My biggest pet peeve is when writers tell me, “I don’t have time to write.” It’s a lament I hear all the time, oh, how do you find the time? I wish I had some free time to write, I just really want to write a book but I’m so busy. . . and then, inevitably, the conversation turns to whatever video game or TV show they’re binging on. No time for writing, but six hours to spare for House of Cards. I see.
Here’s a thought — that time you’re spending passively slack-jawed in front of someone else’s creative output? That’s time you could be writing!
Look, I love TV, but it’s the first thing to go when there’s writing to be done. And I’m not saying all pleasures must be sacrificed to the mighty altar of work, but a book or a story or an essay isn’t going to write itself.
The truth is that it’s easier to waste time and mourn it’s passing than to buck up and face the empty page. Blank pages are tough, you have to translate all the cool thoughts in your head into seemingly-random combinations of letters, and you only have 26 of those to work with.
But if you do struggle with making time to write, try this: Give yourself one hour at your desk. No internet, no phone, no TV. One hour. That’s one episode of Mad Men, two episodes of The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. You sit with the page and you work with it. 5 minute penalty if you get up. Sometimes that hour will seem like 100 years. Other times, it’ll go by in a flash. But you’ll be surprised at how easy it can become a habit. An hour is time you’ll never miss, but you’ll see the rewards immediately, especially if you make it a daily routine.
It works. It’s how I wrote The Big Rewind*, forthcoming from William Morrow in Feb. 2014. One hour at a time, usually in the morning, with a cup of coffee and some music. But I didn’t “find” the time, I made my writing a priority. You wouldn’t call your boss and say, “Sorry, I can’t come into work today, the new season of Orange is the New Black is on.” So if you claim to be a writer, why do that with your writing?
Writers write. Writers make the time to write and don’t make excuses. So let me ask you — are you REALLY a writer?
Bloodline will always be there. But you only have a short span of your life with which to be truly creative. Don’t waste it slumped on the couch, wringing your hands as time passes you by.
Or if you do, don’t bitch to me about it.
*Previously known as No Awkward Goodbyes