Lesson 5: You will never “find” time. You have to make time.
Okay, so now we’ve reached what is, for me, the greatest challenge to my writing: Time. I’ve already mentioned that all of those demands on my time will easily keep me from meeting a deadline I set for myself. In the same way, they’ll keep me from sitting down to write, if I let them. I’m willing to bet you’ve got plenty of distractions working against you, too.
The thing is, this problem is nothing new. Every writer in every age has faced the same dilemma. No matter who we are or what we do, there will always be demands on our time that pull us away from the proverbial writing desk. Not only are we living organisms with basic needs, we are also complex organisms with desires and goals that often have nothing to do with need. (Some might argue that writing, itself, is not a need, but try telling that to the characters in my head, all clamoring to have their stories told.)
The advice I’ll give you is the same you’ll see most everywhere, because it’s the best. Give yourself a set time and place to write and stick to it.
If you know that you have a time and place you can go to concentrate on your writing, you are far more likely to get the work done and feel less distracted outside of your “writing window.” Sure, ideas will sneak up on you at the oddest times, but you will be able to jot them down in your notebook or whatever you use to record your ideas and then move on, knowing that those little treasures can be put to use at the proper time and place.
Some of us may have to negotiate for our time. That’s okay. In fact, if you’re in a significant relationship (i.e., married, living with a partner, etc.), I encourage it. Most likely, your significant other knows and understands how important writing is for you. They will probably want to support your ambitions. That’s much easier to do if they know you have a plan. Sitting down and working out a time when you can work uninterrupted works best, because the other part of the deal is that they get your attention the rest of the time.
As such, it’s important for you to keep your part of the bargain. Just like meeting that deadline for submitting a story, you need to learn to work within the time you’ve allotted yourself. It may take a little time to figure out how much time you need. Can you manage on 2 hours a day? 4 hours, three days a week? That’s going to depend on how efficient you are in your research and writing skills.
But once you settle into the right window of time, you need to stick to it. Otherwise, the people in your life, who do have legitimate demands on your time, will feel the need to cut in on your writing time, since you’re effectively cutting in on the time you’d promised to them. In the end, no one will be happy and your writing will suffer. Setting aside the time for yourself and sticking to it helps ensure that your loved ones will have the time they deserve and that you’ll get the time you need.
I’ve learned so many things about the craft and profession of writing in the last few years, but the five lessons above are the biggest ones. (There are plenty of other lessons to be learned, I’m sure. Maybe Angel will let me come back and tell you about them later.)
Once you’ve decided that you want to write professionally, you’ll find that there is a wealth of information and support out there. Use the internet communities, like the Wily Writers forums, to find folks who can share editing and grammar advice, tips on how to find the right publishers where you can send your “word-children” (your stories) and ways to market yourself and build name recognition. Take advantage of those resources, but always be polite about it.
Make sure you finish your projects, even if that means starting off small. Set aside a consistent time and place for your writing, then stick to it. Lastly, take the time to work with different styles of writing, using the experiences to hone your skills and learn lessons that you can apply to your magnum opus, when the time is right.
Paris Crenshaw resides with his family in San Diego, California, but spends much of his time on the Pacific Ocean, serving as a Surface Warfare Officer in the U.S. Navy. While pursuing a career as a Naval Officer, he has maintained a love of writing and creating, focusing most of his energy on the sci-fi and fantasy adventure genres. His most recent publications include stories in the first and second issues of Wayfinder magazine, a fanzine for Paizo Publication’s award-winning Pathfinder roleplaying game setting.