Time to Write
When do you find time to write?
Probably as common as ‘where do you get your ideas from?” but infused with the intrusive connotation of ‘how much do you weigh?’
This question implies that somehow writers have been gifted with extra hours in the day. You know, to make up for our social awkwardness and lack of financial security.
Yet sadly, this is not the case.
Finding time to write is personal and there is no right or wrong way to do it.
With a few exceptions. If you leave a crying baby in a high-chair for hours on end so you can finish one more page, or neglect Fifi’s romp in the dog park to put together a blog, you’re doing it the wrong way.
Yes, I did just baby and dog shame you in one sentence.
Also, risking the lives of others by embellishing your memoir while driving is also wrong.
Aside from this, however, there is no wrong way to express your creativity through writing.
Some people are staunch believers in writing every day, even a little. Other swear by the method of locking themselves in a room and binge writing over a weekend or week.
I work several jobs with a great deal of flexibility so it’s easy for me to find time to work on shorter projects through the day or week. However, I also find that long term work like the novel I’ve been working on or other book length projects are harder to develop in short spurts. It’s easier for me to have a dedicated period of time to focus on them without interruption.
This is one of the great things about writing retreats.
For a weekend, week or three days, you can find quiet and solitary (or semi-solitary) space to settle in and disconnect from other distractions. Revisiting a manuscript that has been months or years in development is easier for me when I can spend quality time with it, with minimal interruptions.
Yes, retreats are an investment, but if it is possible, it is a worthy investment. You may have opportunities for critique and feedback if you choose it or even some degree of instruction during your stay. Networking is another benefit.
If your budget doesn’t allow for time away to focus on writing, consider a Writer’s Retreat Staycation. Coordinate with family or significant others to create a full day or weekend for a marathon writing experience. Prep food in advance and lock yourself in a home office or bedroom with explicit instructions not to be disturbed unless the house is on fire. You may also wish to include a disclaimer that actual housefire not be a reason for disruption, as long as it can be contained in another section of the house. At least until you have finished the chapter in progress and properly saved your work in a removable storage device.
If being at home is too distracting, consider a self-directed Writer’s Retreat hybrid experience. Book an inexpensive Air BnB or similar accommodations. Ensure you have some level of solitude and quiet, or at the very least, a good set of headphones and motivating playlist. I am partial to Bob Dylan’s Idiot Wind on repeat when writing about the Trump administration and Reggae covers of country songs for everything else.
Don’t knock it ‘til you try it.
If you are already traveling for work or pleasure, consider becoming fanatical about not missing your plane. Arriving at the airport several hours early with plenty of time to be harassed by TSA can make a unique, albeit unpleasant, marathon writing experience. I have finished manuscripts in airports thanks to my obsession with arriving ridiculously early. Headphones and Bob Dylan or Reggae covers come in really handy in this scenario as well.
Consider your most productive times of day. I say times optimistically, holding out hope that for some of us there is more than one time frame.
I usually feel clear minded in the morning, so tackling higher priority projects when I first wake up is ideal. I also save this time for projects that require greater levels of creativity. Freelance writing on familiar topics can be accomplished any time of day, though it is best if I edit or proofread early.
A dear friend is a night owl and does her best writing at night. Others prefer easy to schedule times like after dinner or when the kids go to sleep. Do what works for you, when your creative juices and attention are at their strongest.
I have never had luck following a consistent schedule either because my energy level fluctuates through the day and week, or because I am a moody bitch and never know what I will want to write about, or both.
Personal style and motivation play a significant role in finding time to write. Customize your routine so it fits your preferences, but is also realistic and aligned with your style of productivity. If you work better under deadlines, find an accountability partner and have them set a deadline with you. I discovered when first working on the novel that I was totally engrossed in the energy of it during a week’s visit to the first Women at Woodstock Writer’s Retreat in downstate NY. It was easy to become consumed by the plot, characters and feel of the book. I wrote about ¾ of the manuscript during that trip but found it difficult to get back in the mood when I got back home. It was like the honeymoon was over. After trying different things to revive my interest in it, I found that it just came down to digging out the manuscript and sitting with it. Even hammering out a few lines of boring bullshit that would be edited out later on was usually enough to get the juices flowing again. Yet this wouldn’t have happened if I had stashed it away until I felt like looking at it again.
In a few days I will be returning to the Women at Woodstock Writer’s Retreat for the third year in a row. It is an opportunity I am immensely grateful for and encourage others to seek out similar experiences if you are able. In the works are; revisions on a follow up to Queen Up, further research into potential agents or publishers for the novel and a new series of short stories that may become an anthology or novella about how capitalism sucks the life out of everyday people. Joy!