Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Delia Latham: Time Benders

One of the most common complaints from writers is the difficulty in finding time to write. Most of us could use a few extra hours in our day. Most weeks are gone almost before we realize they’ve started. And it’s not that hard to understand. Think about it:

In the 24 hours we’re allotted per day, most of us spend 8 sleeping and 8 working. That leaves only 8 hours for other pursuits. Factor in at least a couple of hours eating (no “vehicle” goes far without fuel), and there are 6 hours left. Most of us use most of that time cooking, cleaning, gardening…and a thousand other things that absolutely must be done. Clearly, “free time” is a rare gift.

What’s a writer to do, then? Just forget it and give up? Some do. You know who they are…they’re the ones who never get a book published. If you want to be a real writer, however, the answer is a resounding, “NO!” Never, never, never give up.

You’re creative. Of course you are, or you wouldn’t want to write. So create time.

OK…I get it. Only God could add more hours to a day, and He’s not likely to do that. Which means the only way to “create time” is to be innovative with our use of it. Bend time, if you will. Multi-task. Make use of every…single…moment.

Here are a few “for instances.”

·         Stopped in traffic or waiting in line at the grocery store? Write a scene in your head. You can jot it all down later.
·         Eating alone? No need to be lonely. Spend that time with your characters. Work out the details of your hero’s past, or your heroine’s secret angst, or your villain’s sad childhood.
·         Making beds? Washing dishes? Vacuuming? Those are perfect times to mentally write your next scene, or plan your next chapter.
·         Got a long drive ahead of you? Wonderful! Use the alone time to come up with scenes, events, plot twists, etc. Why listen to music or audio books when you could be “writing”?
·         Sitting in your doctor’s/dentist’s waiting room? Pull out your notebook—you know, the one you never go anywhere without—and write. You can feed it all into your manuscript later, when you find some real writing time.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Pardon the cliché, but it’s true. We find time for the things that matter most to us. If writing is a priority, you will find opportunities to make it happen—or create them.

The bullet points above deal mostly with existing timeframes that sometimes we simply don’t think to use as writing opportunities. Sometimes, however, writing requires a sacrifice of other activities…some of which might be hard to relinquish. Again, this is where it gets right down to the nitty-gritty and forces a writer to decide how badly she wants to be an author.

Available: Unclaimed Writing Time!

Any one of us who spotted an ad with the above words in large, inviting letters would absolutely take a second look. (Come on, you know you would!) But the sad truth is, we fail to claim available writing time every day.

Think about the following time slots that most of us fill with unnecessary things that could easily be writing time instead:

    •          Television. Are you willing to sacrifice any of the dozen different shows you watch during week-day evenings in order to claim writing time? Seriously…is it absolutely necessary to watch “(fill in whatever show fits for you”) reruns you’ve already seen who-knows-how-many times already?
      Harder to accept, but just as true, is that even new shows—some of which sound amazing and you’re dying to see what they’re all about—might have to be sacrificed to “create time” for writing. It isn’t always an easy choice. When push comes to shove, what’s most important to you—entertaining your readers with amazing stories…or being entertained by visual storylines someone else made the sacrifice to write?
    •          Shopping. This is a major culprit for many writers—especially women. What’s meant to be a couple hours of mall time can turn into an all-day, marathon shopping spree. Oops…completely forgot about that story you’re working on…and another day is gone, never to be reclaimed.

      While it is admittedly not as much fun, shopping is no longer a valid reason to abandon your manuscript. Almost anything can be purchased online, and in a mere fraction of the time it takes to wander the mall.
      •          Social networking sites. Speaking of being online…

        Even that—sometimes
        especially that—can be a time thief. Facebook, Twitter, Google…and any number of other sites…can be amazing marketing tools. And yes, it’s fun to connect with friends and family through these venues. But be careful! Many, many hours that might have been productive writing time are whiled away shooting the breeze online. If you use these sites, manage your time on them with unyielding control. Otherwise, you’ll find you are being controlled by them. And your writing time will suddenly be non-existent. Again, it’s a simple matter of priorities.
      •          Games. They’re a great way to relax…and a great way to waste a tremendous amount of time. I discovered a couple of years back that I had lost an unbelievable number of hours of writing time to a silly little pretend farm on Facebook. Was it worth it? No. A thousand times no! When I realized how close I had come to missing a writing deadline because I’d gotten mentally lost in Farm Town, I shut my virtual farm down in a heartbeat. Why? Because writing holds a far greater importance to me than planting fake wheat and harvesting pretend carrots. Any game holds that same danger. Play them if you must, but do so on a timer and then return to your manuscript. Time’s a-wastin’!
      •          Sleep. Oh, how I love my sleep time! But the cold, hard fact is this: A writer who seriously cannot make any of the above time benders work, does have the option of bending this period of time to their benefit. I know an amazing writer who works all day, spends quality time with her family in the evenings, and crawls out of bed at about 3:30 every single morning to write. Because writing is important to her, enough so that she’s willing to get less shut-eye than most of us insist on. The results are obvious in the proliferation of wonderful, heart-warming novels she consistently produces.

    The fact is, no matter how much we want to argue the point, we do have time to write if we really, truly want to write. Time can be bent to our will—if our will is strong enough.

    Is yours?

    Delia Latham
    © 2014

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