Making Time

I missed a week updating here entirely, and I even missed doing a quickie on Sunday, and I wish I could say it was because I was busy taking the sun in Aruba and drinking something full of rum and tropical fruit squeezins’, but alas the truth is more prosaic — I had to spend some extra time at the day job last Tuesday, and this Sunday I was down in Santa Cruz (my favorite town) at a big party, and got home too tired to do anything but my freelancing-for-money work.

Time management is always tricky when you’re a writer, and I’m usually pretty good at it, but the realities of life do occasionally squeeze one’s time away, at which point, it’s best to consult the Hierarchy of Deadlines and Money, which states that you should blow off the non-paying stuff first.

Whenever I hear people say, “Oh, I’d love to write a novel, but I just don’t have the time,” my (usually, but not always, silent) response is, “What are you talking about? Do you think I have the time? I have a full-time job, a wife, a toddler, steady freelance non-fiction gigs, and an addiction to bad TV. I don’t have time either. So what? I make time.”

And that’s the way you do it. For me, it’s not that bad, honestly — I’m not going to give you some poor-me song-and-dance. I like writing most days, and many days, I like writing even more than I like bad TV! So overcoming that first barrier-to-entry and sitting my rear down at the keyboard isn’t usually too tough, since I find writing first drafts recreational. (Revising is a bit less fun, and copyedits/proofreading/etc. are even less fun.) But, still; you have to make the time.

I wish I could say there were magic tricks for making more time, but, probably, you gotta give something up. When my kid gets me up at 6 a.m. and takes a nap at noon, I’d love to crawl into bed for two or three hours myself, but instead, I usually write. On my lunch breaks at work, I’d like to sit on the deck and watch hummingbirds or read, but (at least when I’m being diligent), I write instead. I like to sleep eight hours a night, but I can get by on six, so I sacrifice a couple of hours to write. You get up earlier. You go to bed later. You regretfully say “no” to drinks with friends sometimes. You carve out the time.

Now, I like a good six-hour stretch to write in, but it’s tough to get those. Occasionally I work out a deal with my wife where she’ll watch the kid for a while and give me time to work in exchange for some reciprocal free time. But more often I’m writing in snatches and grabs and stolen moments. (Right now? My kid is behind me playing happily, and I’m just hoping I get to the end of this before he toddles over and demands attention. And if I don’t, well, I’ll finish this later.) But the thing is, pages accrue. They pile up. A little at a time, over a long enough period, can add up to a lot. Being a novelist is a long-term game. You probably do have the time.

You just have to be willing to give up whatever that time is currently filled with.

2 Responses to “Making Time”

  1. 1 mlronald
    April 29, 2009 at 1:30 am

    Thanks for posting this — I really needed a reminder/kick in the pants like this today, given how slow I’ve been with writing lately. I have trouble reminding myself that writing is the last thing I can put off, especially when the days when I write are the better ones to begin with.

  2. 2 rachelaaron
    April 30, 2009 at 12:23 am

    Amen to that, Margaret (and Tim)!

    Speaking of which, time to write.

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