There is “finding time” to write and then there is “making time” to write.
We are human – we have lives. Between family, our day jobs, and that TV series that we just can’t possibly miss, our itch to write will start to put us out of sorts. We don’t feel right – we’re irritable, we lose patience, and we’re just not ourselves when we don’t feed our need to scribe. So, what do we do? “Finding” the time to write can sometimes feel almost impossible, while “making” the time to write can make us feel like we’re neglecting other aspects of our lives. I don’t want to avoid playing with my son because I’ve just got to get in at least a few hundred words, and I don’t want my husband to feel like he’s second fiddle when he heads off to bed with me still stuck in front of my computer typing away. For our spouses, they’re mature enough to understand our passion. But children will only take it personally. If you’re single and writing, get in all you can. The rest of us, however, need to find balance. I’ve put together a few ways to help keep us, and our families, happy. And with the holidays on the horizon, our writing time will soon be but tiny threads on a wind we’re desperately trying to snag.
1.) Stop Feeling Guilty
If your day has been overloaded, all you’ve done is run around, and you get home just in time to crash for the night, don’t feel bad about it. Life is nothing if we’re not involved in some way. In ten years, when my son morphs into a teenager, I don’t want him to feel that he doesn’t know anything about me because all I’ve done is work. Of course, when he’s a teen he’ll probably despise me anyway, but at least he’ll know who is mother is.
2.) Make a Schedule
I’m notorious for trying to keep my day planner stored in my head. But for those of us with families, our heads are probably already overloaded with what’s going on with everyone else – where the kids need to be at what time and what they need to bring, when the spouse will be home from work, what’s for dinner… you get the idea. Get a day planner or small notebook to keep right in your writer’s haven to map out what you can write and when. Leave room for changes. For example, if I schedule some writing for Monday morning, I’ll schedule a backup window for after the little one goes to bed that same night. And, if all goes well, I get writing time twice that day.
I’m not talking about taking a run. But if that’s what you enjoy, then go for it – it’s great for clearing the mind. In this case, I’m actually talking about writing exercises. There are tons to choose from, and all you need is a search engine to start looking. Search “writing exercise” and see what you can find. Don’t feel you need to share what you came up with – it’s okay to do things for yourself. It’s really all about giving your brain a workout. Before you run a few miles, you need to stretch, maybe start with a nice walk to get you moving. Writing works the same way. And writing exercises don’t have to take up a lot of time. Keep a trusty little notebook nearby and add to it over the course of the day. I’ll even give you one: Make a list of some close friends and family members, and then write a tagline for each of them. It can be something you hear them say all the time, or you can make up a blurb that best describes them. Example: My co-worker/friend Chris usually ends every conversation with “It is what it is.”
This one sounds almost hypocritical, I know. If you have time to read, you should have time to write – but not really. Let’s say you’re home with the kids, and they’re actually NOT bouncing off the walls. The environment may not be calm enough for you to focus on writing, but it’s settled enough to get in some reading. You won’t mind so much about setting that book down to wipe a runny nose, while writing keeps us so engaged that we’re only irritated when we get distracted. That distraction will stick with you when/if you get back to your work, and it will show in your writing. Not only that, your attitude affects everyone in your family. If even one parent isn’t happy, “ain’t nobody happy.”
5.) One Line Before Bed
Okay – so you’ve gotten through your incredibly busy day, you’re ready for bed and feeling that guilt of “I didn’t write a damn thing today!” Grab that notebook. Now, write one line. It can be anything! Write something to motivate you or ease that guilty feeling: “You’re a great writer.” or “I love words and they love me.” So maybe that last one is kind of corny, but the humor can help put a smile on your face. You can also write down a simple observation: “The nights are getting chilly.” or “My husband snores like a damn buzz saw.” It doesn’t have to be poetic. It just has to be… something.
No one writer is the same as the next. I’m a writer with a family. I’m a writer with a regular job like a regular person. I’m a writer with a life outside of writing. I love my family, my life and, on rare occasions, my job. And I love being a writer. If you love something enough, you do whatever it takes to keep it close to you. So, if you love to write but can’t find the time, then find a way to make the time. Writing is a part of you and it keeps you whole and happy, and that carries over into everything else in your life. Let your spouse feel proud of your accomplishments, let your children see how important it is to follow their dreams, and allow yourself that gift you have with the written word. You deserve it.