by Chris Eboch
So many things demand our time—job, spouse, children, volunteer work, housework. It’s tempting to say, I’ll write during vacation, or when the kids are back in school, or when the kids leave home, or when I retire ….
Yet if you want to be a writer, you must find time to write.
Becoming a writer requires commitment. If you don’t take your work seriously, your family and friends certainly won’t either. The new year is traditionally a time for resolutions, so make one for your writing self. Let people know how important writing is to you. Insist that writing time is your time, and you must not be disturbed. Carve out a few hours each week. Then close the door and ignore your phone and e-mail, or take your laptop to the library.
Finding even a few hours may seem hopeless when you have young children. Louise Spiegler, author of middle grade novel The Amethyst Road, says, “It is impossible for me to write with my kids awake and active. I either tried to get both kids to nap at the same time or I spent my non-existent savings on two hours of babysitting.”
Try trading babysitting with other writing parents. Or start a play group/writers group: the kids play, the parents write or critique.
Molly Blaisdell, author of the picture book Rembrandt and the Boy Who Drew Dogs: A story about Rembrandt van Rijn, and mother of four, found another creative way to keep her kids busy. “I kept all the special toys in my office. When I wanted to work on a scene, I’d pull down that box and say, “This is quiet time for special toys.’” It would always be good for about half an hour and sometime would go for two hours.”
No Use for a Muse
When your writing time is limited, you can’t afford to waste a moment. After having a baby, Michele Corriel, author of Weird Rocks says, “I still managed to get up before my daughter and cram in even half an hour. The problem with a shorter amount of time is you really have to switch it on.”
Successful writers agree: no waiting for the right mood. Spiegler says, “As soon as the kids were asleep or safely dropped off, I would sit down and start working—no waiting for inspiration.”
The most productive writers work anywhere and everywhere. Jean Daigenau says, “I take advantage of the few minutes of downtime I have at school or home—while I’m eating lunch or supervising the homework group at our after-school latchkey program or soaking in the bathtub.”
If you can’t do serious writing in five-minute bursts, use the time in other ways. Daigenau suggests, “Get it written on the computer and then use those few minutes here and there to revise.”
Christine Liu Perkins, author of At Home in Her Tomb: Lady Dai and the Ancient Chinese Treasures of Mawangdui comments, “When I’m constantly being interrupted, chauffeuring, or sitting in waiting rooms, I brainstorm and pre-write. Wherever I am, I focus on a specific problem for that short session. What points do I want to include in this article? What happens next in the story?”
The best organized life can sometimes just get too full. Spiegler, who also teaches college now, cautions against buying into the super-woman myth. “It is almost impossible for me to work at a demanding job and take care of kids and write regularly. The only way I can write is to be teaching something familiar that I can spend less prep time on.”
You can’t do it all, so decide what’s most important. Then look for areas to cut back. Reduce your work hours, or cut commute time with a job closer to home. Commute by bus and write as you ride. Arrange car pools or play dates for your kids. Dictate into a tape recorder as you walk for exercise. Let the housework slide, and make quick meals. Cut back on email, web surfing or TV. Try keeping a journal of your activities for a week to find out just how much time you waste.
Put your family to work as well. Train your kids (or spouse) to do housework and some of the cooking—they’ll learn important skills while you get free time!
When a real crisis intrudes—sick kids, ailing parents, a job change or divorce—you may need to take time off from writing. Just don’t let it drag on forever. Plan how you’ll handle the crisis, and schedule a time to return to writing. In the meantime, read writing magazines or books for a few minutes each week to keep your focus.
How about your time? Where does writing fit in your life?
Decide, and make a commitment to your work. Then repeat this mantra: I am a writer, and writers write.
Chris Eboch writes fiction and nonfiction for all ages. In Bandits Peak, a teenage boy meets strangers hiding on the mountains and gets drawn into their crimes, until he risks his life to expose them. The Eyes of Pharaoh is an action-packed mystery set in ancient Egypt. The Genie’s Gift is an Arabian Nights-inspired fantasy adventure. In The Well of Sacrifice, a Mayan girl in ninth-century Guatemala rebels against the High Priest who sacrifices anyone challenging his power. Her writing craft books include You Can Write for Children: How to Write Great Stories, Articles, and Books for Kids and Teenagers and Advanced Plotting.
Chris also writes novels of suspense and romance for adults under the name Kris Bock; read excerpts at www.krisbock.com.
This article was originally published in the January 2011 issue of SouthWest Sage and is reprinted here by permission of the author.