I said I wouldn’t write columns telling anyone how to write. Doing so would be extremely presumptuous since I have no idea how to write.
Still, in my own quest to become a “real” writer, I’m coming across all kinds of advice to follow and I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least talk about that advice from time to time.
The most common bit of advice I’ve seen beyond “write!” is about making time to write.
What does that mean to me exactly?
I’m a (relatively) new dad, I have a day job, a (relatively) new house. It’s a busy life. Coming home means quality time with my wife and daughter, some chores and dinner. Those activities alone eat up most of an evening. In the last year, time has become a very precious commodity.
I’m trying to write at least a little every day. I follow the excellent site 750 words and try to write that much, but I’m happy if I get a couple hundred words out. Taking the time to write, for me, means finding those little bits of time that I used to spend on TV, video games or good old fashioned vegging and using that time to stare down a white page and filling it with words.
This realistically translates into about an hour in the morning (I wake up very early) and about 45 minutes at night during the time my wife puts our daughter to sleep for the night. Sometimes, there’s more time, sometimes there’s less.
This time is not scheduled, it simply comes from a decision to write instead of something else I’d like to do.
It means sacrifice.
That’s what it’s all about. What am I willing to give up to spend the time writing? I’m still learning the answer to that question.
I am willing to give up a lot of TV watching. This doesn’t seem to be a big deal to a lot of people out there (cue the folks who pride themselves in the fact that they do not own a TV), but I like TV. TV gives me certain kind of downtime. It allows me to turn my brain off and sigh in relief. I have decided that I can forgo that relief in exchange for benefits of a different sort. I find this decision a little harder than I expected, sometimes I just need to turn the brain off.
I am willing to give up video games. Gaming offers me a great deal of fodder for writing since I tend to prefer games with a strong narrative over twitch games. Playing a good RPG usually fires up my imagination and gives me ideas for tons of stories. The problem is, what does it matter if I have tons of ideas if I keep playing games and never get any of those ideas down on paper in the first place?
I am not willing to give up time with my daughter and my wife. I write for myself, it fulfills a need and I’m pursuing a dream, but without them that dream is not worth having. I will set aside the words and stories if it means I get time to spend with my wife, or I get to play with my daughter. Luckily, this is one sacrifice that I am not asked to make. There’s plenty of time in the day already squandered daily that I can trim.
I am not willing to give up my health. Some writers I know or have read say they easily give up a few hours of sleep to get in that crucial extra hour or two of writing. I’m not sure I’m there yet. Does that mean I don’t want it bad enough and that my quest is doomed to fail? I’m going to find out. I need my sleep, I’m no longer a young man. I need my time at the gym for the same reason. I’m starting pretty late in the game, I have to take care of myself if I’m going to last.
My main weakness, thus far, has been scheduling the larger blocks of time. I can easily write 500 to 1000 words in a hour, especially if I’ve been looking forward to it all day. Writing is enjoyable, it’s fun and it’s stress relief when I need it.
What I can’t do in 45 minutes or an hour is edit or rewrite a manuscript that desperately needs it. I have a completed novel that needs a rewrite before it can be sent out. I can’t do the work in small bits. I need to sit down and spend an afternoon, a day, an evening and hash that out. It takes time to beat a first draft into submission. That block of time remains very elusive to me. I haven’t figured out how to carve it out of my schedule yet and commit to it yet. This will be an ongoing struggle.
I’ve come to realize that the tighter my schedule, the more precious the time becomes, the more important it becomes to take those bits and pieces and put some words on the page. It’s important, even if it means sacrificing something else.
What do you sacrifice in your schedule to make time to get those words out?