This is a perennial problem for most writers, and one I wish I had a better answer to.
Most of the time, the answer is: I don’t.
Not what you were expecting? Sorry.
When I took up writing again about five years ago after a long raising-my-family-and-returning-to-work gap, it wasn’t too hard for me to snatch the odd hour here and there. And at that time, writing was all I was doing in that odd hour. Well, that and a little internet research on technique, agents, publishers – but in the main, my aim was simply to watch my manuscript grow.
Oh, how I wish that was still the case.
I’ve mentioned in previous blogs about my naivety when I got my first contract. I knew I would have to create a website, start blogging, get going on social media, but I really had no idea how much promo and marketing I would have to do.
It’s not that I mind doing all that – I quite enjoy some aspects of it. But with a day job and teenagers and a house to run and elderly parents to run around after, the creativity – the actual writing of anything – is, sadly, the one thing that has been squeezed out.
A few months ago, I realised something had to give, so I reduced my hours at work a little, promising myself I would use those couple of hours a day purely for writing.
I’m sure you can guess that isn’t what happened. Now, I’m a little more leisurely over my morning cup of tea, then the cat comes and plonks herself on my lap and demands a massage, delaying breakfast. When I finally switch on the computer, I think, “I’d better check my e-mails/Facebook/Twitter first, in case there’s anything important.” By the time I’ve caught up, there isn’t enough time to get going on a stretch of proper writing before I go to work, so I have a cup of coffee while I think about it and then … Oops, time to go.
And of course when I come home from work, I’m tired and need a cup of tea, then there’s dinner to cook. I might have a glass of wine with that, and then I’m even more tired. And if I do finally get going on some writing in the late evening, my mind is still spinning when I go to bed, so I can’t sleep, so the next day I’m tired …
You get the picture.
The problem is, I’m not one of those writers who can make good, creative use of the odd snatched ten minutes here or half an hour there. If I’m going to write, I need a reasonable stretch at it, something that just doesn’t seem to be available during the week. All I can hope for is a good run at it one morning at the weekend, with a really decent coffee zinging through my bloodstream!
By now, I’m sure you’re asking yourself – Since I’m clearly such a failure at managing my time, can I offer some practical tips on finding the time to write?
Indeed I can. Three, actually.
1) Don’t clean. Honestly, my standards have gone dramatically downhill since I started taking this writing lark seriously. I just don’t have the time to keep up to it. Yes, it is depressing if I dare to look around me … but frankly, the hubby and kids don’t seem to notice or care, so who was I doing it for, anyway?
2) Turn off the TV. You probably won’t miss it. I rarely watch much these days. This wasn’t a deliberate decision on my part, more a gradual thing. I would be watching something and itching to get on with more pressing matters. Or I would start a new series, and unless it really gripped me in the first episode, I would be thinking, “Can I really devote another however-many hours to this, when I have so much to do?” Now, I have the attention span of a gnat. I will sit through the occasional movie or something we can watch as a family, but that’s about it.
3) Think carefully about your social media time. This is something I’m still getting to grips with, but lately I have become more selective in what I do. I blog and appear as a guest on others’ blogs, I promo and tweet and go on Facebook. It’s not all about marketing my books – I’ve made some good friends online and enjoy interacting with them, so I view that as a social element to my day, much the same as having a coffee with a local friend. But social media can be a very good tool for procrastination, and that ten minutes you allow yourself can soon turn into an hour or two if you read every post and click on every link. I’m still a bit rubbish at limiting myself, but I am at least making the effort to be more conscious about what I do.
And now, enough blogging. I need to do some writing. Oh, is that the time? Better feed the cat, then I ought to phone my parents, then I need to cook dinner …
If you’re a writer, how do you make time for it? I’d love to know!