Another cross post with the group blog, Seven Sassy Sisters!
Here it is-
Time to write.
Isn’t that one of the hardest things for all of us? We’re all buzzing with story ideas. And we all have loads of other demands on our time, whether we’re working crazy hours at the Day Job from Hell, Mums at home with babies and young kids and housework, or somehow incredibly trying to juggle everything at once.
That’s real “I don’t know how she does it” territory for me. I can barely cope with the day job and the commute and the exhaustion. Trying to juggle child care and all that goes with it on top? *shakes head*
Anyway, the reality is that finding time to write is hard. Real life all too easily will chew up all our available time and spit us out wrecked and unsatisfied at the end of a long day with no time for us. No time for the other things that are personally important to us, like writing.
That, for a moody mentalpausal cow like me anyway, is a recipe for anger and frustration. Serious frustration. Shout-at-my-husband-and-hate-his-guts-and-I-want-to-get-a-divorce type frustration.
It’s not his fault he can’t get a job after being made redundant. It’s not his fault I now have to earn for two and the job that pays well enough requires a ninety minute plus commute morning and evening. It’s not his fault that my employers pay well because they expect a lot in return, so I come home wrung-out and brain-fried. It’s not his fault that after a week home by himself all day, when I am home he capers like a three year old going “Look at me, Mummy!” to get my attention.
Okay, maybe that last one is his fault, but it’s understandable. He’s the extrovert who needs to be out there surrounded by people, who wants to be earning money, forced to stay home and be househusband all day. I’m the introvert who wants to stay home all day and write, forced to be out there surrounded by challenging and mentally draining people all day. Whatever, the outcome was an escalating cycle of me coming home determined to find quiet time to write, and him getting more and more needy and demanding the more I tried to shut him out.
Writing on the part of the commute for the part where it’s possible worked a bit. But there are so many other distractions. The newspaper. My email inbox. Just getting into the flow of the story enough. The resentment that this was all the time I had, that writing had to be squeezed into the corners and cracks of my life when I wanted it to be centre stage.
Then Abbi asked a question. Not aimed at me, at everyone. The question was “What will you do?” What are you willing to give up to make the dream a reality? How far will you go to reach your goals? What can you do differently, right now, that will make a difference?
My immediate reaction- I can’t do anything different. I didn’t even think about possibilities. I did think about getting up earlier, but not as an option, as “Well, I’m definitely not going to get up any earlier, that’s for sure! I’m already waaaaaay too tired as it is.”
So what am I doing now? What’s the not-so-big change that’s made a huge difference?
You got it. I’m getting up earlier on work days so I have some dedicated writing time.
Something I thought was impossible, as I already got up early and was always exhausted.
First, I realised I could take a train that left my station over half an hour later but got me to work only five minutes late. I discussed this with my co-workers, and as I rarely take my full lunch break, they were okay with that.
Yay, an extra half an hours sleep! I won’t be so tired all the time, maybe I can write more in the evenings.
Except I didn’t sleep. I was still going to bed pissed off with my life, and sleeping badly. And the automatic alarm clock in my head still woke me up at 5.40am most mornings. I went back to sleep, but woke up feeling tireder than I would have if I’d just gotten up earlier. A little voice started whispering “You could get up and write.” I ignored it. I’d seriously divorce my husband before I’d do that. I’m not a morning person. I hate getting up early. My brain doesn’t work at that time anyway. All those limiting self-beliefs that came out to play.
Then I read Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art. It’s about winning the inner creative battle. How Resistance beats us up on a daily basis, and how we can fight back. He’s a military fiction writer, so his imagery is war-like. He lists the symptoms. Anger and resentment. Blaming others. Unhappiness. I could see how my own resistance to doing the creative work, my fear and that niggling sense I just wasn’t good enough, that my writing was too crap to even bother with, had me feeling trapped. I could blame it on never having enough time. The reality was, I had as much time as anyone else, my resistance was what was stopping me.
As he says, it’s not the writing part that’s hard, it’s the sitting down to write part. The truth was, my writing was coming last in my life.
Not the way I wanted it to be.
So the next morning when I woke up early, I didn’t roll over and go back to sleep. I sat up and turned the laptop on and opened my WiP and wrote. And I set the alarm time for even earlier the following day, so I had a full hour.
It was slow going at first, I’d sit there for an hour with the laptop switched on but my brain switched off, lucky to get 300 words. I’d want to open my emails, read, go back to sleep, do anything but write. I kept reminding myself I wanted writing to be important. Writing had to get dedicated time, not just worn out and left over dregs of time.
Somehow, it’s starting to work. My brain is learning that it can and will write at 5.20am in the morning. The last few days I’ve managed around 1000 words. I’m into the flow of the story, so that I’m using the time in the commute to write. I’m getting ideas for this story instead of new shiny ideas to tempt me away (also a symptom of resistance, BTW). I’m emailing story notes and new paragraphs to myself on my mobile phone when I have a spare five minutes.
Oddly, I seem to be less tired, despite getting up earlier. Definitely a whole lot less frustrated!
I just had a hellish week at work. On call over the weekend, and probably the busiest On Call I’ve had. Short staffed in the office, so I had to work extra hours. Normally I’d be angry. Angry at my job, angry at my husband, angry at myself for being in this situation. So angry that when I sat down to write I wouldn’t be able to, and I’d end up using my computer time doing comfort shopping on ebay instead. Shouting at my husband for interrupting me when I’m supposed to be writing, then getting defensive when he quite rightly pointed out I was on ebay.
This week wasn’t like that. I got tired, I got grumpy at times, I was soooooo glad when Friday evening came and I came off call and could switch off my phone. So I didn’t get home from work until after nine? It didn’t matter so much, because I already had over a thousand story words in the bag for the day.
Bam! Pow! Wallop! Take that, Resistance! Gotcha, right in the kisser!
I’m getting up half an hour earlier, but the result is a whole lot more than an extra hour writing time in my day.
Of course, it’s easier in Summer when the sun is up by 4.30 anyway. Winter, who knows, I may have more trouble dragging my lazy ass out of bed. On the other hand, it’s only half an hour. Resistance can’t seduce me with its false advertising promises of how that half hour extra sleep will improve my life. I have too much evidence for the opposite. Also, it will be a habit by then.
Apparently the “Twenty-one days to form a habit” idea may be a bit optimistic. That’s true for very simple changes. Bigger changes can take as long as sixty six days to get as habitual as they ever will. I’m hoping by Winter, I’ll just keep hopping out of bed when the alarm goes off, powering up the laptop, and diving into my story world.
Because it looks like that thirty minutes less sleep really might be changing my life.
This is what works for me, but everyone has their own solutions.
How do you make time to write? How do you deal with Resistance, whatever form it takes for you? How do you drag the hands of the clock back to wring more time for yourself out of a busy day?
Wanted to add a link to this excellent series of articles on achieving goals I found on PsyBlog. Very relevant, and some of the content surprised me!