This is a well-trodden topic, isn’t it? But lately, this is on my mind. For a couple years, I’ve had as much time as I needed to waste on bad writing, and it’s easy to take something for granted if you have a lot of it.
Nowadays, I’m on my way to a new career. It’s something I’ve wanted for a long time, but it doesn’t come easy. It means lots of schooling, a grueling internship, and a completely new schedule.
I’m the sort of person who likes to howl at the moon. I stay up late, sleep too much, and pace around while normal people are in bed. It’s the way I’ve always lived, if I was able. Shifting to a regular schedule is a herculean task, but I can do it. But it better be for something amazing.
This is worth it. It’s worth giving up my nightwalking habits, but it’s not worth giving up writing.
That’s what I’m getting at. For the first time in a long time, I’m having to make time to write. Ever since I started making a focused, concerted effort to improve, I’ve been blocking off time. I told myself I was treating it like a job, but free time was still in plentiful supply. Now that it’s not, I find the simple task of ‘making time to write’ more challenging than ever.
I don’t want to say I have a problem with those ‘top 10 writing tips’ style articles that we find sprinkled around the internet. I really don’t. After all, I always click on them. I hope I’ll see something new, rather than the same rehashed advice, but usually I don’t. That’s okay. I know those articles are for beginners before I even click on them.
Of all the obvious advice I see in those articles, ‘make time to write’ might be the most insidious. It’s been reduced to a platitude, something easy for successful writers to rattle off to less practiced ones, like a healthy person telling their depressed friend to ‘stop being sad’.
What’s more irritating is that, despite being utterly unhelpful, it’s also correct. Make time to write? Obviously.
But what this common, sagely little piece of advice actually asking of us? It’s not reassuring you that you’ll happen upon a magical block of free time. It’s telling you to give up something else. If you’re like me, and you live a busy life or are going through changes, you’ll have to give something up. That’s the way it goes. And if you don’t sacrifice something else, writing will be the thing you sacrifice for something else.
If you don’t make writing a priority, then you won’t be able to make it part of your life. I believe that’s the part which causes so many amateur writers to struggle. We want to get started, but we let ‘I don’t have time’ turn into a wall.
Happens to all of us. It still happens to me. Over the years, I’ve had to talk back to my anxiety. I’ve had to write then I didn’t want to. I’ve had to decline invitations I’d have rather accepted. I’m not trying to paint myself as some sort of writing martyr either, because for all that effort, I’m still an amateur. But every time I make myself do it, it gets a little easier. Most of the time, I can make time. You probably have time, too.
Those articles always make it sound like something easy. Keep a positive attitude and block out a half hour after dinner, and you’ll be spinning best sellers in no time, right?
Again, it isn’t bad advice, but try to think about the reality of that scenario. You’ll finish dinner, you’ll wash the dishes, you’ll pet your dog or chat with your partner, and next thing you know, the half hour is gone.
It’s easy for some people to just sit down and bang out their 1000 words in that half hour, but chances are, they had to train themselves to do it. If you’re not there yet, it’s because you need to keep doing it, again and again, until it becomes more than a habit. It needs to be part of you.
The question can’t be ‘How do I find the time?”. It has to be ‘What am I going to cut out?”.