I was supposed to do this post last month, but I procrastinated. Such a horrible, nasty habit, wouldn’t you say?
But not so fast . . . .
Procrastination does have its place, just as other “bad habits” have their place. In fact, I use some of them on a daily basis in order to pursue my writing full-throttle. Like a wild-haired insane person who has ingested massive quantities of caffeine, I hone in on my goal and evoke the darkest powers of evasion, procrastination, delegation, and superstition to move me giant steps forward every day.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying my life is the model life of the writer that you should seek. I wouldn’t wish single parent-dom on anyone, especially with four kids, a puppy and a rat. Some days I think if I turned my life into a reality show, I’d be an overnight kajillionaire. Because, wow . . . we have craziness up the wazoo here. But alas, I know my place in this world is as a writer and not a television star. Which is a good thing, because I’d be pissed if I had to wake up and put makeup on everyday before I left my bedroom.
So, the way I see it, if a single mom of four can make time to write, so can you. Below are a few ideas of how you can build your life more around your writing. Some of the ideas may seem CRAZY to you, but just remember, they are merely meant to get you thinking about what the truly important things are in your life, and where your passion for writing will stand in the midst of it all. Because it is up to you.
13 Ways to MAKE Time to Write
#13. You know all those awesome tv shows you watch? Don’t. Watch. Them.
Seriously, don’t. My suggestion is to just get rid of cable altogether. I haven’t had cable since 2006 and I rarely regret it. We do have Netflix, but it is strictly for children’s programming. I used to get sucked into watching about three hours of television a day, if not more, which not only drains the vibrancy of your imagination (not to mention your relationships with those around you, IMO), but it also clogs your mind space from being as full of ideas that are authentically you. TV exists for one reason and one reason alone: to hold you and your precious creative brain hostage in its world, slowly lessening your ability to use your own imagination. Sure, there are some good shows out there. Some people think crack and heroin are good, too. They’re supposed to be! They are designed this way to keep you at their whim, whether your local drug dealer or your local television broadcaster, it is a conspiracy to make you their mind slave. No, I haven’t once seen Game of Thrones (though I’d like to read the book) or Breaking Bad or The Waking Dead, or any of those other shows people talk about all of the time. But I did write three novels and a few short stories last year. Imagine how much writing you could get done in that [insert your number here] hours a day?
#12. Cultivate “Bad” Habits: Procrastinate, ignore, and shift responsibilities to others (a.k.a. delegate.)
Chores. Errands. Duties. Housework. Evil, yet necessary, deeds that must be done sometimes. The key word here is sometimes. Here’s where some of those “bad habits” pay off. Here are three examples in snapshots from a day in my life:
a. Baby goes down for a nap and I notice the house is messy. Clean?
Um, no. This is the perfect opportunity for me to get some uninterrupted writing in. House cleaning can wait. My house is rarely spotless. If I cleaned my house like Carol Brady, I’d never get any writing done. Ever. Besides, geniuses thrive in clutter. 😉
b. Kids come home from school.
Me: “Time to clean!”
Kids: “Ugh, do we have to?”
Me: “If you want to play outside with your friends today.”
There, see? That was easy. Delegation is important, not only for me, but for them, because honestly, they need to clean up after themselves anyway. It’s part of growing up and learning how to be self-sufficient. (Gosh I love it when my justifications are actually true!) But seriously, this is one I’ve had to work on. Since I am somewhat of a perfectionist (aka slight control freak), I like things done the “right” way (my way), which is rarely how my children do anything as far as chores are concerned. So, I’ve had to tame my inner critic and outer perfectionist and learn to let some things slide.
and c. Kids are finally in bed and sink is full of dishes. Do dishes?
Not usually, especially now, since we don’t have a working dishwasher. Most nights, I compromise by rinsing and holding in the sink until morning. Remember, I’m a single parent so I can do this without getting yelled at, or my partner feeling like he has to pick up my slack. 😉 It’s just an example. But, I do this because my prime writing time is in the evening. Usually, I can get the dishes done in the morning when the kids are getting ready for school, this way I reserve my prime writing time (which happens to coincide with “primetime” tv, fyi) for writing and writing alone. Every minute counts.
#11. Quit your day job (or cut back your hours) and trust life while you pursue your dream.
This one for me was not actually by direct choice, but rather, through a series of choices I made in my past when I was in the midst of mental illness and addiction. That is a story for another time, but I will say this: it worked for J.K. Rowling, and look at her now. And because I love her and her story so much, I’m going to toss in my favorite inspiring quote from her: (found on Wikipedia. Click HERE for her full story.)
‘Seven years after graduating from university, Rowling saw herself as “the biggest failure I knew”. Her marriage had failed, she was jobless with a dependent child, but she described her failure as liberating:
“Failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy to finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one area where I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had been realized, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter, and a big idea. And so rock bottom became a solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”
– J. K. Rowling, “The fringe benefits of failure”, 2008
Yes, it’s possible. You will not die from being poor. Yes, it kind of sucks, but you can make the best of it. At least you’d get to do what you love. No, you don’t need all the fancy luxuries that “everyone else” has that you are working your fingers to the bone for. Some of you may be steaming at the ears right now reading this because you are thinking, “yeah right,” but to those of you, I say; I do it every single day. The list of things I do not have that “everyone else” has is extensive. By the US government’s standards, I am well below the poverty line, yet, I am still wealthier than 80% of the world. Every day I try to focus on gratitude for what I have, because there are a million people who would trade places with me in a heartbeat.
(A little Addendum here: In no way I am saying you should be content with living your life in the poor house. I am saying a temporary setback may occur once you switch your focus solely or mainly to writing. I firmly believe that a writer who pursues his or her craft with vigor and perseverance and determination can be, and will be successful, even financially. It happens every day. But it does take time.)
#10. Move your laptop to the dining room, or other heavily traveled area of your home.
When I first moved into the apartment I’m in now, I had my writing desk in my bedroom. This did not work. If I wanted to write, I had to isolate myself from my children. So, I moved my desk to my dining area, and now, my kids have gotten used to it being “mommy’s spot,” and I have gotten used to fine-tuning my multi-tasking skills. Every spare minute I have, I’m at my computer. From where I sit, I have a clear view of everything going on in my living room and I am right next to the kitchen. While the kids are doing homework and I’m waiting for the oven to heat up or water to boil, I can steal a few minutes at my desk to work on a scene. Like I said, every minute counts. Plus, if your writing space is hidden away–out of sight, out of mind–you are less likely to write as often as you would if it were right there staring you down with its beady little seductress eyes. “Come to me, write with me,” it says. Make the siren a visible ali.
#9. Invest in a good set of headphones.
Three words: Horrible Children’s Programming.
Sure, Baby Einstein is brilliant, and so is Sesame Street. But Barney makes me want to claw my own ears off. Of course my toddler loves him. But I can make Barney work to my advantage. I know when Barney is on, my son is glued for thirty minutes. And since I am in straight view of him in his playpen while he watches it, I can put on my headphones and write. When I am writing, not only do I not want that interrupting my mental mojo, but I also love listening to music that inspires the mood of whatever it is I’m working on. Usually, it’s electronic music of some sort, most of the time without words. I can be visually in my children’s world, but audio-ly, I can check out momentarily, when I need the musical motivation to carry me onward.
#8. Get a writing calendar.
If you are not in the habit of writing every day, this might help you get there. It did for me. Put a big red ‘X’ on the calendar for every day that you write. Seeing that visually will set your mind in motion to want to be able to put that X there every day. Set yourself a goal of at least five or ten minutes a day, and I promise you, you’ll realize that time magically seems to extend. Build up to making a goal of a red X every day for a month. Once you have that goal met, aim for a year. (This idea was inspired by Jerry Seinfeld, btw. Thanks, Jerry!)
#7. Stay up late, get up early, give in to exhaustion.
Hey, I didn’t say I was giving you a recipe for good health here; that’s in my other blog (which you can get to HERE).
In this blog though, we are talking about sacrifice for the sake of the beautiful, somewhat elusive and occasionally intangible obsession with the written word. A.k.a., grabbing that writing bull by the horns and claiming your title as word-slinging badass. If you wish to claim this title, sometimes, it is necessary to sacrifice sleep. You may find, as I did, that once you follow your writing bliss and make it more of a priority in your life, it’s much like falling in love. You find you need less sleep. Your mind wants to wake up and move on with your awesome project. It wants to unravel that juicy little plot it has begun to feast on. It wants to see how things are going to unfold today. It craves those moments when tears and sweat mold you and your craft into someone and something to be proud of. Because I believe anyone who sacrifices for the sake of creation, will be rewarded, not only for an amazing finished product, but a work of art others will love as well.
Of course, if you are like me, your body will tell you when enough is enough. After a string of nights where I was sacrificing a little too much sleep, barely skimming by with five hours for a week straight, I hit a wall and I was in bed half the day, exhausted to the point of near uselessness. So, listen to your body ultimately. When it whispers softly for sleep, tell it to wait just a bit longer sometimes. But if it’s screaming at you, by all means, SLEEP! You’ll be more productive after some rest.
#6. Cut back on your alcohol consumption.
I used to think I was a great writer under the influence of alcohol. Years later, in sobriety, I can barely read that drunken chicken scratch in my old journals. It’s junk, for real. Sure, there have been a lot of great writers who drank heavily, but I wonder what the extent of their brilliance would have been if they were clear-headed? When you write sober (or less-drunk?) you can put things together more clearly, you’ll have less editing to do later, and you won’t pass out early when you could still be up getting a little more writing time in.
#5. Cut back on your caffeine consumption.
A little caffeine is good. A lot is counterproductive. Too much caffeine can make you grumpy and groggy, and that is not a good condition to be in for maximum writing potential.
#4. Take your electronic writing device (or pen and paper) with you everywhere you have to go that requires waiting.
There’s no better way to pass the time in the dentist office while you wait for your kids. It may be just twenty or thirty minutes, but that is enough time to get in a page or two of a chapter, maybe more, depending on how fast you type and how much on fire you are. Like I said, every minute counts.
#3. Just say NO.
Cut back on all of those extra things you do because you can’t say no. Like, when people ask you if you want to be the planner for their neighbor’s son’s bar mitzvah . . . . Don’t feel bad about saying no. You can tell them why or not tell them. Just say you have plans or a prior commitment; because that’s what this is. You are making a commitment to yourself, the badass word-slinging writer. You are going to do this thing, and you are not going to let your neighbor’s son’s bar mitzvah or you cousin’s girlfriend’s brother in law’s daughter’s quinceanera stand in your way.
#2. Keep yourself motivated.
If you are encouraged, inspired, and influenced by positivity around you, it is amazing how your life will seemingly open itself up to allow you time for more of the things that bring you joy. If writing brings you joy, then the pursuit of more of it will also bring you joy. Surround yourself with people that inspire and encourage you. Post pictures and quotes in your writing space and around your home that inspire you to follow your bliss. Read works by authors you admire to keep your creative juices flowing.
#1. Limit your social media.
Can I get an Amen? This is perhaps the thing I struggle with most. Social Media for the writer trying to “make it,” is another necessary evil. But it’s not really necessary if we are on it so much we aren’t even writing, is it? Try limiting your Facebook and other social media as much as possible. Don’t get caught in the snare. And definitely don’t play those time-sucking games. And for goodness sake, stop sending me requests for them 😉
So, stop making excuses. If you need to name check 11 Lame excuse for not writing, Click HERE.
Until next time, you word-slinging badasses . . .
Write on! 😀