Writing Around Life

How is it that now that we’ve set these goals and given ourselves a deadline, that life starts exploding around us? Happens every time.

Doctors appointments crop up, major appliances go on the fritz, a new assignment comes up in our day job that requires hours of our precious writing time. Or it could be that old friend calls and invites us to lunch. How in the world are we supposed to meet our writing goals when life throws all these obstacles in our path?

I figure there are a number of ways to deal with this. If you’re already stressed to the max and ONE MORE THING is going to send you into a tailspin of depression, then by all means, blow off the deadline! That is, of course, assuming that you don’t currently have a contract for this novel and the deadline is self-imposed rather than editor imposed. I’m big on forgiving yourself. We tend to be very nice people who can forgive others in our lives, but turn around and beat the crap out of ourselves over some little thing. Let it go. Maybe the universe is telling you to slow down. Go have coffee with your old friend. Go to a movie or the museum. Soak up a little life away from your computer. Refill the creative well from which you’ve been drawing. Consider it a mental health day.

However, if you determine that pushing on with your writing is the thing to do, no matter what life throws at you, then perhaps another strategy is required. In Julia Cameron’s The Right to Write, she states something to the effect that you can’t make time to write. There are only twenty-four hours in a day. None of us are gods. We can’t suddenly create two or three more hours. That’s it. Twenty-four. Deal with it. Instead, she recommends that we steal time to write. How perfect for a crime writer. Steal time.

What can you pare away from your routine without missing it? TV is usually a big item in that category. Especially now when everything’s in reruns. I watch less and less TV as years go on. I don’t have cable or satellite dish. I have poor reception on a handful of network channels. It’s amazing how little I miss it when I decide to turn it off. (OK, currently I’m addicted to Rock Star, but it’s a limited run and then I’ll be free again.)

Where else can you steal a couple hours? Will the roof collapse if the dusting doesn’t get done this week?

A friend of mine, who is incredibly organized, suggests we track our time and activities. She has a printed handout you can copy, but you can just as easily grab a notebook and do it yourself. Make a column down the left side of the page and fill in the time in half hour increments from the time you get up until the time you go to bed. Example: 7:00, 7:30, 8:00, 8:30, etc. Then for a couple of days (or a week if you’re really into this) write down what you do with your time. It’s an amazing exercise in discovering where the day goes. And you may uncover a patch of time that could be stolen for writing.

On Monday, we’ll do a check-in on your progress with the Word Watchers Challenge. See if you can steal an extra hour to write between now and then. No biggie. Just one hour.


Joyce said…
I had to laugh about tracking your time. I did that once, back when I was a stay at home mom, when Jerry came home from work and made the mistake of asking me what I did all day. The next day, I shoved a piece of paper in his face when he got home. He never asked me again!
Mary Louisa said…
Joyce, I did that too, when my first child was about six months old. It was ugly. Now that I have two (3y and 17m), it seems like cake in retrospect! ;)

I am going to take Annette's advice and steal one hour before Monday. I don't think the internet will mind the theft. (I'm a mouse potato.)
Annette said…
Good, Mary! Yes, the Internet has become my biggest time drain. And I keep finding new Yahoo groups that I need to join. Is there a Yahoo Groups Anonymous I wonder?

Ray used to wonder what I did all ay that made me so tired until he became homebound following back surgery. He watched me buzz around all day and never commented on it since the.
Kristine said…
Stealing time...I like that!

When I left my stressful day job a few months ago to be a full-time freelance writer from home, I was under the mistaken assumption that I'd have all the time in the world. I'd take naps, I'd write for long uninterrupted periods, I'd take walks, I'd...well, I could do anything, right? Time was on my side.

Wrong. It seems the more time you have, the more life seems to throw at you. I'm putting longer hours in now than ever before and you know what? The housework still isn't getting done. I'm much happier and MUCH less stressed in my new working situation, but I've learned the importance of setting priorities. Make every hour count, I say.

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