Time Management (Or Writing with Children)

Since I’ve taken tiny steps up the ladder toward publication (and ultimately, world domination! Mwahahahah! Okay, not really.), people who know about the books deals I’m working on have asked one question often. “How do you find time to write?”

It’s a valid question. I am married, and we have a house. So that means I spend a decent amount of time spraying and wiping things, running the vacuum, doing laundry, cooking and grocery shopping. We also have two small monkeys that live with us. I’m told they are actually children, and those who seem to know assure me that they are mine. They’re cute, so I have decided to accept this situation in the hopes that it will improve in do-ability as their chronological ages increase. In the meantime, this means that a lot of my time is spent doing all of the above-listed things much more often than I feel I should have to. Add in wiping other peoples’ butts, picking up other peoples’ socks, wracking my brain for new methods of reverse psychology that can be employed in getting the younger monkey to: put on shoes; put on a jacket; walk to the car without having a nervous breakdown; eat something… you get the idea. A lot of the time left after I’ve done all of that is spent driving the monkeys around to activities and school.

I also work 50% for a management consulting firm. This is mostly an arrangement that I’ve devised in order to justify my shoe habit. If I didn’t have to get dressed up to go to an office, my lovely pumps and platforms and wedges would never get out. And they might conspire to murder me in my sleep. The closet is right next to my bed. And I can’t risk that. Oh, and they pay me, so that is good. I do some freelance editing and corporate comms writing as well, so that fills in gaps that would otherwise be unfilled and might be construed as “free time.”

I also try to get to the gym five days a week and take a ballet class on Fridays.

I get up at five most mornings and usually succeed at packing anywhere between 1500 and 2500 words into the hour before the monkeys arise. Sometimes I find an hour at night, but I’m not good at writing at night. Especially if we’re involved in a riveting season of something on TV. (Game of Thrones, anyone? Downton? Vampire Diaries?)

The point of this rundown is not to get you to say, “wow, look at that stuff you do.” We all have lives packed full of stuff to do. The point of me showing all this stuff is to answer that question that I get asked often as more people learn that I am striving to be a writer – when do I find time? And I guess the answer – not terribly original – is that I don’t. I make it. I get up early, I neglect my children sometimes, I neglect my husband a lot of the time. But this is the one thing I want more than anything else. And when I look back at all the free time I squandered in the days when I had it… All I can think about now is how much I could have accomplished! But that wasn’t my time. THIS is my time, and so I will make the time I need to follow my heart and my dreams.

And the big point on droning on and on about it is this: If I can make time to pursue my dreams, then SO. CAN. YOU.

What goal have you set for yourself? How are you going about reaching it? How badly do you want it?

This week I’m going to feature an interview with another writer who has been navigating the tricky waters of time-finding, juggling family responsibilities and a writing life. I hope you’ll be excited to read about uber-successful indie author Lauren Blakely, whose book Caught Up in Us is a NYT and USA Today best-seller. She’s a mother and wife as well, about to release a second book, Pretending He’s Mine. Stay tuned!

 

You Don’t Have Time to Write

I belong to a couple of book clubs. One of these is mostly an excuse to get together with some friends and drink wine, but in the other, we actually do some pretty serious book discussion. Recently, one of the members of my social book club announced that she would have to quit because she just didn’t have time to read a book. She sent an email that made it sound like she had so many more important things to do that she couldn’t possibly spend time on such a frivolous pursuit. I couldn’t help but feel like it waggled a little finger at those of us who evidently DO have time for silly little things like reading. Guess I’m not doing enough important other stuff.

Clearly, to this woman, reading is not a priority. Personally, I couldn’t imagine a life without books being part of my every day, but I’m kind of immersed in that world. Let’s assume for a minute that she really WOULD like to read, but honestly feels that she doesn’t have time. The bigger question here is: if there is something you would really like to do, why the hell aren’t you doing it?

I have talked to lots of people in my fortyish years about all the dreams they have, and the things they’ll do someday. And I’ve seen a few of those people lose the opportunity to pursue their dreams when the inevitable happens far too soon. Yeah, I mean death. It could come in the form of a bus or a tumor or a toy dump truck left carelessly on the top step. This is not new news. The point is that if you have a dream, shouldn’t you be working on fulfilling it?

I get to say this in the pedantic tone that I know is coming through here only because for a very long time, I was the woman who didn’t have time. Since I was old enough to think about it, I’ve wanted to write books. But I have been far too busy to pursue that dream. I was going to college. I was living a crazy single life, having fun. I was working my first REAL job. I was in my first REAL relationship. I was getting married (not to the guy with whom I was in the first REAL relationship, if you must know), I was having kids… And finally, at the point when I am probably busier in my life than I’ll ever be, and certainly am busier than I’ve ever really been before, I am pursuing my dream.

There is never enough time. Especially when large blocks of that time are promised to other people, leaving only a half hour here or an hour there that is actually yours. The key, then, is looking at what you do with your time and deciding if it is worthwhile. I’d like to ask my book club acquaintance how much television she watches each day. I’d be willing to bet a nice bottle of Shiraz that she’s getting in at least an hour or two each evening. And there’s nothing wrong with that! I nurse a couple TV addictions, too (hello Vampire Diaries, Parenthood, Grey’s Anatomy — I’m looking at you!) But it takes commitment to ask yourself how your one hour might be best spent.

Writing is hard. I do it at 4:30 in the morning most of the time. And at that hour, I’d definitely rather be sleeping. At least, that is true from 4:30 to about 4:40. Then, sitting in a dimly lit room in my bathrobe with a steaming cup of coffee in a very quiet house, alone with my computer, I start to feel a peace like nothing I’ve ever known. I believe it is the peace and happiness that comes only from doing the thing that you most want to do in life.

And if nothing ever comes of my efforts, I will have had that sense of fulfillment. And if a bus with my name on it comes thundering down the road tomorrow, I will know that I died having done the thing I most wanted to do.

So I’m issuing a challenge. Give yourself the gift of commitment. FIND the time. It’s there, you’re just doing something else with it. Make a choice to do the thing. Even if the thing is something as simple as reading a book. Don’t make excuses. DO THE THING.

PS: My book clubs are reading the following books this month:

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum
The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
The House I Loved by Tatiana de Rosnay