My Favourite Thing – Time

“My favourite things in life don’t cost much money. It’s clear the most precious resource we have is time.”

Steve Jobs

I’m now one of those rare people who’s revelling in the luxury of time. (see my first blog Living the Writer’s Dream) But not many people (writers) have this luxury available to them. So how do we find more time to do the things we love – in this case write.

This is possibly a writer’s greatest challenge. If writing isn’t your day job, then finding the time can seem impossible. But when most writers say they don’t have enough time to write, what they’re really saying is they’re filling up their days with something more important than writing. They let the mundane get to them. The day is spent completing tasks – sometimes important tasks, like feeding the family, getting kids to school on time, pesky stuff like earning a living to pay the mortgage, that kind of thing. And if all these tasks are more important than writing then you should definitely get on with them. But if all you’re doing is letting these tasks get the better of you, then it’s just an excuse not to put pen to paper or fingers to the keyboard.

Suzanne Brockmann, a New York Times bestseller of romantic suspense, with two RITA awards under her belt, started her writing career back when she had a young family, husband and busy life to contend with and she’s still managed to write over 50 books. (and still counting) She says “The only difference between a published and unpublished author is that the published author never quit”. I’m sure she still has a million and one things to get done every day, but has always managed to keep writing at the top of her priority list.

One way to physically show yourself how you actually spend your precious time is to write a time-diary over a week or two. Take a small notepad with you for the next week and write down what you really do in those 24 hours every day. You might be surprised.

Here are a few tried and true ideas for finding time to write.

  • A lot of writers swear by the set-yourself-a-routine Always write at the same time every day, for the same length of time, without fail. Be it at 6.00am in the morning before the rest of the family is awake, or during your lunch break at work, or after you’ve packed the dishwasher once dinner’s over. As long as it’s the same time every day.
  • Along these same lines, a lot of writers like to write first thing in the morning, before all those little tasks have a chance to overwhelm you. Set your alarm half an hour earlier and just write. This does work, I’ve tried it, but it also takes a fair bit of determination, especially if you’re not a morning person, like me.
  • On the flip side, many people say a routine is damaging to their creativity and do the opposite, writing in little snippets whenever they can – often called snap-writing – on the bus on the way to work, in the car waiting to pick up the kids, half an hour alone before the everyone comes home from work/school.
  • 500 words per day. This is a mantra I live by and it really works. This allows for a bit of both set-yourself-a-routine method and the snap-writing Because all you need to do is find the half hour to forty five minutes sometime in your day to get down 500 words. But try not to get too hung up on word counts, and don’t stop if the mood (and the time) strikes. I often find I sit down to write 500 words and end up with over 1000.
  • Perhaps some of us are wasting the time we do have available to us – on social media for one, or watching TV for another. But then again if your obsessing about the next episode in the new season of Outlander, then I’m not one to point the finger. Turning off the phone, the iPad or the TV can be a big surprise when you find out how much free time you actually have.

But even the people who do have the luxury of time sometimes find that the dream of writing full time is not what they expected. The pressure to write all the time can become overwhelming. Or the shame of not producing thousands of words every day stifling. I haven’t encountered these problems yet, after only three months of full-time writing, but that’s not to say they won’t eventuate later.

Here’s to not wasting our most precious resource. Time.

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