I talk to a lot of writers and we all love to talk about time. “There just isn’t enough time in the day to do all the things I need to do!” “If I just had more time I could get this novel finished.” “Maybe next month when I have more time I can get more writing done.” I’ve heard these words (and said them myself) so many times.
Time is precious, scarce, hard to come by, and difficult to manage and if we ever want to get anything written we need to figure out how to manage our time wisely. Or do we? I’ve worked on this for years and here’s what I’ve discovered: time isn’t the problem, organizing and managing time isn’t the problem, the stories we tell ourselves about time are the problem. Now, before you start disagreeing with me, I’m not telling you to give up on time management and efficiency tools, they have their place and I use lots of them, but what I want you to think about is what kind of stories are you telling yourself about time?
“You can make time to write.”
“There isn’t enough time in the day.”
I spent a year noticing the stories I was telling myself about time and this was the winner. When I started paying attention I realized that I probably said this to myself more than a hundred times a day. I said it to procrastinate on my work, to put off yoga practice, to not do the dishes, and especially to not write. But when I was really honest with myself I realized that it wasn’t true. Ask yourself this: How am I actually spending my time?
I had time to make my kids’ lunches, pick them up and drop them off at their activities, meet my work deadlines, do the dishes and the groceries. I am busy and those things are important! But I also had time to check my social media feeds, respond to my texts, make coffee, and watch a few shows. If I can make time for those things surely I can make time to write a few pages.
Create a writing habit
It’s easy to find time for some things because we do them without thinking about them, they are habit. Social media is a great example. I pick up my phone and without even realizing it I’ve spent fifteen minutes reading Instagram captions. What would happen if you made writing a habit and a priority?
Here’s some suggestions to get you started:
“What would happen if you made writing a habit and a priority?”
Set yourself up for success. Make yourself a promise “I will write for fifteen minutes today” and keep it. The key is make it manageable because every time you succeed you shift the story from “There isn’t enough time to write” to “I can make time to write.”
Sometimes you will fail and that’s okay. Be kind to yourself. You are starting something new and it isn’t easy. Every day is a chance to start again.
Be prepared for resistance.
Your mind is going to tell you all the reasons why you can’t do this, especially when you first begin. “I’ll start tomorrow,” “I just need to do this first,” “My kids need me,” “I can’t time away from…” The stories are endless. Notice them, listen to them, then set them aside tell yourself “I can make time to write” and write anyway. All those things will still be there in fifteen minutes when you’re done, just like they are when you look up from your phone.
Ask for help.
Get someone on board with you, tell a friend, or your partner, or another writer what you’re doing and ask them to check up on you. Sometimes that little nudge will be enough to keep you on track.
“You can make time to write!”
Creating a writing habit when you don’t have one, is a change. Change is hard. When we change our priorities, set new boundaries and put ourselves or our work first we shift the balance of the way things are. It doesn’t feel safe, we feel like we might upset people, we might let people down, we feel guilty or selfish, we worry that people might not understand and we will tell ourselves all the stories to stop ourselves from doing it. But here’s the thing, if you want to be a writer you need to do it anyway, you need to show up, take the risk that people might be upset (some of them will be) and make time to write.
You can make time to write! It isn’t easy but being a writer isn’t easy. Do the hard thing, it’s worth it. Writing is what makes the difference between someone who IS a writer and someone who wishes they were.
Laurie MacNevin, HF Associate Editor
Laurie is an editor, writer, and researcher. Her deep love of stories led to an Honours degree and a Master’s degree in English Language and Literature from the University of Windsor. Originally from Southern Ontario, Laurie has lived in Manitoba for more than ten years, exploring the stories, landscape, plants, and people of some of the most remote parts of the province including three years in Churchill and two years in God’s Lake Narrows First Nation. Laurie and her family now live on an acreage outside of Carberry.
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