No more excuses!
By Pamela S. Thibodeaux
firstwriter.com – Saturday June 26, 2004
Excuses, excuses, excuses. We've heard them all, used a few. Well, it's time to stop and get a revelation: you can't find time to write – you have to make time to write!
There are numerous opportunities afforded to us in any given day, we just have to know what they are. One of the best things a busy wife, mother, employee, writer, etc. can invest in is a lesson on time management. You don't need to read a book or take a course, just sit down and examine your day. Evaluate how you spend your time, where you can shave off a few minutes (or couple of hours) and use that time to write. Budget your time just like you budget your money.
Another thing to keep in mind is this: writing doesn't always mean sitting in front of the computer and pounding away on the keys. Writing is a state of mind. Even in the midst of mundane, everyday challenges, writers are writing; storing up information for future use.
For years (11 to be exact) I wrote in five subject notebooks. I always had a notebook handy or used a cassette recorder to keep track of my ideas. Here are a few other tricks-of-the-trade I've learned during my twenty-plus years as a housewife, mother, bookkeeper and writer:
- Washing dishes while you cook instead of letting them pile up until afterwards will create more free time when your meal is over.
- Take care of laundry while cooking supper (the experts call this multi-tasking). Doing the laundry daily or every other day (instead of letting it accumulate until you have to spend hours or a whole day catching up) will save you loads of time. Wash items that don't need hanging or ironing, that way you can write while waiting for the washer or dryer to go off and you can always fold them later – like tomorrow while you're cooking supper, watching that favourite TV show, or helping the children with their homework.
- Write, edit or do research while sitting with the children when they do homework. You're there if they need help and they are more likely to sit still and get it done without goofing off as much, again saving you time by not having to fuss at them.
Oh, by the way, don't think that when the kids are all grown and gone you'll have more time. It just doesn't work that way, something will always come up if you let it. Believe me, I know!
Once again: evaluate your day and see when you can squeeze in time to write. Do you watch TV? Listen to the radio? Exercise? We all need recreation, but can you set aside some of that time to write or combine those activities with writing? Here are some examples of what I'm talking about:
- Exercise for 20 or 30 minutes on six days instead of one to two hours on three days, or carry a tape recorder while walking. People rightly put a lot of store in exercising, but it's been proven that frequent ten minute walks are just as beneficial physically as longer walks two or three times a week. In the same way, frequent ten minute writing sprees can be just as beneficial as longer blocks of time two or three days a week.
- Write or edit during commercials. Some people can't focus on two things at a time, but you would be amazed at how easy it becomes once you get used to it. I usually watch only three hours of TV a week. On those days, I allow myself the privilege of taking a break. The other evenings and during re-runs I'm either writing, revising, editing or reading.
Have small children?
- Squeeze in a sentence or two or a scene or chapter during their nap and/or play time.
- Hire a babysitter or swap babysitting with another stay-home mom one or two days a week.
- Have older children do the dishes or laundry and help clean the house so that you will have time to write.
- Ask your spouse or other family members to take the children out for pizza or a movie one or two evenings a week so you can write.
- Some of these suggestions may require spending a little money, but if you can afford to, it will allow you hours of writing time.
Many of us spend our hard-earned-cash on various forms of entertainment, why not invest it in your writing career instead?
Have children, husband, and a job?
- Carry around a notepad and pencil, a pack of index cards, a tape recorder or one of those new-fangled word processors that are designed to save up to 100 pages of text and work with your computer; that way you can jot down thoughts, ideas or a scene that's giving you trouble. You never know when time will present you with a few moments; waiting in line at the bank or the grocery store, waiting at a doctor or dentist office, waiting at the car wash or mechanic for your car to be ready, or at a ball game waiting for your child to come up to bat or dance or perform with the band.
- Consider your lunch hour. Do you really need an hour to eat?
- Combine activities that will allow time to write like grocery shopping or getting your oil changed or hair cut. Again, think: multi-tasking.
- Eat at your desk while writing or how about noontime exercise followed by yoghurt and fruit instead of that huge sit-down lunch? Think about it, a slimmer waistline (or hips) and a finished chapter or two!
Have two jobs? Do shift-work or graveyards?
- Write during slow times or during your 15 minutes and/or lunch breaks. Again, this is where the notebook, tape recorder, index cards or portable word processor comes in handy.
Go to church 2 or 3 times a week?
- Will your relationship with God really suffer if you spend some of that time writing? After all, writing is a talent, a gift from Him. Don't you think He wants you to develop that talent and use that gift? Now don't go getting judgmental, it's just a suggestion.
A writer friend of mine made the comment "even if you write one or two sentences, or a paragraph each day, it all adds up." Not only did that make sense but her words inspired me to give it a try. By adhering to this advice I wrote an entire 70,000-word novel in four months. Not a big deal, you say? Try this one on for size: I did it while working two part time jobs (averaging 48 hrs per week) and right smack-dab in the middle of tax season! (Remember, I'm a bookkeeper.) Of course, during that last month other things went by the wayside – like exercising and sleep – but the book got finished.
Another idea would be to figure out how many pages a day you need to write and then figure out how/where/when you can do it. For example, let's say you want to write a 100,000-word novel. How much time do you need or how many pages a day do you need to accomplish your goal?
Let's find out. Be reasonable and be realistic. Give yourself ample time (say six months). Okay: 100,000 words divided by six months = 16,670 words per month. Divide that by 24 days (six days x four wks) = 694 words per day. Divide that by 250 (average words per page) and you have 2.75 pages per day.
Now that you have a word count or page goal in mind, think: how long does it take you to write 2–3 pages? Are there times when you can write more to compensate for those days when you can't write at all?
Again, be reasonable and be realistic. So what if it ends up taking nine months instead of six? At least you're writing! And remember, just one page per day equals a 365 page (or 91,250 word) novel at the end of a year!
One more thing I've found that helped immensely was to stop spending so much time on the Internet. Online lists and groups, Instant Messengers, etc. are wonderful, but just plain take up too much time.
My point is, you have to make the time to write. Write whenever, wherever, and however you can. It takes discipline, dedication and hard work. I'm sure you exhibit these attributes in other areas of your life, why not in your writing?
My husband's favourite saying is "depends on how bad you want it."
How bad do you want it?
Me too, so c'mon: quit making excuses (or using the same old, tired, worn-out ones) and start writing!