“Oh, I want to write a book, too, if I can ever find the time.”
There’s probably not a writer anywhere who hasn’t heard this when we tell a stranger what we do. Everybody wants to write a novel. Everybody is absolutely certain he or she will, just as soon as the time miraculously appears.
But truthfully, is finding time the culprit?
When someone tells me this I’m never quite sure how to answer because I’m not sure what the speaker is hoping for. Maybe she’ll write while she’s in traction after a tidy little car crash, or after the factory closes down and the job disappears, or when the husband walks out with the kids, dog and bills? Then maybe she’ll finally get to it.
Or maybe not.
Most people who “want to” don’t have any intention of ever sitting down to begin a book. Some know this, and some don’t. They’re paralyzed by fear of failure, or knowledge of the long road ahead. They don’t know how to start. They don’t know how to end. And much more commonly, they can’t figure out what they would put in the middle.
Sometimes, though, we really can’t find time to do what we love. Life chews us up and swallows us and every hint of time for ourselves disappears. Day after day.
Recently I faced how increasingly difficult it is to find time to write in the mid-afternoon. Over the years afternoon has been my most productive time. When I lead workshops or give talks I always tell my audience that each of us has a rhythm. Every writer should find her best time to write and set aside that time to do it. For me this begins about two in the afternoon and extends to about six. You might note that this time slot is when most of you are preparing dinner.
This is purely a coincidence.
This summer, though, I became fully aware of how much of my day disappears if I write during the afternoon. Not only dinner preparation, but every recreational activity becomes impossible, along with errands, shopping, and in the summers here at Chautauqua, lectures and recitals and early evenings on the porch with friends and neighbors, a sacred tradition.
I felt dejected when I went to the computer and tried to shut out the world. Concentration was difficult. So was gearing up after I’d spent so many hours doing other things. I was writing less and resenting it more. Never a good combination.
One morning two weeks ago I told myself enough was enough. Mornings are a quiet time here, a time to wake up, read the paper, and see what’s up in Internet Land. What would happen if instead I just got up, threw on my bathrobe (yes, I know this is not a pretty picture) and went right to my computer?
Please note that this new idea went against everything I knew about myself.
- One, that waking up in the mornings is a slow process and my brain does not function at full capacity.
- Two, that I write in the afternoon, always have, always will, and why mess with success.
- And three, old dogs, new tricks, you know the saying.
We often do this, don’t we? We have a pattern. We know what works. We can’t do “it” any other way, whether “it” is shopping at the same old grocery store, insisting our children take piano lessons, or subscribing to the same magazine for the past ten years. We’re comfortable in old habits, even if the new store in town is having a great sale, the son really wants to play the trombone, and the magazine is now targeted to a very different reader.
Recently a friend who was undergoing a crisis needed to find a way to write outside her home, but she was unwilling to find a place to do it. She writes at home. Period. Suggestions to go to Starbucks or the library fell on deaf ears. She knows herself. She can’t write elsewhere, didn’t want to try, so she stopped writing.
I know myself, too. But what did I have to lose?
So today, at the beginning of my third week, I’m writing exclusively in the mornings. Most days I get up before seven and stumble to the computer. Computer and I wake up together, and by the time she’s booted up, we’re both ready. I open the chapter I worked on last and begin my journey into the story.
I am giddy with success. Not only is the writing going well, but I am enjoying it in a whole new way. I’m not as critical so I’m more able to get words on paper that I can edit later. When I turn off my computer about ten I have the rest of the day and evening to let the story percolate on my mental back burner so that the next morning I know exactly what I want to do.
And just as exciting? I now have afternoons free to do whatever I want. I don’t have to feel guilty, or haunted by what I’m not doing. I have completed my pages for the day. The day is mine.
Finding time to do what you love is never easy. It’s easier to put everyone and everything else first. It’s easier to fall back on old habits and refuse to take chances. Had you asked me a month ago if this new way of writing would work, I would have laughed. But here I am writing away before the sun is fully up, and I’m successful beyond all expectations.
Now, what about you? What have you been putting off that you really want to do? Painting a bedroom? Keeping a journal? Taking a walk all by yourself?
Or writing that novel?
I’m not suggesting that early morning will be your new time. What I am suggesting is that you take a second look at your life, see what times are really available, and take a chance. Try something different and don’t talk yourself out of it by citing old habits.
Finding time to do what you love has to be a priority or it will never happen. You may be as excited about new possibilities as I am. And if you’re not? Then try another time.
What’s stopping you?