Sunday, July 27, 2008

Finding the Time

Time is arguably one of the most valuable and scarce resources each of us have. We can only count the time that has past, never the time still to come, and while it could be argued that time is a renewable resource, as one minute continues to follow the last, we never truly know when the final minute will come, or what will pop up in the next moment and demand our attention. Everything in life vies for time: family, jobs, sleep, shopping, hobbies, ect. We each must value and balance the activities that consume our time.

If you are a writer, you have probably heard someone say something to the extent of “Yeah, I plan to write a book one day, when I get time.” If you haven’t heard a line like that before, walk around and tell people you are writing a book, I almost guarantee you will eventually hear it. This line is one of my personal pet-peeves. After all, when is there really ample time just sitting around to write a book? Retirement? Who wants to wait their entire life before trying something they think they want to do?

When I first got serious about my writing, I knew one of the keys to improvement was to write a lot, and write constantly. I found advice (I forget where) which recommended establishing a ‘writing ritual’—a dedicated time I set aside every day to write.

Okay. I could do that. Right?

I made it maybe a week. Then life got in the way. Work swallowed me whole, a family event was scheduled during my time, or maybe I was just too tired when I got home. Writers always say “You wouldn’t let life get in the way of showing up to work. If you were serious, you wouldn’t let it get in the way of writing either.” Which, is true enough—but so not helpful.

I tried to be flexible about my dedicated time; it didn’t have to be the same time everyday, just an unbroken hour or two, alone, without distractions. Still I wasn’t consistently making it to the computer. I was frustrated. Some days I might get four miraculous hours, but then days would go by where I barely had a break all day. What was I supposed to do? Were people right about that waiting for retirement thing?

Of course not.

Here is what I finally figured out: sometimes time has to be stolen. There are lots of lost minutes during the day. Waiting after work to meet up with the husband or the kids? Hey, it might only be a couple minutes, but add those up with the twenty minutes dinner is in the oven, and the half hour before bed, and suddenly you have a full hour of writing. It’s not all together, and it’s not necessarily quiet, but carry a notebook, and you might be surprised how many words you have at the end of the day. Realizing my time didn’t have to be all together helped me immensely, and my word count grew on that first book.

Over the last two years, I think I’ve forgotten what I learned way back when with that first book. Oh I still steal time, in my own way. I now pack my lunch and devote my lunch hour to writing every workday. Most of the time, I can write at least 500 words during lunch, on good days I hit around 1k in that hour. After work, if I have the time and energy, I try to devote a little more time to my writing, but if life gets in the way, at least I know I had that hour. For deadlines (even if they are self-imposed), that isn’t always enough. I’ve been frustrated recently with my lack of time, so I think I need to start looking for those wasted minutes once again.

When do you write? (or practice any other hobby/prospective career?) Do you steal time? Where do you find it? Or do you have a dedicated time? How do you protect it? I’d love to hear from you, so chime in.

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