Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Time Management Tuesday: Don't Be Fussy About Where You Find Your Writing Time

Over the weekend, I saw a post on X in which someone said she'd just read, again, about a writer who gets up at 5 AM each day to write and she knew she would never be able to do that and she just felt so despondent about writing. I felt terrible for her. I still do.

Pressures and emotional angst of all sorts come with writing. Time pressure and angst are particularly grim, because it occurs at every stage of writers' careers. Many people think they've got the time issue under control, so much so that they can throw together some ideas and get it published. This stuff is all over the Internet, magazines, and bookstores. 

You're reading some right now.

Look, You Can Find Time To Write Anywhere. Just Not A Lot Of It.

Five o'clock in the morning is not the only time to write.

How much time do people gain getting up at 5 in the morning, anyway? An hour or two before they need to shift to their nonwriting life. We're not talking Michel de Montaigne, here, who back in the sixteenth century took to the tower at his chateau and spent a couple of decades writing and rewriting some essays. We're talking a pretty small piece of time, and those of us who can't deal with the whole 5 AM thing can look for small pieces of time elsewhere in our day. 

Remember, many time management authorities suggest working in short units or segments of time, anyway, because our efficiency starts to dwindle after that. They suggest taking a break after forty-five minutes--or even twenty--and then going back to do another twenty or forty-five minutes of work. Eventually, the work done in these short spans of time adds up.

Mother-writers could serve as time models. In The Heartbreaking Ingenuity of the Mother-Writer at Literary Hub Olivia Campbell quotes author Alison Stine

"You can't be precious about writing if you have kids. You can't be fastidious or fussy. You can't always write at the cool coffee shop. I applied for a NEA grant at Burger King: They had free wifi and an indoor children's playground...I wrote my most recent novel draft during my son's remote school Zoom meetings. My first novel, Road Out Of Water, I wrote at the local skatepark, where my son belonged to the skate club."

Note that she doesn't say anything about getting up at 5 A.M. to write.

In case you don't know, by "precious" Stine means being concerned about things like the correct time to be writing. I'm going to argue that mother-writers aren't the only writers who can't be precious, fastidious, or fussy about writing at the correct time of day or in the correct place. Or anything at all.

Finding Those Short Periods Of Time

Unless we are very successful writers with plenty of income so we don't have to hold day jobs and can pay for childcare, we're going to have to squeeze writing moments out of our personal time

  • It may seem petty to plan meals in such a way that we can go grocery shopping only once a week and maybe not cook dinner every night, but, remember, all we're looking for is the one- or two-hours (or less) a day we might have gained getting up at 5 in the morning. The time lost on errands like grocery shopping, isn't just the time at the store and in the car. We lose time as we transition from whatever we were doing before we left to go grocery shopping and the transition back into work after you get back can be lengthy. For that reason, bundling errands so that you do several at a time can save you some transition time. You don't think you need to worry about transition time around errands, because you do them on your way home from a day job? Every time you avoid an afterwork errand, you're home sooner, and that increases the odds of you being able to write for a brief time later that day.
  • Do you do laundry every day so that you have to fold and take care of laundry over and over again or have to nag someone else to do it? There was a reason nineteenth century housewives had laundry and baking days. It was more time and energy efficient not to heat water and ovens over and over again. Even without boiling water and heating irons on a stove, it's always less time consuming to be doing things over and over again.
  • Practicing minimalism is a huge timesaver because we are not surrounded with masses of stuff to spend time taking care of, looking for, and sorting. 
  •  And then there is the whole mother-writer thing (see Campbell's article above or any article about mothers who write) of taking work with you. Anywhere.
  • The Campbell article, and other mother-writer articles, also refer to taking advantage of technology, writing bits and pieces on iPhones or iPads. Whatever time of day you're doing that becomes writing time.

There's Nothing Wrong With Getting Up At Five To Write...

...but if your body and mind just can't do it, it doesn't mean you can't write. You can just look for the time you need elsewhere in your day.

No, I do not know why this post has some spotty white background. It's been happening lately. You know what? I'm not going to take time to look into fixing it.

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