Time Management for Writers

I often have conversations about writing with people who know very little about it. I see a lot of people through the course of a shift at the day job and my staff is always quick to point out that I’m a writer, especially when the subjects of books, writing, or writers come up. I usually have to point out, with some degree of embarrassment, that I’m not yet published, but most people smile and say something like “Hey, that’s great!” Some ask what kind of things I write and I tell them. Usually, that’s enough to end the conversation right there, especially when the conversation takes place at church.

The ones that really get me, though, are the ones who get a dreamy look on their faces and say, “I’d love to write, but I just don’t have the time.”

Really? Let me tell you about my schedule.

I work, with drive time, about 55 hours per week. Sometimes a little more, never less. My job is very demanding, both physically and mentally, and this time of year particularly, I leave feeling like I’ve been strapped to a high voltage wire all day. I would write during lunch–I’ve done it at past jobs–but I only get a half hour now and that’s barely time to boot my computer, much less get into the proper mindset to compose.

I am also married with four children, two living at home and two who live several hours away. My wife and children, for some strange reason I have yet to understand, want to spend time with me. Yes, they are crazy, but I love them and I see them all I can. When I am home in the afternoons, or on my days off, my time is spent with them, not with whatever fictional people floating around in the limbo of my brain. Under only the most dire circumstances will I leave them before 10 P.M. to beginning my nightly writing. By then, the children have been wrangled into bed and the wife is about ready to haul herself in that direction. Only when everyone sane in the house has abandoned consciousness do I find the peace and solitude necessary to write something I think is worth reading.

Wait, there’s more! I also have to make time for those awful little chores no one likes to do, but still have to be done. Laundry, dishes, and the like still need to be done and I can’t expect my wife to do all of it with all she has going on, so if I want clean clothes, clean dishes, etc. I have to pitch in to make it work. There are bills to pay, shopping to do, blog posts to write, and email to check, waiting for that wonderful agent willing to take me on in hopes that this economy will turn around before we all wither and die.

Now, besides writing, I have a few other interests. I read a lot, a necessary part of any writer’s existence, but more than that, I’m a slow reader. I don’t zip through books like some people I know and if I get through one in a week, it’s a surprise. I do listen to a lot on audio, as I’ve described in an earlier post, but I try to read as much as I can the old-fashioned way, and there’s a lot of books I can find on tape. I also like to play tennis, when weather and my aging joints permit, and even like to play the occasional board game as time and energy allow.

You might ask how much television I watch in a week and the honest answer is maybe two hours. Yes, two hours a week. That’s it. It’s not that I don’t like television–I do–but if I want to write, sacrifices must be made and television is the lowest on the priority list. So, for anyone hoping I’ll discuss recent developments on The Office or 30 Rock, you’ll have to look elsewhere. I’ve never seen an episode of either one. I may take a day off some time and watch a season altogether on DVD, but my work schedule is too erratic for me to get hooked on a show and I’m not giving up my writing time.

Despite all of this, I still write at least 1000 words a day when I’m writing and not editing, as I am now. This is set in stone and only when I’m feeling too sick to live do I let it slide. This is called discipline and this, not time, is what most people who fantasize about writing lack. It’s getting your butt at your desk instead of on the couch and putting your mind where your mouth is.

Trust me, if I can find time to write, anyone can. It’s all a matter of how much of your life you’re willing to give up. I’m not saying you should drop everything–my wife and children would be upset if I stopped seeing them except one a week or so, but anyone taking a good look at his or her life will likely find time waiting to be put to a better use. Like writing.

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