Time and the Writer

Metal_mechanics_type_221267_lLast week, in at least most of the United States, we set our clocks back one hour in order to return from Daylight Savings time to standard time, which means that it gets darker earlier (I personally love this) in the evening and lighter earlier in the morning (sort of).  It also means, on the day of the switch, that we get to sleep in an extra hour.  Which in my case meant I got to write an extra hour because my body didn't get the message about the time change so I woke up early.

And all this time changing got me thinking about time as it applies to us writers.   Seems like for most of us, time is the enemy, because we never quite have enough of it to do our writing.  Our chosen profession–our passion–takes time, and lots of it, because you can't rush genius.  Right? 

Well, maybe not.

Maybe it's time to rethink time in a more positive way.  Here are some things I've learned about time the hard way:

1.  Good things can happen fast.  Not always, but sometimes.  This is the theory behind Nanowrimo, which so many of us are participating in.  When you're writing 50,000 words in a month, you're not pausing a lot to worry about which word to use next.  You're just writing.  And really great things happen in the writing.  Always.  It's getting to it that is so hard.

2.  There really is enough time.  We just convince ourselves there's not, because it's a matter of how we're choosing to use our time.  I know if you added up all the time I'd spent surfing the internet over the last few years, I could have written at least one novel in the time I wasted.

3.  When you do get time to write, maintain a laser focus.  I've shared this tip a gazillion times and every time I do people write me and thank me, so I'll say it again:  set a timer for 30 minutes and do nothing but write for that time.  When the timer goes off, get up, take a break, then come back and do it again.  This is the most efficient way to use time that I've found.

4.  Take time to stand for yourself.  If I'd had the confidence in myself and my writing that I have now when I was younger, I'd be a world-famous writer by now.  When we don't have confidence in our worth and the worth of our writing, we don't take time to write.  Procrastination is a fear issue, always.

5. Take time to make time.  I have a list a mile long this week, and I'm not certain how I'm going to get it all done.  And yet, this morning I took time to meditate.  It's counter-intutitive, but taking time to meditate, or pray, or walk, or swim, or dance will create more time later because you'll be rested, open and alert.

6.  Quit telling yourself you don't have enough time.  I know, I know.  I just did this in #5.  There's an epidemic in this country of people rushing around telling each other that we don't have enough time.  The more we say it, the more it comes true–if only because we waste so much time saying it.  Turn it around.  Tell yourself you have plenty of time, because you do.

7.  Get up early.  You night owls hate me for this one, I know.  Sorry.  But for me it is absolutely the best way to get to my writing done.  Once I've gotten my quota in, I'm happy all day long because I know I've already accomplished that which is most important to me.

What are your best time tips for writers?

***Struggling to find time no matter how you try?  Perhaps you need some coaching.  Check out my services page for all the options I offer writers.

Photo by clix.

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13 Comments on "Time and the Writer"

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J.D.
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J.D.
11/08/2012 04:28
There is a funny thing about dealing with time. I could insert a lament here about the things I missed, the things I didn’t do. Well, #$^% that. The question is did I learn anything from those misses. If you have any talent, it is good to use it. Don’t tell it to take a nap, that you’ll get back to it in a few years. I love the new Pepsi commercial. In the time it took you to read this and me to write it, we didn’t do any of that. The time to start is now and it… Read more »
Suzanne C. Robertson
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Suzanne C. Robertson
11/08/2012 07:01

I thought I didn’t have time to read this blog but of course now that I did I will get that time back two-fold with all these good tips. Except for getting up early. That is a deal-breaker. 😉

The best time-tip I can think of is to have your book, plot, characters, etc., in your mind before you sit down. Think about it and where you will begin and then when you get there you won’t waste time thinking “now where was I?”

Charlotte Dixon
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11/08/2012 07:06

My son used to bitch and moan terribly when I'd tell him to do something unpleasant, like clean his room.  And I'd tell him that he could have been done with the project in all the time and energy he wasted complaining about it.  I try to remind myself of that often.

Charlotte Dixon
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11/08/2012 07:07

LOL.  I actually like getting up early but I know for some people its the worst, so do what works for you.  And thanks for the great tip!  That's a helpful one.

Sandy
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Sandy
11/08/2012 07:13
Another great list, Charlotte. Always enjoy reading your work. I like what Dan Wells (author of I Am Not A Serial Killer; Mr. Monster; and I Don’t Want To Kill You, among others) said on an episode of the Writing Excuses podcast. He says that when you say you don’t have time, what you’re really making is a value statement. It means you value something else more than writing. In some cases its justified, but in others maybe not so much. So the moral of my little monologue is, when you get that feeling of not enough time, ask yourself… Read more »
Sandy
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Sandy
11/08/2012 07:16

I say the same thing to my ten year old son and he just looks at me like I’m speaking Russian or something. Kind of like I look at my wife when she tells me to rack the yard. 🙂

Charlotte Dixon
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11/08/2012 07:20

I heartily concur with Dan Wells (going to have to check him out).  Time is often a choice.  It's also, I'm learning, sometimes about energy–we may have time but simply don't have the mental energy to engage with the work.  I love your habit of writing in 10 to 15 minute bursts–I may try that today to get my Nanowrimo word count in.  It is a fallacy that you have to have long stretches of time to get writing done.   Thanks for commenting, Sandy!

Sandy
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Sandy
11/08/2012 07:36

I know what you mean about the energy. I spend all day in an office as a technical writer so by the time I get home, feed the kids, put them to bed, etc., I’m so tired and my brain is so fried I don’t even want open my manuscript file, much less write in it. When I do, I usually end up cutting it, because it isn’t as good as what I would have written with a clear, well-rested mind.

Charlotte Dixon
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11/08/2012 07:40

That's why I get up early and write first thing. It can be just as exhausting, but at least your brain is fresh.  I just finished reading Wild, the huge best-seller from Cheryl Strayed and she worked as a waitress at night and wrote during the day.  Sometimes I think that's the way to go, rather than doing writing-related work, as you and I both do!

Sandy
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Sandy
11/08/2012 08:14

To reference Dan Wells one more time. He used to write marketing copy for a company I can’t remember at the moment. He would get home from work and in an effort to ‘detox’ of sorts, play video games for a couple hours to get out of his marketing head and into his fiction writing head. Then he would work on his novels well into the night.
I’ve tried adopting that strategy a little, although I don’t play video games. I’ll read, or do a couple simple chores or, oh yeah, feed my children. 🙂

Charlotte Dixon
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11/08/2012 08:33

Oh yeah, the kids!  You've got a lot on your plate, Sandy, I hope you give yourself a break once in awhile!  But the story about Dan illustrates that if you've got the driving desire, you find a way to do it, somehow or another.

Zan Marie
Guest
11/08/2012 12:19

Great list, Charlotte, but I have to admit that getting up early is a no-go for me. When you already have a sleep problem, you don’t mess with what works most of the time. It’s better for me to sleep when I can and write as soon as I’m up and awake. That’s the same difference, just adjusted to my needs.

Charlotte Dixon
Guest
11/08/2012 12:36

I acknowledge that getting up early is not for everyone  And yes, if you have a sleep disorder, it is especially not a good idea!  But it also sounds like you have a schedule that works well for you, and that is what it's all about!

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