The myth of time

Nope, today’s post isn’t a fantasy piece.  Rather, it’s about the idea that many writers – including me – have that writing requires a long stretch of uninterrupted time.  The fantasy is that we will sit at a neatly organized desk overlooking an inspiring garden, with our idea boards and books around us….

Not going to happen for most of us.  The reality is writers make time to write.  Hobbyists talk about it longingly.  Many famous writers had full-time jobs doing many other things – some rather boring things – besides writing.  Examples include William Carlos Williams, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Dan Brown, Zane Grey, J.K. Rowling, Scott Turow…the list is a long one.  In an earlier post, I mentioned that Joy Cowley told an anecdote about her friend who wrote a novel – and a good one – in ten minutes of writing per day.

Make writing a habit.  Spend less time surfing the web and reading about writing and more time actually working.  Writing does NOT have to be putting sentences on paper or a screen.  Brainstorming, outlining, characterization, plotting – all of these are writing.  Researching is a significant part of writing, too.  Just don’t get so caught up in the research that it becomes passive and not active.

From a long struggle to create good habits for eating and exercise – and no, I’m not entirely successful there either – I learned it takes 21 days to form a new habit and break a bad one.  Rob Sanders is giving us 10 possibilities for inspiration each day this week – that’s 50 chances to begin that good habit.

Find the spaces in each day that go unused.  I mentioned laundry in my last post as an obstacle.  Well, I was wrong.  Laundry is a great time to write.  40 minutes per cycle in the washer and dryer = 80 minutes of writing time!  Waiting for the dismissal bell?  Great time to watch children and jot down ideas or phrases!  My colleague Lisa Amstutz of The Yellow Brick Road told me this summer at the Highlights conference that she writes late at night, after the kids are in bed and the day’s work is done.

Realistically, writers eventually need to find some larger stretches of uninterrupted time.  And, yes, writers need a workspace conducive to writing.  I’m much more productive using a desk and not my dining table.  Not all of us like to congregate at coffeehouses or our local libraries.  Finding that workspace and time encourages the writing habit.

The truth about time is that it’s elastic.  It stretches to fit our needs.  It shrinks when we’re stressed or having a fabulous time, and it grows while at the dentist or waiting for an acceptance letter from an editor.  Like that perfect pair of jeans, time always fits our needs – sometimes we just have to work a little to make it fit.


2 thoughts on “The myth of time

  1. This is all VERY true, Leslie, for sure! To me, one of the biggest time-robbers is the internet. I’ve come to resent email (not ALL email, but most), the easy click to information (I’m an info addict) and the fact that we’re told we HAVE to have an internet presence through social media, etc. It all gets very wearisome.

    I, too, am trying to get a more efficient and beneficial life regimen in place, and wholeheartedly expect to fit in a lot more time for focusing on writing. Yes, I “write” mentally, during all those “bits of time,” but am aching for the actual, physical process. It’s coming! Good luck to all of us in that endeavor! 🙂

    1. Too true, Donna! There is software you can install on your computer which “locks” you away from the Internet when you need uninterrupted time. For me, though, I just turn off my Internet connection by turning off my WiFi. Funny how not seeing those messages and links pop up keeps me focused…

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