Monday, April 23, 2018
Time to Make Time
An avid fan of this blog mentioned the three things she needed to get her writing going: time, energy, and motivation. I could not agree more. However, addressing all of those at once is throwing a lot of laundry into the machine, so it would probably serve us best to break them down in separate articles. In that spirit, my next three posts will cover those three subjects. And the one I would like to address now (if the title didn’t already give it away) is time.
First, I am not going to offer the simple adage, “If you want something, make time for it.” That’s a nice bumper sticker, but it doesn’t really tell us how. Anyone reading this blog obviously wants something as the end result, but then life steps in and takes over the show. In the real world, making time is part desire, part sacrifice, and a big part is knowing what works best for you.
New York Times bestseller Mary Kubica, author of “Every Last Lie,” gave some great advice about this (I met her last weekend so I will be sharing her inspiration for a while). When she started writing her first book, “The Good Girl,” she was very busy as a new mother, so her time was limited. However, she also knew what worked best with her. She carved out a little typing time by waking up earlier than her child (about five in the morning) to get in her writing before the chaos of the day started. The peace and serenity of the morning worked well for her, and the product was an award-winning novel and a two-book contract.
Before you say you’re not a morning person, let me say neither am I. A morning to me is like a few hours of Monday every day of the week. I could never use her advice word-for-word, but I did think about what works for me. And as we push forward with writing, we discover the area that works best with the development of “the process” (yes – this is where “the process” forms).
For me, my creative side functions best after spending a while being detailed, analytical, and to-the-point. As an economic analyst, I would spend my work day burrowed deeply into the comfort of formulas, theories, and mind-numbing economic debate. That kind of structure and mental rigidity served me well at work. However, when I got home, I wanted to shift gears and think creatively. The wild, abstract part of my mind needed attention: “If dragons spend their lives in caves, why are they so conversationally fluent? What would a cat have for a pet? Do ghosts and poltergeists get along?” This observation about how I function gave me a great opportunity on how to incorporate writing into my process.
I started writing after work. Yes, after all that work stuff, I would get my half-hour of writing in on the train, or put my dinner on slow heat and type up a few things. And as surprising as it may sound, after an exhausting ten-hour day of research, one-half hour of creative writing would refresh me, energize me, and give me a little boost. And if there wasn’t time on the train, there’s the before-dinner thing. And if not then, a half-hour is exactly the length of that sit-com that I didn’t really watch but it’s on between two shows I liked so I watched it anyway. And for those who relax with a glass of wine in the evening (I prefer gin as a writer, scotch while I edit), sit back with a notepad and some background music and let the mind wander around the page while the Merlot breathes.
None of these things are guaranteed to work. Mary Kubica’s arrangement worked for her, my habits work for me, and other people have their own ways. The important part is to try things to see what works. This is a process of discovery, of learning about how you function best and what you can do to get that little bit of writing in every day or so.
And ironically, it will take time to find out the best way to make time. Maybe the first experiment in making time works, or maybe it fails but reveals a little fact about how you function. In either case, part of building the process is discovery. As you reveal to yourself those things that you overlooked before, you become more aware of what you can do as a writer. And as that process develops, it shows you more about who you are as a writer, and this feeds back on itself in a virtuous cycle.
This isn’t a bumper sticker solution. It requires exploration. However, if I were to make a bumper sticker to promote this idea, it would be much simpler (and probably not a big seller). And it would apply toward more than writing, but for now, let’s just start with a prototype for those wanting more from their writing: