Not Enough Hours and a late update

Time by Alan Cleaver, c/o Flikr

You’ll notice, of course, that I missed my Wednesday post. Well, maybe missed is a bit harsh–I’m writing it a bit late, that’s all. I wanted to talk about characters this week in my Writing Wednesday, but my lateness has inspired me to write about something else: the issue of finding the time to write.

My update for ROW80 today is, sadly, not very exciting. I haven’t gotten much accomplished this week beyond daydreaming about my plot and characters, and one could hardly call that progress. I didn’t even come to any epiphanies that will affect the story; really the only decision I made was that one of my main characters loves licorice root. No word count.

Since I signed up for ROW80, I’ve tried to keep myself accountable, and get frustrated with myself when I don’t have much to report. But then I sat back and thought about why I didn’t have much to report. I haven’t been exactly idle; I’ve been very busy with work the past month, and worked several evenings in the past two weeks. More evenings are on the horizon. Who has the time to write?

And there’s the rub: there aren’t enough hours in the day. I still have to sleep, eat, and walk the dogs, not to mention spending quality time with my wife and family. People have this image of a writer as someone who holes themselves up at a desk and pours over the keys for hours on end. Anyone reading this blog knows that’s not how it works. Sometimes, you’re lucky to get 250 words down.

Which all got me to thinking about two main points I want to address today:

Excuses

They’re so easy. I couldn’t write today because I slept in. I’m just not inspired today. It’s Thanksgiving or (for our Canadian readers) Grey Cup. See my excuse above: I’m working at my real job.

Except those excuses and others like it don’t accomplish anything. They just point a finger at the problem, and attempt to absolve you of your own guilt. I do this all the time, so I’m not exempt: making excuses makes me feel better when I fall behind. The problem is that excuses are intangible. They’re just words, and they won’t help you get back in the saddle, or any further ahead. They’re completely arbitrary, and often don’t have anything to do with why you actually didn’t write.

Of course, that’s not to say excuses aren’t occasionally valid. A family emergency certainly applies. Work is a good one too: if you’re not making a living off your writing, you have to pay the bills somehow. That, and family, need to come first. The trick is to know the difference between these valid excuses and ones that just give you a pass–the ones that don’t do anything for your half finished book. Which leads into point two…

Finding the Time

This is probably the most common excuse; for me, anyway. I just didn’t have time to write this week. This is what I’ve been telling myself since mid-November. It’s a potent excuse, and very easy to justify. The problem is, it’s complete bunk.

I used to work a job that was mostly evenings and weekends. I’ve also wanted to take Tai Chi classes for a long time. Once, I lamented to my wife that I’d really love to take a class–you just don’t learn the same from a book or DVD–but that I didn’t have any time to commit to it. She told me flat out that finding the time wasn’t the issue at all. I wasn’t making the time. Wise woman.

Finding the time is a ridiculous notion in the first place. There’s time everywhere. It’s not like you get more or less allotted you in a day: it’s always 24 hours. What matters is how you manage that time. It’s all about priorities. You have a given amount of time each day for recreation or personal use; it may be more or less depending on what’s going on, but you’ll have it. You just need to use it wisely. Instead of lamenting that I didn’t have the time to take Tai Chi because I worked evenings, I could have been looking for daytime classes, finding a private tutor, or finding a class close enough to work that I could pop in on my dinner hour.

It’s the same with writing. You don’t need to find the time to write, you need to make the time to write. If you have a busy week, that’s fine, but make sure you set aside some of your off time to pound out a few words. Every bit helps, and if you’re consistent with this demand on your own time, you’ll get where you need to go. Just don’t let excuses get in your way.

Now, let’s see if I can follow my own advice… 🙂

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3 comments on “Not Enough Hours and a late update

  1. shanjeniah says:

    I tend to take a playful approach. When I remember that I am coming to my computer to do something that fulfills and delights me, I am eager to make those moments in my day.

    When I seen writing as a chore, I know it’s time to take a little breather. My writing is always better by far when I am writing because I want to!

    And, for those 250 word days – they are still 250 words more than I would have had if o hadn’t written…

  2. James J Parsons says:

    That’s a really good point, and a good attitude. I also find that when you force yourself to do something because of a deadline, but you don’t really feel like it, the work is often sub-par. Thanks for commenting!

  3. […] while back, I posted about how we give ourselves permission to procrastinate, and that the excuse of “I […]

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