If you don’t write because you don’t have time, then you don’t want to write at all. There’s more time in a day than there is ambition in most wannabe writers. Your average author has more time management skill than a watch repairman. And that’s just the common toiler at the craft, the one who churns out wordbuckets of chum only because they’ve extinguished their wiles on finding the time to pollute the word world with mediocrity. Credit where credit’s due.
The real battle to write isn’t in the weapons or strategy. It’s in finding the battlefield.
That’s why we’re Writing All Wrong.
I’ve really tried hard to focus on finding time to write, but I just can’t seem to fit it in my hectic life. Balancing a job and kids takes a toll, and I spend more time recovering from all of it. It just seems to be one of those things where I spend more time preparing to do some writing (poetry, bits and pieces of a novel, a short story here and there, reflection) than actually writing. I’m not a natural procrastinator, but if I don’t make time to do what I want, then I won’t do it at all. What do good writers do to make time for writing? Thanks.
—Olivia McCloskey, San Marcos, Tex.
Your life isn’t hectic, you’re not supposed to “balance” jobkids, and you’re overvaluing recovery. Can’t you just knock down shots of tequila in between Max and Ruby episodes?
I can already see how you mismanage your day, leading to such tumult. For starters, if the kids aren’t helping with the farm, they’re probably not helping at all. I’d suggest seeing what they’ll fetch at auction or look into trading up for older children who occupy themselves. That may be a drastic step, but unless you pony up for a governess, you can kiss your writing and your life goodbye.
And the job? Unless you’re like everyone I hate in life, you probably need an income stream that isn’t generated by your wealthy forbears. Might want to keep that. I trust you’re already writing during your commute, union breaks, and quite possibly during your mundane office work that isn’t really work anyway. If not, that needs to change. Or check the yellow pages for “Daddy, Sugar.”
Let’s assume you’re on the way to freeing your life as prescribed. Good for you! Now to heighten your ambition, let’s look at your day re-imagined as a writer:
2:00 AM to 6:00 AM: Musing on your failure the previous day, somnifically plotting for your next labors, dreaming of coherent narratives. Optional: sleeping.
6:00 AM to 7:00 AM: Swearing at the alarm clock, drinking enough coffee to see into tomorrow and burn your eyes clean, and a primal yell to greet the dawn’s vanquishment of night. Capture the idea swirl as it siphons the dregs of dreams.
7:00 AM to 9:00 AM: If you’ve done it right, your pot of coffee should get you to breakfast. Write, and keep writing. Keep some potassium chloride (or ether, if you’re old-school) on hand for distractions, because that’s gotta stop.
9:00 AM to 9:15 AM: Sneak in a breakfast while you take your bathroom break. Don’t get them confused, because eating Cocoa Puffs from a toilet is a mistake you won’t catch until it’s too late.
9:15 AM to 12:00 PM: Keep writing. You’ve already written two hours worth of sputum—it only gets better if you stick to it. Most of the waking world should be on its way toward wrecking your day. If you haven’t sold the kids yet, ensure they’re glued to Nick Jr’s. HypnoTown – keeps ‘em from whining about food or attention. Your boss should know you won’t be in today—hope you told him that you’re dealing with some sort of lava measles or scarlet mumps in one of those kids (whom you’re ignoring for the sake of the craft).
12:00 PM to 1:00 PM: Eat something, pump up that brain of yours. You’re taxing it for all it’s worth. Drink more coffee or make use of those illegal stimulants your live-in stashes in the bread box. Can’t have a food coma interrupting progress. HypnoTown’s over: change it up with an array of mind-sucking DVDs. Call your boss, vomiting into the phone for effect, letting him know you’re serious about the bubonic plague redux you didn’t report this morning.
1:00 PM to 3:00 PM: What you wrote? Yeah, that’s no good. Go back and do it better. Don’t be deserving of that potassium chloride injection. Make something of your life.
3:00 PM to 3:43 PM: Who shorted the DVD player with a steady stream of drool? Don’t blame the kid. Blame yourself for neglecting to slobber-proof this thing. And they’re complaining about eating beef jerky for breakfast? Ran out of Gushers too? Wow. Better call up that auction house if you want to salvage this day, or else it’s a afternoon’s worth of Best Buy and GroceryMart.
3:43 PM to 5:39 PM: Because you didn’t call the auction house.
5:39 PM to 5:45 PM: Skittles and M&Ms for dinner? Now that’s pragmatic.
5:45 PM to 6:58 PM: “Mommy’s going to play ‘Silent Hide & Seek’ with you! If you find me, you have to be real quiet or else you don’t win.” — I’m not sold, but whatever works for you here, so be it. Keep writing.
6:58 PM to 8:17 PM: Because you thought leaving the crayons and coloring books within reach was a good idea. At least the kids colored within the lines. Well, within the lines of your walls and furniture. And the cat ate your Magic Eraser? We have a cat here? This situation must be addressed.
8:17 PM to 9:00 PM: Better be writing while you read these bedtime stories. Or just read them what you wrote today. Can’t stress the soporific potency of bad writing.
9:00 PM to 9:02 PM: Take some time to kick back and relax. You’ve had a busy day.
9:02 PM to midnight: Time for the final strike. House to yourself? Perfect. Cozy up in a bathrobe and light a candle. Take some of that liquor cabinet with you if needed. Snack on those leftover Skittles stuck to the table. And if you haven’t written anything of consequence, then you’d better carry this into the wee hours of tomorrow.
Midnight to the wee hours of tomorrow: Yeah, I figured.
Writing All Wrong can be reached via email (WritingAllWrong@me.com), followed on Twitter (@WritingAllWrong), and plotted into your minute-by-minute planner.