Time Is Not On Your Side

I’ve written about this before, but it’s been a while and I thought it was worth revisiting. The photo is my own of the clock face at Musee d’Orsay in Paris.

I write. A lot. Four books in two years, a fifth near completion, several completely unrelated projects, including all the poetry, non-fiction and short stories I’ve posted here. Recently, a friend of mine asked how I had time to write like that. The short answer is: I have no life. Ok, that’s a joke, sort of. Many of us who are trying to live the writing life are fitting it into an already busy schedule. How does someone with a day job manage to carve out time in the day to write? Schedules vary, but there are some principle to apply.

In the days when I was in practice at another doctor’s office, I had a long commute –nearly an hour. In the morning, I regularly tuned in to NPR’s Morning Edition. On one of those long drives, I heard an interview with author, Nora Roberts. For those of you who don’t know her, she is a ‘rock star’ of romance writers. She has written over 209 novels in her illustrious career. Now, love it or hate it, the romance genre has been underrated by literary snobs for no good reason. Jane Austen was a romance writer. So were the Bronte sisters, Margaret Mitchell, Gustave Flaubert, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Edith Wharton – need I say more? Anyway the style of writing has nothing to do with the point I’m trying to make.

Back to Nora’s interview, and the big impression it made on me. She said she approaches her writing like any other person would approach their work day. She gets up early, exercises, puts the coffee pot on and by 8:00, she is at her desk to write for an 8 hour day! That’s right, a full work day. Writing is work, albeit very enjoyable work, but work nonetheless.

Though I still have a day job, I have tried to impose that kind of discipline upon my writing. Every weekday, I get up early and write for an hour or so, exercise and go to the office (now it’s in my home) to see my patients. Tuesday and Thursday, the days I don’t have office hours, I keep on writing. (So that’s how she does it!) I set deadlines to keep from getting off track. I have writing goals for my novel series, for my blog and for the unrelated projects like Here Lies a Soldier and The Mysterious Arboretum.

Anyway, the trick is to be analytical and slightly selfish when it comes to your writing. aggro-gatordotcom25355Take a look at your weekly schedule. How much time do you spend in front of the TV? Playing video games? Fooling around on Facebook and Twitter? I know, I know, I do it, too. This is time you could be spending on your writing. On the other hand, don’t let your writing become so burdensome that you lose your joy. After a big project is complete, or sometimes in the middle when you’re hitting the wall, take a break, step back and recharge your batteries.

Here are some things you should NOT sacrifice for time to write:

-your spouse/partner and children (unless you secretly can’t stand them)
-your health and wellness: take time to exercise, drink plenty of water and eat healthy food – it powers your brain (also booze, but that’s a subject for it’s own post)
-your spiritual life: whatever that means to you, be it meditation, prayer, or just quiet time to think (also gives you a legitimate excuse to ignore your family)
-reading for pleasure: writers need to read, period
-spending time with friends (if you still have any)

unknown-1Why that last one? Because frankly, writers spend a lot of time in our own heads and can invent our own friends by writing them. I am totally guilty of that. While that internal chatter is essential for good writing, you have to turn it off once in a while. Don’t give up the chance to have real life human connections in order to create your fantasy world.

Writers, the bottom line is if you are going to do this, your writing can’t get shuffled so far to the bottom of the pile that you never finish anything. If you find that happening to you ALL THE TIME, then reevaluate your plan to be a writer. Maybe the writing life is not for you. That’s ok, too. Be a reader. After all, someone’s got to read all this stuff we write!

How about the rest of you? Writers, how do you find time to write?

(As always, some of that was meant to be humorous. I assume you’re all savvy enough to pick out the useful stuff from the nonsense.)

61 thoughts on “Time Is Not On Your Side

  1. Needs saying, Meg. Well done. When I was an academic in academia (where else?), I got up an hour early, every day, to get that writing in. It’s so essential: a time, a place, and a regular writing schedule. And don’t let your writing take second place. Write like you mean it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It took me a long time to develop a good routine that fit well with my other responsibilities. My most creative hours seem to be early in the morning and later at night. So I write when I first get up and then again just before bed. And I keep the notebook beside my bed for my 3 am epiphanies!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Most people are that way. One of my friends takes a small MP3 recorder to bed with him and “talks into it”. I used to go downstairs and write, but that was mainly administrative and academic work, rarely creative.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. It would spook Clare too. Even if I whispered into a mic, sooner rather than later “Who you talking too?” in a muffled sort of half-awake voice. There’s a neat little story in there somewhere.

        Liked by 2 people

      1. I have always loved the Impressionists. The National Museum of Wales in Cardiff had a wonderful collection / selection of their works. It was free to students and I went there most days before going to lunch with my mother who worked just by.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I remember this post. It’s interesting to me that even unemployed, it’s difficult for me to just sit and write. There are more things pulling at me than I had when I was working. Although, in my head right now, I feel like I’ll have zero time once I am working again… (if that happens before I’m homeless…) I think it’s because my mind thinks working will be in addition to everything pulling at me now… but in reality, some of the now stuff will go… I think… maybe…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Like anything else, if you want to be good at it, you’ve got to turn up, keep turning up, and commit to doing better… good advice here!

    Loved the Musee d’Orsay too… the best art gallery in Paris, for me ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Some of my best “plot twist” or “plot turn” time was on my daily hour and twenty minute commute. A small notebook to jot notes at stop signs (I took mainly rural Bucks and Montgomery back roads thus few “lights”) and talk radio to bore me into make up land. Now that I’m “working at home/retired” that commute time has been replaced by “Honey, can you go to Aldi’s and get me…”. The drives are shorter and the inspirations less frequent but my characters anxiously await my return with the celery or the can of gravy and a loaf of bread to spin their fictional lives into literal corners and crevices.

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  5. I wish I could develop a discipline, but for now, while my girls are at home and life is hectic, I find joy in squeezing in time when I can and following the bursts that pop into my brain. Time will tell how the rest will go…

    I’m so happy you’ve found a groove that feels good, Meg!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Kay! Yeah, my situation is pretty conducive to keeping a good schedule. And obviously you’re making yours work! Inspiration strikes … or it doesn’t… so keep following those little bursts! 💜

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I really need to schedule a time to write every day. Blogging counts right? Ha ha.

    It help fuels the creativity. I’m determined,Meg Thanks for the advice. I tend to wake up at silly o clock and scribble or type some waffle down. I’m always thinking about ideas. I need to get them out . Discipline . 😀


  7. Hmm can the balance ever really be achieved? Lermontov in The Red Shoes says that life is so unimportant, from now on you shall dance like no one else before. And Artaud says the only performance that really makes is the one that achieves madness. But who wants that?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh no… Cake, you’ve tucked into your new books already. If I am finding great joy in writing then that is my ‘dance’. As for Artaud, no I don’t want to end up mad. At least no more than I am already!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I think I must have missed this post when you first wrote it, but it’s exactly what I needed to read today. I’m not usually one for new year’s resolutions, but I’ve already decided to work harder on this in 2017. I always struggle with finding the time and do, indeed, shuffle it to the “bottom of the pile” way too often. Thank you for such a common sense approach – I need to print this out and put it on my bulletin board!
    BTW – I’m an NPR listener too. Public Radio Nerds Unite! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes! Love NPR! I hope this coming year is a productive one. Even without resolutions, the new year is a great time to start new projects! Best of luck meeting your goals! And keep us posted… literally!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I doubt I’ll ever be as prolific as the legendary Dr. Meg, but I’m determined to at least be more consistent.
        As for NPR, my dream is to be on Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me, but I know I’d probably choke! Haha!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. You may not be “Interviewed by Terry Gross on Fresh Air” legendary, but to your readers you are!
        Sincerely – thank you so much for always being a thoughtful, encouraging, positive force out there in the blogging world. It does not go unappreciated.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Excellent advice, Meg! I really wish I had the attention span to write a novel someday. I fear it’s gotten shorter as I’ve aged. I did try to start one once, though.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Great post, Meg. I have no discipline, but I’m not a “proper” writer like you are. I mainly write when I feel the need to, when the muse decides to speak to me, etc…I never really sit down and think: “right, now I’m going to WRITE!” I know I should do, if I do want to merit the term “writer” that I apply to myself on a regular basis 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, there’s much to be said for following the Muse! I sometimes have to yell at mine. 😉 Besides, there are all sorts of writers; don’t for a minute think you don’t qualify! Novel writing does require self discipline, I’d still be on book one, otherwise! Lol!

      Liked by 2 people

  11. Nice post – I am just starting a blog and wondering about the balance of discipline and inspiration – but in general err towards thinking discipline and practice are key to achievement… your writing schedule reminds me of Anthony Trollope by the way – he wrote every morning and worked in a post office in the afternoons I think, and was a rock star writer of his time… I guess post officing like doctoring exposed him to lots of humanity he could use in his work…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much. Yes, I know what it’s like to have the Muse go quiet so there is a component of that in writing, but sometimes you just have to make yourself write anyway… even if it’s garbage, it can get you over the hump. But don’t let it ever become a drudgery! I love the Trollope comparison, by the way. Thank you for that!

      Liked by 1 person

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