(aka, Making Time to Write aka Plant your behind in a chair)

Being unemployed (aka, a freelance writer) you’d think it’d be easy for me to find time to write.  I have found that my schedule actually hasn’t changed all that much for a variety of reasons.  For one, looking for work is a full time job.  So in a lot of ways there’s a lot of going through the motions of a regular schedule, but to be straight, there’s still a lot of flexibility to write (or do like many of the other folks with 9-5 gigs do:  play games on Facebook).

Plus, I still have a lot of outside interests, from teaching to volunteer work.  So the usual balancing act of work, family, interests, and writing is still pretty much in play.  It’d be a lot easier if I were more disciplined.  The closest thing to discipline I have is that I am committed to putting words on a page regularly, even if at the time of this writing, it’s 12:08 a.m. and I’m doing a blog and not the chapter which currently has me stumped.  The long and short of it is that I, you, any would be writer has to make time to write.  It won’t just happen, no matter how hard I’ve tried (and I’ve been a committed scientist in this area).

To begin to carve out this space to write requires sacrifice.  There are 24 hours in a day, that hasn’t and doesn’t look likely to change anytime soon.  So something’s got to give.  It could be something easy, like television (currently I have my random X-Files marathon paused).  For others it might require less time on Facebook, Twitter, ranting on message boards (I’m so glad I have that habit kicked), or other internet surfing (which I still have to do … IN THE NAME OF RESEARCH!!!)

But there are other hours in the day to wring more time from.  Writing on the job is a tricky proposition, after all, you still need to be responsible and do your work or you won’t have said job for very long.  However, ideas still happen and you need to jot them down.  My personal method of choice was either my trusty notepad or, in a pinch, Post-It notes at the office.  Here’s the deal though:  you had BETTER collect them as to not let your co-workers find them.  Especially if you are writing a horror story, allow me to assure you that this scenario ends with a company staff meeting where you discuss any latent feelings of hostility you may have towards your colleagues.

I’d also suggest that you write long hand. That can’t be tracked as easily (speaking for a friend who got busted at work for using their computers.  Key stroke logging says what?).  But I always write longhand so that was easy for me.  All this and I haven’t even broached the topic of the time you can gain with a well-timed extended trip to the bathroom.  You’re good for a paragraph or two depending on what you had for dinner.  (Too much?)

Even with my erratic schedule, there are a few constants to it.  Most of us can write an hour or two at night or an hour or two in the morning.  For that matter, you can also write for an hour over lunch.  If you figure an average of 500 words and hour (your mileage may vary), that’s around 1500 a day.  Crunching the numbers, that’s a short story a week (if you’re feeling your inner Jay Lake) or a novel in a year.

To be honest, that’s about my writing output regardless.  Even when I’m not working, that’s about all I have in me creatively.  Sure I can do other writing (blogging, articles, etc.), but that “creation” muscle is worn out for me after a few hours.  With kids around, I can do the business of writing (e-mails, researching, social media, etc.) or typing and organizing my notes

Which brings me to my last point:  make your family part of the process.  Living with a writer is hard enough.  I’ve had to have a series of conversations with my wife and kids about my writing time.  Though it was tough trying to get them to understand that they had to leave me alone when the “office door is closed” (and only mildly confusing when the office in question is the bedroom or the couch).  On the flip side, with my “method” writing, I tend to take on the moods of my characters to write from that place, sometimes hard to turn off, which means explaining that my moods aren’t their fault.  And let them in on the rest of the process: celebrate getting published, take them to conventions when you can, and show them that their sacrifice is not all a waste of time.

Contrary to the myth, publication isn’t hard.*  It all boils down to discipline, drive, and devotion, in short, it’s a matter of how badly do you want it.  Or, in my case, how looming is that deadline.  The secret to making time to write:  plant your behind in a chair and get it done.

*Not to put too crass a turn on it (he says as he’s about to put a crass turn on things), publication is like getting laid.  It’s easy to find someone to have sex with.  When all else fails, you can pay for someone to have sex with you.  But to find that right person and make that special connection requires more work, more diligence, more patience, and a measure of choosiness.