I’m staring up at the gates of writing hell. I know what it’s like here, because I’ve been here many times before. My life gets hectic, I get tired, and my writing mojo hits the road (often taking my libido with it).
Now, I’m not saying this is “emergency status”. In fact, I’ve just started noticing it the past few weeks, and I wanted to explore it a bit. I’d like to be proactive and keep from going downhill, so I figure a little self-reflection is warranted.
It seems to have started just after soccer season began. This added two more nights of “activity” to my schedule. Usually, I am home by 5:30 every night. But soccer STARTS at 5:30, which means I’m not home until 7:30 two nights a week. This added 4 hours has backed up laundry and cut into my ability to keep the house clean, PLUS it has severely cut in to my writing time.
I know that I COULD use the time at soccer to write, BUT I’ve been walking the track while my son practices, since I have the half-marathon coming up in a month.
I realize everything is a balancing act, and it’s all about priorities…give and take. This is one of those instances where two of my highest priorities actually collide: Writing and Health.
Luckily, soccer season is over in early June and doesn’t return until Fall. AND we have summer vacation just around the corner, which means LOTS of time to WRITE, WRITE, WRITE!
Mr. D hasn’t been very “sexual” lately, either. I’m pretty sure MY drop in libido is due to stress and fatigue. But his? I’m not positive. Just an extension of his earlier difficulties? He’s been struggling with libido since the beginning of the year. But, I’m proud of him. He’s recently begun making some health changes (diet, sleep, alcohol) that will help him (and me) in more ways than one.
We also live in the Pacific Northwest, which means it is dark and dreary for half the year, and this can do a number on those of us who experience depressive episodes. It can seem like a rebirth when the sun comes out in Spring. The increase in energy and improvement in mood is perceptible in a large portion of the population. People become motivated and more active. I see it in myself right now…most of the time.
When I get to work, I’m ready to go, and I’m full of creative ideas for projects and discussions. I even have energy at the end of the work day to exercise. But, seriously, by 8:30, when I finally sit down and have a moment to breathe, every ounce of “give a shit” just seeps out of my pores into the couch.
The thing is, I know it is just a lack of time. And I’m not worried yet, because writing ideas still bubble to the surface every morning and as I’m lying in bed at night, just before I fall asleep. The motivation and desire to write are there; I just don’t have time to employ them. So I write down my ideas, hoping to get to them later.
I also know my libido is closely tied to my writing. It’s a chicken and egg thing…I’m not sure which comes first: does my libido follow my writing, or does my writing follow my libido? Either way, I’m also not too terribly concerned about this…mainly because I still have plenty of writing ideas in the morning and often feel a bit irritable that I must parent and earn a living instead of just sit down and do what I want to do. But, like a responsible adult, I bite back my juvenile protestations and “suck it up.” I get shit done. And then I get some more shit done. And eventually, I run out of steam.
Often, by the weekend, I’m really just interested in vegetating on the couch, reading and watching TV…and sleeping.
This week, though, we’ve been making some pretty significant changes in our evenings. Mr. D has been cooking more “primal” meals. And we’ve been avoiding alcohol. I’ve also exceeded my 10,000 step goal every day and met my sleep goal every night. I’ve been hydrating properly, as well. All of these things are positive, and eventually, I know I’ll see the impact on my energy levels. But that doesn’t mean more time will miraculously be added to my day.
No. I will just have to be patient and wait for my schedule to open up. And in the meantime, I’ll have to revise how I use my time.
I’ve always had my ups and downs in the blogging world. And mainly, they coincide with life events that vie for the top spot on my priority list. No matter how important writing is to me and my mental health (and, by relation, my libido – which directly affects my marriage – which is a top priority), certain things must be done. No matter how much I’d love to just give up working and write, I can’t afford it. My day job brings in much needed income. And…I’ll be honest, the hours and vacations are pretty sweet benefits.
I know that many bloggers are in this situation, too. So, I decided to consider some of the things that get in the way of my writing and some things I can do to increase the amount of time I have to write. I can’t add more hours to my day, but I DO have quite a bit of control over how I spend them.
Finding time to write is not rocket science, but it does take dedication and requires an honest analysis of what we’re doing with our time.
1.Sometimes putting off what can be done tomorrow is necessary: The house will not fall apart if I don’t clean it RIGHT NOW: True, the laundry might grow into an embarrassingly tall mountain, and I will likely be able to write whole poems in the dust on the coffee table, but…most of it can wait. And since I’m the only one in the house that really cares about it being “visitor-ready,” I’m the only one to blame for my insecurity over the messiness. Life is messy, and the majority of that messiness will wait patiently for me to finish writing. Also, lots of those errands I try to fit in on the way home can wait for the weekend.
2.Don’t let entertainment get in the way of writing: It’s hard to fault myself for reading, because writers are usually first readers, but I have been known to use it as a form of escapism and avoidance. Sometimes I just need to put writing first and put the book down, especially when time is an issue. The book will wait. And T.V.? Honestly, I don’t watch a whole lot of it, but I shouldn’t be putting it before writing. So there’s that. Sometimes I write while we watch something in the evening, which is acceptable, I suppose, even though it devolves my focus. And I do enjoy movies that get me thinking deeply. Quite a few of my best story ideas have come from books, television, and movies, but when the time is tight, it’s better to just write.
3.Don’t let the “I have nothing to write about, so fuck it” attitude win: This hits me more often than I’d like to admit. Apathy and ennui can suck the life out even the most spiritually necessary activities. I’ve found that, even when I don’t think I have anything to write about, if I just start writing, or if I keep a list of possible topics, I can churn something out. I’ve see all kinds of blogging calendars, but I just use a simple planner and also have a memo app on my phone where I collect ideas. It’s about taking away the excuses. And if all else fails, I can even go to my readers and fellow writers for ideas. For example, I had no idea what to write about a few weeks ago, until I begged Twitter to give me an idea. It came in the form of “Charlie’s Bar,” which turned out surprisingly good, if I do say so myself.
4.Avoid the internet vortex: It’s a waste of time. My world only needs more cute cat videos when I’m depressed and in need of the emotional benefits they provide. (This happens more often that I care to admit.) And I NEVER need to spend time perusing news sites and getting sucked into comment wars with trolls and morons. Also, most of us could stop spending (so much) time on social media: I am so guilty of this one, because it’s easy to hide behind the “networking is necessary” excuse. I understand that networking is important, but if it is done at the expense of writing, what’s the point? I’ve been told that I need to have a social media presence to gain readers, and I believe that is partially true. But, you know what I need to do to gain readers that is more important? Write.
5.Create a writing schedule and stick to it (as much as possible): Even if it means writing in 30 minute spans over the course of a few days, a post will eventually be ready to publish. If something is important enough for me to schedule, it’s important enough for me to commit that promised time to it and follow through. It’s also important to keep the schedule realistic, manageable, and flexible. Life happens, and can’t let it derail our writing plans just because we miss a post or need a few extra days.
6.Minimize distractions: Put the phone in the other room. Keep the lighting just right. Give your kid a book or some chores (hell…this could even help with #2). Put your headphones on. Whatever it takes, block out the world long enough to get some words down. I don’t always have time to write a post in one sitting. And I’ve gotten better about shutting my laptop when my planned writing time is up, so I have time for other priorities, too…like spending time with my family or getting to work or bed on time.
7.Create a writing ritual: This is a little different from #7. Creating a ritual is about programming your brain and body to react in a certain way. Keeping this ritual simple is best, so it can be implemented quickly. Maybe all that is necessary is a particular cup of tea and a candle. Or maybe it’s heading to the coffee shop for 45 minutes with a laptop and a latte. Getting our minds in the writing zone can help to make us more productive and block out things that get in the way of us getting our writing done. And if our rituals are “portable,” it’s even better, because it means we aren’t tied to a space. Flexibility is necessary for those of under the pressure of a schedule.
8.Have a writing goal: This is one where I’m still a little foggy, but I know that having a clear vision, with clear steps to get there can do wonders for motivation. Awhile back, I read an article by Mrs. Fever on her blog Temperature’s Rising. It was called “So You Want to Be a Sex Blogger” and it gave some great advice about finding purpose and focus. I’m still in the process of working this one out. I know I’d like to publish in some anthologies and eventually write full-time…maybe free-lance, edit, write some novels…and of course, keep up my blog. The short fiction, personal experience, and photography help me stretch my creative muscles in a low-stakes capacity, but it is definitely time to branch out and look at some publishing opportunities. And if the idea is to make an name for myself as a writer, that means more writing and more creative time-management.
9.Take your writing with you: When you get stuck somewhere, write. When you find a little time at lunch, write. When you’re stuck in a boring meeting, write. Always be ready to take advantage of down time. Of course, down time is also precious, and thinking, daydreaming, walking can be perfectly necessary parts of the writing process. I’ve heard of people using speech-to-text and “writing” while they drive or exercise. I’m not sure I could manage that, but hey, it’s certainly worth trying if time is an issue. As E. B. White once said, “A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.”
10.Say no and pare down your commitments: Our schedules can only accommodate so many activities. Sometimes, we have to delegate or simply say no to people in order to protect our priorities. If writing is priority, we have to treat it as such. It should have a space in our daily agenda. If that means cutting out other events or disappointing some people, so be it. I work from 8-3:30. I have exercise classes Tuesday-Thursday and walk while my son has soccer practice on Mondays and Wednesday. But that leaves time before practice on Monday, in the evenings, and in the early mornings before everyone wakes. If I really take a long, hard, honest look at my schedule, I can usually fit in up to 2 hours of writing most days. In the process, I may have to admit that I waste a lot of time doing things that don’t matter…but that can only be positive, right?
Basically, what it comes down to is this: my priorities are marriage (sex), family and friends, health, and writing. My job is necessary to all of this happening smoothly, so it gets to be a priority by virtue of its supporting role.That is honestly all I have time for.
It can be hard to find the ideas, exposure, and time. IDEAS need to be brainstormed and planned. EXPOSURE comes painfully for some of us, but it needs to be varied and can’t take too much time away from the actual craft of writing. NETWORKING should be something built into a schedule (say, 30 minutes a day or two days a week). It shouldn’t be about checking Twitter or FB every 20 seconds. TIME is simply waiting there to be used. It is how we use it that will determine if we are really writers. Because writers write…end of story.