Making time for writing is a theme I’ve circled back to over and over on this blog. What I’ve come to realize is that it’s not a static challenge. Every time life throws a change our way, we have to reconsider our routines, commitments, and priorities – and over the last 18 months, life has thrown a lot of changes at all of us.
For me, the most recent challenge is the resumption of a busy (kind of) post-covid life. The kids are back in school, which should mean I have plenty of time to write, but I also launched a whole new online writing community during the pandemic and somehow I recently found myself struggling to find time to write. Again.
Well, it took me a few weeks, but I’m finally getting my feet under me, and (as I so often do) I thought I’d share a few things I’ve learned that helped.
1. I don’t have to do everything myself
I know, shocker, right? But when school started up again I realized that I had always done all the school drop-offs and pick-ups on my own. How did that happen? My husband never asked me to do all of that on my own. He never even implied that I should. I just did it. But the truth is, I write best in the mornings. By the afternoon my brain is pretty much shot anyway.
So I proposed to my husband, a few days before school started, that he do drop-offs in the morning and I do pick-ups in the afternoon. He gets some extra time with the kids and I get to jump into my writing while my brain is eager and ready. This is not rocket science. And while I know not everyone has the benefit of an in-house partner, I would encourage you to think about how you can ask for help. Maybe it’s a carpool. Maybe it’s a dog-walker (if your kids have four legs). Don’t be afraid to ask for and/or hire help.
2. Block off time for your writing
One of the things I noticed pretty quickly was that, even though I intended to write through the morning, something came up – like, every day. Doctor’s appointments, calls with the kids’ teachers, a walk with a friend. In truth, I was getting very little writing done. To remedy the situation, I started blocking off four hours a day on my calendar for my writing.
From 8 to noon, there’s a big orange bar that says “novel” and it’s worked pretty well. Now when someone asks when I’m available, I look at my calendar and the only available times I see are after noon (or before 8 – for my fellow early-risers). And four hours is a lot. I don’t spend all four hours writing. Sometimes I’m doing research or editing. But the goal is not to open my email, answer my phone, or leave my desk (except for coffee) until noon and I am finally getting some serious writing done.
3. Decide who gets disappointed
Because it’s so true. Someone is always disappointed and somehow, long ago, I internalized this idea that it should be. I put my writing at the bottom of my list for “when I can get to it” and guess what – I never did. These days, when I sit down to write and something comes up I take a moment before I respond to consider – am I going to let this person down? Or am I going to let myself down by dropping what I’m doing to help them?
Now, if my husband or my kids really need me for something, I show up. But if it truly is something that could wait, I choose to give myself the time and do my effing writing.
Case in point: I meant to finish this blog post yesterday, but I spent four hours writing instead and didn’t get it done until today. So to the all the readers who were pulling their hair out and moaning why, oh why, didn’t this blog post go live Wednesday morning like they usually do – I apologize. It was your turn to be disappointed. It was my turn to write 1,495 words on my novel. No regrets.
4. Resist your email
I know this one won’t actually be an option for everyone, but hear me out. Try not checking your email.
As I said, I write in the mornings and one of the fastest ways I get derailed is by opening my email and getting caught up in responding to something that could TOTALLY wait, but somehow seems urgent. The truth is, my emails are not urgent. Ever.
And yet, it’s still really hard to not check my email first thing when I sit down at my desk. To stack the odds in my favor, I’ve started closing my web browser at the end of the day and opening my Scrivener file so that when I sit down in the morning, I can get straight to work.
I’ve also found that it’s helpful to meditate for a few minutes before I write, just to dissipate the anxiety I feel around being so selfish as to focus on my own work for four hours before checking in with the most urgent needs of the PTA and their “mandatory volunteer” sign-up forms. (I swear, every time I hear that phrase…)
Anyway, it’s been pretty challenging, but totally worth it. I highly recommend you give it a go.
How about you? What invades your writing time most often? How do you deal? Would love to hear from the other writers out there as we all adjust to this (kind of) post-covid world.