Priorities and Time Thievery

I’m not a write everyday kind of guy. I wish I was, and I have been at times (working on a novel seems to bring that out of me). I read comments from other writers who put in at least a few hours every day (if not more), working on their craft. I kid myself at times by thinking “they’re professional writers, that’s their job,” and while there’s a kernel of truth there, I know they all suffer from the same hecticness and interruptions as I.

The ideal is just that—writing for several hours a day, uninterrupted, churning out so many thousands of words at each sitting. During these times there would be no email, or phone calls, and no other projects demanding their share of time.

The reality for most of us is that life can’t be put on hold. There’s family, and work, other commitments, and other distractions. For me specifically, I work for myself—which means I need to be responsive to clients if I wish to continue working for myself. My work is full of ups and downs (busyness wise), and when I’m busy it’s best that I remain busy.

It is during these times when you need to realize what your priorities are. Is writing—or some other creative endeavor—critical to you? Is it worth sacrificing at least a little time to keep it going? I assume if you’re reading this then it is—I know it is for me.

There’s the big solutions—organize your time, plan, prioritize, keep lists, block out your calendar, etc. Or, you can take smaller steps—take snippets of time from other activities: write while watching TV (if this is family time, join in on the TV watching but wear headphones so you can focus on your work), while eating breakfast or lunch, during your commute (please not while driving!), in bed before falling asleep or when you just get up. Steal a half an hour here, an hour there, whatever you can get away with.

I’ve written in bed fairly often (where I started this)—before falling asleep, after having slept for a while, and first thing in the morning. I’ve written the first moment out of a shower, while on the can (go ahead and judge), while waiting in line at Chipotles, in front of the TV, on the road, and in the plane. One of my favorite places is lunch (I’m currently writing at a small bakery in Sedona)—there’s often a nice but non-distracting hum of activity.

You should also keep tools around to enable these stealing of moments—a pen and pad of paper if you’re a hand-writer, or electronic tools for the rest of us. Find a good app for your phone, or carry a tablet with you everywhere you go. Keep your data in the cloud (I personally use Dropbox and an app on the iPad that syncs all of my writing to it) so you can work on your current projects or start new ones where ever you are.

And if you do time steal, don’t get hung up on word counts—in fact, I don’t think it’s worth worrying about those normally unless under specific deadlines (don’t create more things to discourage your writing). Be happy that you perfected a sentence, eeked out a paragraph or two, or jotted down some new ideas. Any and all progress is good.

If your writing is a priority, you will find ways to make it happen.

My own results are mixed, of course—I’ve gone a week or more without writing a single word. More often than not, though, I do add to something at least several times a week. During this past week, while being on vacation, I’ve finished a first draft of a short story, made additional notes on some other projects, and pushed this blog post out (a few days late, sure, but who’s counting). This all came during breakfast, lunch, in the plane, and hanging out at my father-in-law’s house. Perhaps I sacrificed a bit of conversation time, but that’s how my priorities roll.