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October 2007

#2 Time for Writing

This week has been insane. I’ve found virtually no time for writing. Do you sometimes feel that life is conspiring to stand in the way of your creative moments? No matter how you try to work writing into your daily schedule—your job, your children, health complications and various obligations always seem to wreak havoc with your writing schedule.
I started the week with an appointment for an eye exam, set up over a month ago. I fought traffic to get there, only to find the doctor had called in saying she wasn’t going to be able to keep her appointments that day. Did anyone call to tell me? No.

Since I was out of the house anyway and happened to be near Home Depot, I decide to check out their fall selections of plantings—mums, winter pansies, ornamental cabbages. I ended up taking over an hour to do that. (Yeah, I know, that was my choice so I shouldn’t complain.) Then got snagged in traffic on the way home. Finally back at the house, I planted my funky cabbages, checked the clock and realized half the day was already gone. No writing done yet. (Big sigh.) The rest of the day I needed to prepare for the novel-writing class I was teaching that evening at the Writer’s Center in Bethesda, Maryland.

Next day, had to take one of my cats to the vet for her shots. Another adventure that ate up time. Back home again with ticked off cat, I needed to edit my distance learning students’ assignments. (I teach this course through Long Ridge Writing Group.) I broke for dinner with my husband then returned to editing and typing letters of instruction to my students. At the end of the day I still hadn’t worked on my novel, and I went to bed feeling frustrated.

Next day, I needed to prepare for a speaking engagement coming up that Saturday for Sisters in Crime, a national writers’ organization of (mostly) women mystery writers. Sometime soon, I reminded myself, I’d need to get to a grocery store or we wouldn’t have anything in the house to eat. Didn’t make it to the store because of my twice-a-month critique group. I’ve also agreed to have lunch with two of my mentoring clients this week. I’m getting desperate. I need to get back to my writing but can’t see how to fit it in.

Sound familiar? We all run into periods of too-much-to-do in our lives. Trying to fit writing into an already crammed schedule doesn’t work. What I must do now is the only way I’ve found to keep to a productive writing schedule. Put writing first.

Oh, sure, you say, and how do you do that when you have a fulltime job; or you’re the caregiver for young children, an ailing spouse or elderly parents? You still put writing first.

No matter how busy you are, you can make room for your writing by prioritizing and snatching pockets of time. It’s something all writers need to remember, whether novices or veterans. Time isn’t a gift, you have to steal it.

And how do you steal time when it seems that none exists? You shake up your schedule; you do something wildly different. Some of the ways I’ve stolen time to write include: 1)Getting up an hour before everyone else is due to wake up, 2)Setting the alarm for 3 a.m. then writing for an hour or two before going back to bed to finish sleeping, 3)Taking my writing with me wherever I go, enabling me to write or revise a scene or chapter while sitting in the dentist’s waiting room, 4)And, when I was working a regular day job, begging off lunch with my work buddies to I could go out to the parking lot and write in my car.

Find the moments in your life that you can steal for writing. They are there; you just have to recognize them. --Kathryn