I’ve managed to crank out an additional 10,000 words in one-sixth of the time it took me to write the first 3,000.

Of course, there are days when, even though I try, I don’t come up with a single word. No plot progression, no witty dialogue, no display of literary brilliance (ha!). But just sitting in front of my laptop with the screen open, staring at the white space in between lines for sixty straight minutes without striking a single key, well, at least it feels like I’m trying. It is a testament to my frustrating, maddening, oft-questioned devotion to this book. And on the days when my sad little Macbook does remain on my desk, closed and untouched, well, at least I feel guilty about it.

Read More