Sunday, October 25, 2009

Finding Time to Write

One of the things that amazes me is hearing people say "I've always wanted to write a novel, but I just don't have time." The belief that you don't have time to write is absurd. I work at a very demanding job in software where 50- to 60-hour weeks are typical, and I just finished an 80-hour week (no, I don't get overtime pay...don't even ask). I practice martial arts a few times a week. I see a couple of massage clients a week. I'm a managing member of a holding company for a patent. I help my daughter with her homework and all the trials of being thirteen. I spend quality time with my husband. I help out friends and volunteer at my daughter's school. And when I'm not tweaking my web site, writing blog entries, tweeting about cool stuff that's happening in the world of volunteerism, or sleeping, I work on my books.

The one thing I don't do is watch television. There's your answer. Almost everyone can find time to watch a couple hours of TV every night. When's the last time you heard someone say "I've always wanted to watch television, but I just don't have the time"?

In all fairness, writing comes pretty naturally to me. I type ridiculously fast, and the words usually flow out only slightly faster than I can type. But I spend a lot of time editing (it took me about six weeks to write the first draft of Rising Shadow and another nine months to edit it), and that's just all about sitting down and doing it. So even though writing may feel like a lot of work, it's really a matter of facing the blank page, taking a deep breath, and just starting.

Here's the part where people usually say they don't have a quiet place to write. Neither do I. I write on the train on my way to and from work. I write at the dining room table in the middle of the house where all the action is going on around me, specifically so I can be around my family when I'm writing. By deliberately making writing a part of my life and a daily habit, I don't have to drum up the energy to write. It's just what I do.

The real question is not when will you find time to write, it's what will you write about? If you don't have an idea you feel passionate about, you won't write. If you have a cool idea but you're having trouble writing the first page, start in the middle. Just start writing. You can always throw it out later, and you don't have to show it to anyone. Just start. Right now.

Also, if you have a fun scene in your mind that you can't wait to write, you can either dive in and write that first, or you can save it and use it as a carrot. In my third book (which is now about 70% written), I knew I was driving the plot toward a major crisis point that was going to be a lot of fun to write. I was tempted to just write that scene, but I decided to save it as a reward instead, and it encouraged me to write an extra page or two a day so I could finally get to the fun part of writing that scene.

So please don't say you don't have time to write. When you tell yourself that, you basically say that life has prevented you from doing this thing you really want to do. Write a page a day, and in a year, you'll have a novel. And if you don't have a great idea, then just be honest with yourself that it's not that you don't have time, it's that you're still waiting for inspiration to strike. But when it does strike, seize it with both hands and run with it, because there really is nothing quite like writing your first novel.

Most of all, enjoy the hell out of the process. Holding your first finished novel in your hands is an amazing feeling, but it's the process that's so much fun. Every time you write, it's like journeying into another world. It's a mini-vacation at your computer, in the midst of all the craziness of your regular life. Maybe that's why the train and the dining room table are such great spots, because if I were sitting in a tranquil paradise, I would be much more interested in looking out the window than escaping into the world of The Soterians that I've created.

So go, create your own alternate reality, and write yourself into that adventure you've been wanting to have. It's a wonderful way to escape. And best of all, there are no commercials.

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