Wednesdays on Writing: Finding the Time, Part I.

March 30th, 2011

Last Friday, I spoke to a local group of business communicators about some of the myths and superstitions that tend to get between us and our creativity. They had lots of great questions, including this one, which came later that day via twitter: What advice do you have for folks that want to write more, but can’t find the time?

That’s a complicated one, I answered, proposing I tackle it here as a Wednesdays on Writing topic, rather than try to give a pat answer in 140 characters or less.

It’s complicated because we all know it isn’t just about time. If I were to audit a typical day in the life of J. Brown, or anyone else, I bet we could free up at least an hour for writing. Anne Lamott would have you give up Twitter. I say, ditch the housekeeping first. Or at least that’s my excuse for the state of my home. The point is, unless you are the President, something can go. And even he finds time to write, so forget that. No excuses. An hour is enough time to string together anywhere from 250 words (if you are a painfully slow writer, like me) to 1,000 (if you are on fire and not editing as you go). Even at the lowest end of the scale, that’s a chapter a month, or a blog post a day, or a couple of short stories in a year. That’s something.

But it’s not about time. It’s about space. Not physical space. Head space.

Though a blocked writer will get hung up on them into infinity, writing requires very little in the way of external details. The belief otherwise is one of the superstitions I was talking about on Friday. You need a place to sit. You need something to write with. The rest is an inside job. What keeps a writer from writing (or a painter from painting, or anyone else from creating) almost always comes down to:

  1. energy, and/or
  2. motivation, and/or
  3. fear

The conjunction is more often “AND” than “OR,” but I’d like to write about each one separately. So consider this the introduction to a trilogy. I told you it was complicated.

In the meantime, what seems to come between you and your creative time?

No Responses to “Wednesdays on Writing: Finding the Time, Part I.”

  1. Paul Strack says:

    I hate that I missed your presentation last week at IABC. Spring break and kids and all that. But I do agree with your description of the Blockage Trilogy. I don’t consider myself a writer, but at times, I do have things to contribute that are, in my opinion, worthwhile. But often times, that’s as far as I get. I develop a concept in my head, I have the ideas formulated, and then, I get home, lose energy, lose motivation, or gain the fear that what I write will have no value or purpose.
    In anticipation of your blog today, I made myself write a blog. My first in several weeks. And I felt pretty good about it. It took only about 30 minutes…and the key for me was that I did it at the office and set a time to do it. Plan your work…work your plan. When it comes to writing, I think that’s the key. Like anything else, in order to be successful, you have to have some structure. Even with creativity.
    So thanks for tackling this question from J. Brown. I look forward to the Trilogy.

  2. Gina says:

    I saw a great quote this week that relates to this “There is a difference between interest and commitment. When you are interested in doing something, you do it when only circumstances permit. When you are committed to something you accept no excuses, only results.” Anon.

  3. S says:

    I always feel like everything’s already been written. Move along, nothing new here.

  4. Charlotte says:

    Yeah, I agree. I call it mental energy. Sure, we waste a lot of time watching mindless TV but that’s because we need the mindless part. And that time could easily be filled with writing, except we don’t have the mental energy for it. The time, yes, but not the mental energy. Acknowledging this actually kinda clears space and energy, amazingly enough.

  5. Kelli says:

    I’m with Charlotte. I find myself all out of mental steam. I write at work all day. It’s very difficult to come home and write more. If I have a piece that I really want to work on, I have time early in the morning. But I tend to want to juggle it all and don’t understand when my brain is mush by the end of the day.
    And then there is the Fear.

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