Thursday, April 28, 2011

Making Time to Write

The most important thing to remember is that it's not about making time to write, it's about making time for yourself.

As a stay-at-home mother, I was dedicated to proving my worth. Any moment I spent on myself felt like a betrayal to the sacrifices my family had made because I didn't work outside the home. After seven years, I was burned out and unhappy. I also worried about the message I was sending  my daughter. 

I had never written anything longer than an e-mail when I decided to write a book. For the first year, I dabbled in writing, afraid of spending too much time on a 'hobby'. Gradually I realized that if I wanted to grow and learn, I needed to put in the effort. When my youngest child started preschool, I claimed that time for my writing.

I average six to eight hours a week on writing, and manage about 3000 words in that time. Because I respect my writing time, my friends and family respect my writing time. I don't schedule lunches, volunteer, or run errands during that time. Even though I'd dearly love to grocery shop without a five-year-old in tow, I'd rather be a published author more. Next fall my youngest son goes to kindergarten, and I'm hoping to double my output. 

I'm not taking time 'from' my family, I'm taking time 'for' myself. I don't resent my husband's secondary career in teaching, my daughter's dedication to her book club, or my son's acting lessons. And my family doesn't resent the time I spend on writing. We're a family, but we're also individuals with individual hopes and dreams. We support and encourage each other to grow.

There are times when I wish I had chosen a less difficult career, but the truth is--the career chose me. The road to publication has been slow and difficult, but there are nuggets of encouragement on the way: A contest win here, help from a generous published author there, and the wonderful relationships I've built along the way.

Here are my two best tips for finding time to write:

1. You never 'find' time to write, you 'make' time to write. Most people have all the time in the world to watch Survivor, play solitaire on the computer, and putz around the house. Don't expect anyone else to carve out the time for you--making time is your responsibility. If that means waking up at 4am, then set your alarm and prep the coffee maker. As a very smart woman (Cheryl St.John) once said, it's not what you're willing to do to achieve your dreams, it's what sacrifices you're willing to make.

2. Get a good group of like-minded friends and support each other. 

By following these steps, I look at the lessons I'm teaching my daughter now, and I know I made the right decision:

Old message: When you become a mother, your needs don't matter anymore.
New message: The time you spend on yourself is important and necessary.
Old message: Your dreams are not as pressing as having a clean toilet.
New message: Dreams are as vital to your existence as breathing.
Old message: If there's a chance you might fail, don't try.
New message: Failure is a good. It's a sign that you're pushing outside your comfort zone. 
Old message: If the task is difficult, quit.
New message: If the task is important to you: Never give up, never surrender.
Old message: Friendships are a drain on your time and energy.
New message: Friends remind you that you're braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.  Christopher Robin


  1. You know, I don't really have to make time to write. With me, it's more like I have to make time to live. Writing is my default behavior. I need to get up and move and talk to human beings more.
    I swear I'm going to start that tomorrow.

  2. beautifully written, and right on point. I'm terrifically guilty of allowing others (both directly and indirectly) influence my writing time. This summer--no, I'm not waiting that long--next month is a good time to turn that around!

    One of the loops I'm following just asked a question about how the authors get in the mood to write. I've toyed with answering that you need to write whether you're 'in the mood' or not but decided that really wasn't what the readers wanted to hear. :)

    Which is not to say some good mood making music or environment or whatever isn't a good thing when you're already in writing mode!

    You and your family are lucky to have each other and the understanding you've built.

  3. Mary, you're a wonderfully prolific writer! I know I get grumpy if I get pulled away from my writing too often.

    *lizzie, I'm with you--if you have to wait until you're in the 'mood', then it's a hobby. If you write because you have deadlines (real or man-made), then you're a professional.

  4. This is a question I've been asking myself for the last couple of weeks, because I'm taking a temp job for the next three months. (No gigantic royalty check in my mailbox yet, sigh.) My family may not be pleased to learn that they'll be responsible for more housework and cooking, but as my own mom is fond of saying, "It builds character." And gives me time to write.

    (I am so mean...muhahahahahaha!!!)