Finding the time to write

I wanted to take a few minutes to talk about this because I feel it’s been quite the buzz on the web this week. Lots of good advice/thoughts/personal experience floating around out there. Let’s jump right in, shall we?

Elisabeth Black wrote a fancy little post a few days back about the difference between writing as a hobby and writing as a career. She mentions how many people struggle finding time to write, but for her, the change began when she decided writing was her career. She explains this better than I:

The important thing about calling writing my career is this: it increases my expectations for myself. When my hobby became a career, it gained dignity, in my eyes at least. You don’t HAVE to stick with a hobby, but it’s more important to stay dedicated to your career. If I really mean it? I owe it a regular, faithful schedule.

I truthfully wish, with all of my heart, that I could give my writing a regular and faithful schedule: as in, 8 hours a day. And to be honest, I do devote a massively large amount of time to writing – especially for someone who works a full time job, five days a week, and commutes over 2 hours daily to get to said job. I squeeze writing into my week, and load it into my weekends, but even still, I can’t just leave the day job for it – not yet at least. I can not financially afford to do that.

This brings me to another blog post that hits the tubes this week: some thoughts from the fabulous Maureen Johnson on “affording” to be a writer. Maureen warns, honestly and quite bluntly, that if you can be something else, you probably should:

I honestly believe that you should go “into” writing only if you feel you have no choice—like you can’t afford to be anything else.

The reality is that the VAST MAJORITY of book writers do not make their living solely from writing books. The reality is that many advances are small, and you only write so many books in a lifetime…The reality is that a lot of books never earn back those advances.

In this sense, I CAN afford to be a writer because I CAN’T afford to be anything else. I know it’s an uphill battle, and I won’t make a living on writing alone, but it’s what I want to do. I live and breath it. I spend every second that I’m not writing wishing I was. In this sense, I can’t afford to not write.

Maureen goes on to explain that the exercise of writing often, whether you are published or not, a full-time author or a writer with a day job, is key:

Write whenever there is time. Make the time. Commutes, lunches, evenings, mornings, weekends . . . hand it over. It belongs to the writings. If you don’t feel like doing this, the writings may not be for you AND THAT IS FINE. But if you do want to write, you will make the time. You will do what you need to do.

I do make time, and gladly, and so I think I’m going to be just fine. I was reading a book that applied to my work job recently (although I suppose it could apply to any line of work), and it made some very, very smart points about “finding time”. The book, Rework, is written by the very clever founders of 37signals. Here’s the snippet that caught me:

There is always enough time if you spend it right. And don’t think you have to quit your day job either. Hang onto it and start work on your project at night…. We’re not talking about all-nighters or sixteen-hour days–we’re talking about squeezing out a few extra hours a week.

When you want something bad enough, you make the time–regardless of your other obligations. The truth is most people just don’t want it bad enough. Then they protect their ego with the excuse of time. Don’t let yourself off the hook with excuses. It’s entirely your responsibility to make your dreams come true.

This quote to me is gold. So blunt, but so very honest. If you want it bad enough, make the time. If you don’t make the time, that’s fine, but it’s probably not that important to you. And in that case, there’s no point whining about not having “the time”.

I have always written as a hobby, since as long as I can remember, but it has only been recently–in the last year or two–that I started giving writing the time it deserves. I guess this is like what Elisabeth had said on her blog: That when you make time and attempt to create a schedule for writing, it begins to shift from hobby to career. Maybe I’ll be there one day too. In the meantime, I will continue to stick to my schedule. I do what Rework suggests. I carve out time here and there, and I do it when I can. It’s hard when I commute 2+ hours every day and work 8-10hr days at my day job (which to fair, I also love), but I make it happen. I make time because I want it bad enough. I make time because I can’t afford not to.

And that being said, I’m going to leave work now (this was written on my work computer post-office hours), drive my one hour drive home, and then write. Write, write, write, write, write.  :)

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