Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Finding the time

We've all heard the words before, from better minds than I... "A writer WRITES! To truly be a success at writing, you have to have a body of work for new readers to find!". So, you get up your nerve, open your laptop, brew a pot of coffee, and close your eyes, waiting for the words to start flowing.

Then your youngest child decides to figure out how the dishwasher works by adding an entire bottle of detergent to the machine, your oldest needs help with his homework, and your dog poops on your wife's favorite jacket. As you get out the mop, while balancing a math textbook in one hand, the youngest hops up on your kitchen table and starts typing his manifesto, which looks disturbingly like this:

"It was a dark and stormy night when Dex first saw her... She washiubhbrfrdegtfhhhgufyrxjknkytdrckjniubiun. Cytfuvhgdvhhioinoinoubiulin ihbibibhibijnsoiubdiducyeyebdjfkfk."

The translation is of course, "She was only interested in getting up off her fat butt and buying her youngest child some goddamn juice boxes before he threw the biggest tantrum ever!"

Finding the time to write can be one of the biggest challenges of the writer's lifestyle. It requires a lot of discipline on your part, and a substantial amount of understanding from your loved ones. I wish I knew some magic writers charm I could share with you that would grant you an extra six hours a day in a parallel dimension, with only a word processor to keep you company, but it just doesn't work that way. All of us that are compelled to tell stories have our own tricks and stratagems that get us to that blissful state of productivity every day, but they're just that... Tricks designed to convince our muses that they have our undivided attention for a few short hours.

Fact is, there will ALWAYS be things competing for your attention. When starting out, we all have day jobs, loved ones, pets, and responsibilities vying for our attention. I have come to believe over the years that one of the things that separates the hobbyist from the pro is their ability to manage this problem. The important thing is to try to establish a routine for your writing, just as you do for anything else that's important to you. If you don't, you'll always be the "one day" writer.

For me, the journey to a writing habit was not an easy one, but one I think every writer could learn from. I would break it down into four steps... But not twelve... That would be too creepy. "Hi, my name is Rob and I'm a Writeaholic..."

Step 1: identify a time of day you consistently have to yourself. For me, it was that magic time of the morning between when I drop the kids off at school, and when I need to walk the dog at noon. Before I got married, it was the hour or so before work when I had been going to the diner and reading a book while eating my breakfast. Thus began my diner/coffee shop workplace fixation.

Step 2: make that a time you write. No excuses. Keep in mind, a writing habit doesn't have to be a huge amount of time. The important thing is consistency. Let's say that the block of time you have is the thirty minutes you have lunch... For most people, that's enough time to crank out a page. If you do this for 30 days, you've got a short story. Do it for a year, and you have a novel.

Step 3: meet other writers. Other than the benefits of peer pressure on your writing (accountability is your friend) it can be difficult for your friends and loved ones to understand the whole "muse" thing. Having the support and friendship of other people that know what it's like to try to get words on the page can be huge. There are writers circles in every major city, and NaNoWriMo groups all over the planet. Should that fail, most sci-fi conventions have writers panels, and most of the people in the audience are just like you.

Step 4: cut deals with your loved ones. I am not above promising a day at the park or a romantic evening to my wife and kids to buy some writing time. Life is all about compromises, after all.

"But Rob! What do we do when our loved ones interrupt our writing time?"

Simple. Put down the laptop and enjoy their company, but come back to it after the kids are tucked in, and you've snuggled a bit with your sweetie. Art is never created in a vacuum, and it is our experiences that give our words life. So give yourself permission to go and laugh and love a little. When you get back to your laptop, you're gonna write great pages.

1 comment:

Secretly_Samus said...

Or you could end up like me and find writing time somewhere in all the madness. I doubt I'll ever have a set routine.

Great post!