Thursday, 4 June 2015

Making the Most of Your Time

One of the most common questions I get asked is about finding time to write.  Lots of people have stories in their heads, stories they'd like to develop.  But they don't because they can't find the time.

I've heard a lot of derogatory things about writer's block and people who would like to write but don't.  Mercedes Lackey described writer's block as reluctance to sit down and do the work in one of her novels.  (Not sure if that's her actual view.)  And I've heard a number of people say that if you're not passionate enough to overcome obstacles, then you're not really willing to write.

I think there's a certain amount of truth in those statements, but they both miss the point.  I know my own experience of writer's block is at least equal parts fear and self-doubt.  I start having trouble and then I become afraid that I won't be able to find my way out, I doubt that I have the skills to make the story work.  (Incidentally, this is where a writing group or a good critique/brainstorming partner can be worth their weight in gold.  Their suggestions and ideas have helped me past any number of blockages.)  Intellectually, I know both the fear and the self-doubt are illusions, but when you're in the middle of it, it can be hard to work through.

Overcoming obstacles is a whole different ball game.  If someone would rather watch TV than write when given the opportunity, then there is a certain fairness in saying they don't really want to write.  However, when the opposing activities are things like earning a salary so that you have a home and food and raising a family, those are both fairly time-consuming activities.  Beginning a writing career is difficult.  It's a business, requiring a great deal of time and money to get established, aside from the actual time to write. 

I've managed to work out a fairly good schedule for myself while my kids are in school.  But in a few weeks, I'll be facing summer vacation with camps and playdates and all sorts of other disruptive events.  I'll still have my regular day job to contend with but the raising a family part is about to become more time consuming than it has been.

Some writers I know effectively take the summer off to focus on their kids.  Some hire nannies or send their kids to daycare so that they still have time to write.  I'm going for a combination where I've hired a sitter to take care of them twice a week while I escape to do some writing.  It will be slower than it has been, but won't stop progress entirely.

I've become good at juggling priorities and finding compromises but it took me a long time to find the balance points.  I learned some tricks to help speed things along, like having detailed plot notes laid out for the next scenes, using music to cue my inspiration and training myself to write in small bursts of time.

My point is that obstacles aren't as impenetrable as they first seem.  Nor are they as easy as the inspirational posters would like us to believe.  It takes hard work, but can be done.

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