I've been thinking about time, lately, and the opening scene of I Don't Know How She Does It (Allison Pearson) comes to mind. The main character, a working mother, is madly "distressing" a store-bought pie at 10 PM after work in an effort to make it look more homemade before she takes it to her daughter's school function the next morning (early, the next morning).
I know that woman well.
I won't spoil the story (and there's a movie if you're pressed for time!) but it fits right into that lament I lived (and still live). Where do we find the time?
It's hard enough to be a parent. Or a full-time employee. Or both. Add writing dreams on top of that and it's no wonder that vigorous conversations ensue online about whether a writer can "really" be a writer if they have a full-time job. Or if they've somehow sold out. Or maybe they're just lucky that their spouse/partner/family is wealthy/connected/fill-in-the blank.
Our lives are rich, complicated, beautiful (and yes, sometimes poopy and stressful) puzzles. How do we go from "I want to write" to writing? I don't have all the answers, and I only know what my journey has been like, but there seem to be a few rules that have helped me manage to find the time.
1. Quit worrying about what's happening in someone else's life. We may have a pretty good understanding of our own situation, but rarely do we know what's going on behind someone else's façade. All the time you spend online-stalking and jealous-snarking is a drain. Pull the plug.
2. Make what you can. When my kids were really little, I was (still am) working full time. I found some pockets of time. They were small and rather unproductive, but they were there. I jotted down notes that I could never manage to get into story form. But they're helpful now when I need to remember what a two-year-old is really like. Store-bought pies? No dusting? Do what you can.
3. Make friends. For a while, I cut everything back. I worked. I was a mom. I tried to write. Friends felt like too much time. I was exhausted, worn out, and I didn't have anything to offer to a critique group. I wish I'd realized then how much inspiration and encouragement we provide each other. The writing community is broad, generous, and supportive. Put yourself out there.
4. Don't scorn the scraps of time. Once, I hired a babysitter to watch my kids for two whole hours so I could write. I sat at my desk in my bedroom with the door closed while they shoved tiny scraps of paper under the door. "When are you coming out?" Needless to say, that was....distracting. Eventually, I realized that twenty minutes before they woke up was my scrap of time. And the pressure to use those twenty precious minutes meant I didn't surf the web, I didn't post photos. I wrote. Twenty became thirty, then more...but some days, it's still twenty. That's okay. Especially if you type quickly.
5. Make your own rules. What works for someone else may not work for you. That's fine. The most important thing seems to be figuring out your pace and style and then not stopping. No matter what. Because it's a long haul no matter what. But I'm in for the duration.
Where do you find the time?
Originally published June 16, 2016