Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Finding time to write / eliminating distractions

In the TCSFWN followup thread, Jaye Lawrence asked for other tips for putting writing time into your day, and eliminating distractions. I had some thoughts on that.

1. If you have something frivolous you do instead of writing -- whether it's reading blogs, playing games, or watching TV -- tell yourself that you're required to write for a certain amount of time before you are allowed to indulge in your personal time-suck. When I impose this sort of self-discipline on myself, it works extremely well; if I'm writing every day, it doesn't usually take that long to click into a groove where I don't feel as tempted to go waste two hours reading blogs. Or whatever.

2. I really do not try to write while the kids are home and awake. I write after bedtime or while they're at school (preschool, in the case of my younger daughter). There are people who manage it, at least with older children, but it's hard. You have to be very tolerant of interruptions. Some people get up at the crack of dawn to find kid-free time to write; I am much better at staying up late, so I do that instead.

2a. Experiment with your own flexibility. You can probably write under more adverse situations than you think. Most writers prefer a nice, long, un-interrupted stretch, but if you only have 15-minute chunks, you can probably train yourself to write in 15-minute chunks if that's what you have.

3. You can never really eliminate distractions. There are ALWAYS distractions. Even if you took yourself off to an island where you had a cottage with a typewriter, meals delivered three times daily, no one to talk to, and nothing else to do, you'd find yourself thinking "oooh, I could go skip rocks for three hours. The fresh air would do me good! It sounds much more appealing than writing right now." All you can do is to work on your own self-discipline.

3a. That said, some people really, honestly, do not have time to write. I wrote almost no fiction in college. I do not look back at those four-hour Magic: The Gathering marathons I played with my housemates and say "curse it! I could've written a ten-volume epic in that time I wasted!" I also wrote very little when my older daughter was a baby. (I wrote furiously when my younger daughter was a baby, but that was because I was on deadline. I can write under much more seriously adverse circumstances with proper motivation.) If you're in college, or parenting little kids, or a caregiver for an ill relative, or struggling with depression....cut yourself some slack. Everyone has seasons in their life; sometimes, something has to give, and it's far better that it be writing than your sanity, health, relationships, etc.

4. Recognize that you only get 24 hours in a day, and consider how you're spending them. I watch almost no TV, and this is true for several of the Wyrdsmiths. (Kelly doesn't own a TV at all.) I don't own a gaming system because I don't want to be tempted by the timesuck. I'm not saying you need to quit all your hobbies and live like a monk -- just be aware of how you use your time.

5. The support of the other people in your life is really critical for a lot of this, especially if you're raising children. I am fortunate in that my husband has always, ALWAYS considered my writing important and worthwhile, and he will make an effort NOT to distract me if I'm writing. If you've got a significant other who considers your writing a frivolous waste of time, I have no idea how to advise you.


Anonymous said...

Oy #2. I have a hard time writing when my husband is at home. I'm not sure why. He doesn't make a lot of noise and isn't really a distraction. But I can't clean house when he's at home either, so maybe one follows the other?

Anonymous said...

Many thanks for the thoughtful reply. There are definitely time-wasters I can try to eliminate, or at least put off till I've done my writing time. This sort of blog-following, for example. ;)

Probably my best continuous stints of writing have been done at a coffee shop, with the wireless card removed from my laptop.

I wish I were the sort of woman who could hold down the demanding-but-lucrative day job, be a fabulous parent, keep the house in order, and still be creative & productive as a writer. But apparently Superwoman doesn't hang her cape at my house. So it's a struggle.