Finding the Time

Summertime is my time of year. The air is warm, the sun is out later, and the landscape has exploded with foliage. When the Spring rains have finished greening up the scenery, I’m ready to crawl out of my den.

This is the season when I find it the most difficult to make the time to sit down and write. Winter is my writing time; when I’m all cozy in my warm lair surrounded by the creativity scattered all over my office. Summer is the time to get out, spend time with nature, build life experiences.

But being a professional writer is not about finding the time, it’s about making the time.

I will admit that I’m not the best at making the time every day to write. I frequently sit down at my desk, fire up the computer, and every line that has been running through my head all day promptly deletes itself from my brain. I’m not sure I’d call it Writer’s Block, because my story has been progressing itself in my head all freaking day; but I am not at all able to recall much of the brilliant (snicker) prose that I had been silently composing since, oh, lunch.

So, what’s a writer to do?

Well, for one, you can set aside a particular time every day to write. It doesn’t have to be much time—just time. Start with fifteen minutes after supper. Don’t know what to write? Start with just writing whatever crosses your mind. Here’s an example from my first freewriting exercise, unedited.

I haven’t decided if this daily writing thing will be or shold be a freewriting exercise (like today) or a planned session. I would like to say that I will sit down at 8:30 PM every night and write for 30 minutes or 500 words, but I’m not sure I can stay that dedictaed. I can’t tell you how often I’ve strated something – and stayed with it for a while – only to peter out after a few days or weeks. Truth to tell, it drives me crazy.

(C) 2017 JJ Shaun

Admittedly, it isn’t pretty, but it got me started. After a few days of writing what was on my mind, my subconscious began to organize that stream of consciousness into raw tales and eventually into assorted character backstories and other loose storylines. The funny thing about setting up a regular writing routine was that the more I stuck to the practice, the easier it became not only to hold the storyline but to move it forward.

Now, anyone who writes regularly can tell you the same thing, and this is probably “duh” information (and I should know it already, but my bulb is a little dim sometimes), but I had never really applied the principle to my “personal” writing. Mostly, I wrote when the inspiration hit, or when I had a brand-y new character whose story intrigued me. Writing every day helps keep your tale fresh and flowing.

I even attempted NaNoWriMo one year and wrote through a little more than half the month. The problem for me is that I travel to in November, so the second half of the month is taken up spending time with those family members I only get to see once a year.

It’s all about priorities. The trick is to keep a schedule that works for you. For some writers, it’s frantic scribbling whenever they can find a moment; for others, it’s a solid block of uninterrupted time. Most of us fall somewhere in between. Me, I tend toward the latter. Have I ever mentioned that I get distracted easily? That’s why I need uninterrupted blocks of time when I sit down to write.

If I don’t set aside time every day—and stick to it—chances are I won’t write as I should. I keep having to force myself back to the keyboard. Then, inevitably, something happens that gives me enough of an excuse to fall away from the routine, and the cycle repeats itself. The important part is, I keep coming back to the keyboard.

Habits take time to form, and a writing habit is no different than any other. The more you stick to a schedule, the more ingrained it becomes, and when you miss a regular activity you notice—at least I do. For me, this weekly blog has become a habit. When I miss a week, I feel it. Now, I just need to make the time for the next step in my writing habit—adding a story of some kind every week.

But life likes to throw challenges at us, and my latest is that Youngest Kid and his family have relocated to be closer to the rest of us, so my entire yearly travel schedule might be turned on its head. Time will tell.

For now, I reserve Sundays and irregular weeknights for my writing habit, and I pledge to make those times count—even if I have to start with stream-of-consciousness freewriting.

How about you? What keeps you writing?

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