If you’ve been writing for a certain amount of time and told people about it, chances are you’ve heard something along the lines of, “How do you find time for that?” Or, “I’d write if I could find the time.”
Finding the time to write can indeed be a trick. But it’s probably not as hard as most people make it out to be. Bottom line: If writing is important to you, you find time to do it. You MAKE time for it. I’ve heard countless stories of people waking up earlier to write, or squeezing in a couple hundred words while they wait in the pick up line at school, or type on their phones while they breastfeed, or work during their lunch breaks. And most people seem to have plenty of time for social media and Netflix.
Really, when it comes down to it, I think it’s less about being able to find the time (because we can all find 15-30 minutes in our day if we give up one episode or one Facebook session) and more about having the EMOTIONAL ENERGY to write.
And let’s face it, writing requires a ton of emotional energy. The energy to imagine and create, to feel empathy for fictional characters, to step inside the shoes of someone else and walk in their story. Writing is an exercise in radical empathy. Add on top of that the emotional energy required to fend off imposter syndrome, self-doubts, and then the pain of rejection and writing can suck you dry. And if you’re trying to do it on top of being an emotionally available parent, a wholehearted employee, a loving spouse, forget about it!
In that light, I want to talk about what finding the time to write is really about…protecting your heart for writing. If you are not in a place where you can experience radical empathy, an expansive imagination, and dust yourself off after copious amounts of rejection week after week, then you are never going to feel like you’re able to write.
That’s not to say that in order to write you must live a stress-free life. Far from it. Just that you have to find a way to protect a piece of your heart for this journey. A way to refresh your soul just the tiniest bit before you sit down at your keyboard. And some nights you can’t do it and you write through the slog and stress. But isn’t it so much better when you’re writing with an open heart? So let’s talk about way to do that.
- Rest! You need rest to create. Our society isn’t very good at resting, but it is a vital part of the creative process. We let our manuscripts rest between drafting and revisions. We need to make sure we are getting enough rest to write. If you consistently feel too tired to write, is there any way you can sneak in an extra hour of sleep somewhere during the day? Can you turn off the late night Netflix and go to bed earlier? Close the book instead of bingeing all night? Can you get a power nap in during your lunch break? Or maybe if you find an hour to write but are exhausted, take a 20-30 minute snooze for the first half and then write the second half. Maybe that seems counter-productive, but if resting makes you write more consistently then it’s worth it!
- Back away from social media. No, you don’t need to give it up completely. But have you ever felt when you are on it too much that you are so connected to everyone else’s thoughts that you haven’t been connected to your own thoughts? You can articulate everyone else’s position and nod along and everything else. But have you sat in the quiet and really pondered your own thoughts? Some creativity thrives with collaboration. And some needs to bloom in the garden of our own minds. Your originality will flourish with a little less time spent in other people’s minds and a little more time spent in your own.
- Find some time to sit outside and just be still. It’s amazing what just a little bit of fresh air and listening to the birds and watching the sunset will do for your psyche. Can you write outside? Perhaps you can begin every session with a few deep breaths at your window. Really try to ground yourself in these moments. I like to imagine my feet as roots sinking into the ground. Literally, grounding myself. Centering my soul in the moment.
- Find the good. It’s been a tough year or two politically. And it can be so easy to get so caught up in the political merry-go-round and go from one outrage to the next and the next. And that’s EXHAUSTING! Now some people write books that maybe thrive with a little bit of anger spurring them on. I do not. While I don’t think you need to pull out of politics entirely (and indeed it is privileged to be able to do so) I do think it’s important to find a balance so it doesn’t consume you. I think it’s important to try and balance out the stories of fear and hate and injustice with good things. There ARE good things. Creativity is an embodiment of hope. You don’t write books for doomed world. You write them with HOPE. You have to feel that and have that in your heart before you can get it on the page. Where can you find hope in your life? Where can you see the good things that are also happening, even when the world feels like it’s falling apart?
- Ask for help. Sadly, this is mostly for female writers. Ladies, you do NOT have to do it all. Your partner should be in the business of supporting your dreams, too. They love you, right? Those kids are their kids too, right? Figure out what you need help with in order to make writing possible and then gently ask for help. Tell them how important this writing thing is to you. Let them know that you’d like to do it for just an hour a day (or whatever time you find) and then let them know you need their help. Maybe you need them to take over the dinner dishes. Maybe you need them to take the kids on Saturday mornings. Maybe you just need them to understand that you’re not ignoring them if your nightly hang out sessions after the kids go to bed decrease from two hours to one. Of course, this conversation should be a two way street. Maybe it’s a good time for you to ask about your partner’s dreams and how you can help support them, too.
- Stay away from the things that make it harder. These will change with the seasons. There was a time when I knew I couldn’t get on Twitter on Tuesdays and Thursdays because seeing the deal announcements hurt my heart so much. If that’s you, that’s okay. Maybe reading one more “How I Got My Agent Post” will break you. Then don’t read it. Have romance books lost their luster for you because all you can do is compare your book and it keeps coming up short? Switch genres for a few months for Heaven’s sake! Listen to those feelings and don’t be ashamed of them. Protect your heart.
Writing and publishing are hard. And so much of the work is subconscious, emotional, and unseen. Give yourself the space and grace to be able to pursue it in a healthy way.
Amanda Rawson Hill grew up in southwest Wyoming with a library right out her back gate, which accounts a lot for how she turned out. She now resides in central California where she is a gardener, chemist, homeschool mom, Yosemite explorer, and Disneyland enthusiast. She writes middle-grade fiction and is represented by Elizabeth Harding at Curtis Brown LTD.