This article originally appeared in the JumpStart newsletter
Copyright by Shirley Jump
I hear it all the time: “I want to be a writer but I don’t have the time to be one.” My response? A quote from British author George E. Allen that a friend sent to me once: “How badly do you want it?”
If you want to be a writer, you make writing a priority. Simple as that. I knowI can hear the “buts” already: But I have children. But I have a job. But I have a dog that requires ten hours a day of one-on-one attention. But I have this and that and those and these…
Ask yourself thishow badly do you want to be a writer? Do you want it enough to give up somethingan hour of sleep, that weekly coffee shop chat with friends, an hour a day of Internet time, the solitude of your drive home? There is always an hour to be found, if you want to find it badly enough.
The problem is many of us don’t make writing a priority because we either don’t “feel” like a writer or we’re afraid to be a writer. Committing to something means possibly failing. We’ve all done diets and virtually all of us have failed at it at least once. I’m in the glutton-for-punishment category because I keep dieting and failing and dieting and failing. I know in my heart that I don’t want to be thin as much as I want to eat that cheesecake, so I have yet to fully commit.
You have to get over both that feeling of inadequacy and the fear. That’s not to say it won’t nag at you from time to time or present you with a numbing case of block. That happens. It’s part of the job. But if you are a writer who has made writing a priority, it won’t affect you as badly. Here are a few tips to get writing at the top of the list:
Get up earlier. I drag myself out of bed at 4:30 every morning. I don’t like to be up that early and would much rather be in my bed. But I also know that is my only quiet time during the day (I have two kids) and if I don’t write then, I won’t get another chance.
Make it easier on yourself. I have a coffee pot with a timer. When the alarm goes off, I know the pot is ready and waiting for me. Just knowing the caffeine IV is ready makes it easier to get going. I also use a crock pot on a daily basis. Dump dinner in that morning; eat it 8 to 10 hours later. It’s easy, takes less than ten minutes of preparation and gives me HOURS of time.
Tell everyone. Tell your spouse, your kids, your friends, that you are writing. Ask them not to bother you. In fact, hang up a sign that says “Do not disturb.” If you don’t lay down some ground rules, they will interrupt. Why? Because YOU didn’t make it clear that your writing was a priority.
Let go. The house doesn’t have to be perfect; the cookies can come from the Pillsbury Dough Boy. This is all part of prioritizing.
Set a goal. It’s easier to let your writing fall by the wayside if you don’t have anything to shoot for. Set a daily goal and find a group of writer friends to check in with. This incentive helps you stay on track.
Turn off the Internet connection. HOURS of time can be wasted on the Web (trust me, I know this one from personal experience). When I am working on fiction, I don’t connect my e-mail until I’ve hit my page count. Some days, its torture to wait, but it keeps me moving on those pages.
Reward yourself. Chocolate works for me. For you, it might be an hour in the garden or a trip to the movies. Once you achieve something, it’s okay to pat yourself on the back.
Don’t lose sight of the big picture. When you are looking at how many pages there are left to go in your novel or how insanely long the publishing process takes, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and quit. Never forget that you are creating for you as much as you are for other people. You are investing in yourself and really, there’s no better priority than that.
I’m a big believer in motivational quotes and have several pasted around my office. As a final thought, here is this one from Mark Twain:
“Twenty years from now
you will be more disappointed by
the things you didn’t do
than by the ones you did do.”