"But I'm Too Busy To Write!"

"How Do I Find Time To Write???"


Are you a writer struggling to find the time to actually write?

Do you find it difficult to focus on developing your writing career when you’re being pulled in several different directions all at once?

Are family obligations and work issues competing with your ability to accomplish your writing goals?

Well, I feel you!

Like most aspiring writers, I’ve had to deal with the same issues and I recently had the opportunity to share my experience with some fellow writers and I thought I’d share it here as well. By way of a disclaimer, I’ll say up front that I do not get up, Monday thru Friday, and report to a traditional place of employment. However...while I don't have a nine to five to go to every day, I do have some unique circumstances in my life that most people do not.

My husband has a long-term medical condition which has left him unable to walk, sit or stand unassisted and our family cares for him at home. I have five kids, mostly teens ranging in age from 11-19, and my life is pretty busy. At one time I struggled with my family expecting me to do EVERYTHING around the house because I was here all day. I would spend my days keeping house and trying to write while rushing to my husband's side every time he called, whether he actually needed me or not.

And the same happened with my kids. Besides helping with homework, meeting with teachers, getting kids to this practice or that activity and making sure band uniforms were ready for the weekly football game, I was expected to be everything to everybody...all the time. In the course of an evening, they'd come to me with one interruption after another, not caring that I was busy, working to meet a deadline or trying to concentrate on sentence structure. Their crisis always became my crisis and what I needed to do, regularly got pushed to the side.

I eventually had to train them all, if you will, and get them to understand that what I do as a writer is important work. I had to teach them that it's my "job" that will someday lead to an income to help elevate our family. I had to show them the manuscripts I'd written, my publishing contracts and the emails from my publisher along with my goals, timelines and deadlines. I went online and showed them my websites and the social networking sites where I've spent hours meticulously developing my online presence and brand to build a following of readers who will someday faithfully buy my books. I even had them Google my name to see how many places I was represented online so they could see that "Mom" is a serious professional writer.

Once I explained all this, I restructured my life around the needs of the family and my work life. I carved out time in the day that's specifically work hours and time solely dedicated to the family. Two of my kids are in college part time and they help out with housework, preparing meals and taking care of their Dad during the day so that I can focus on networking and other writing assignments such as blogging and research for a non-fiction project I'm working on. I have breakfast and lunch with my husband, every day, and I turn off my computer and give him my full time and attention. And when the kids get home from school I get off the computer and focus on them. After they go to bed, I get the bulk of my serious novel writing done when the house is quiet. That way I can focus on writing while being available to assist my husband if he needs me.

We've had this system in place for the last year and it's working well. I'm getting the tasks done that I need to get accomplished and I'm still available to my family. They're learning to respect my professional boundaries, pick up behind themselves and I make sure to give them the quality time they need. Now it hasn't come without sacrifices. Because I don’t have a regular job, we live a very frugal lifestyle. I haven't been out to lunch with my friends in forever and I haven't watched television in months. (Literally...)

Turning off the TV was a personal choice I made because I get way too distracted and stressed out arguing with the talking heads in a box who can't hear me and don't care about my opinions. That one decision has increased my ability to focus immeasurably. Now I’m not saying that'is what you have to do. This was a sacrifice I was willing to make in pursuit of my dream and it’s worked for me. You’ll have to do a personal assessment of where your time is being spent to determine what changes will benefit you.

A simple way to do this is to make a list of every activity in your life that requires your time and attention. Begin by identifying the activities you have to no choice about and assign each one a time slot during your day/week. Then take a look at the things that can be delegated to someone else. Now you may have to lower your standards on the quality of the work the delegate will produce and you’ll have to give up some of the control (especially if you’re a control freak like I am). For instance, if you have older kids who can help with simple meals, you may have to choke down a hot dog or two instead that lasagna you look forward to every Thursday.

Once you have the required activities scheduled, take a look at the activities that are optional. And yes, this includes clubs, organizations, and volunteer activities. These may be important and worthy causes, but you’ll have to seriously consider if this time can be better served working on your writing career. That’s a question you’ll have to answer for yourself.

Lastly, take a look at your leisure time and even the number of hours you sleep. Yes I used the “S” word. I know we’re all busy as it is and most of us don’t get the rest we need. But it is something to consider and that’s all I’ll say about that.

But I will say this... It may be time to put away some of those writing craft books and use the time you spend reading to just write dirty and get the manuscript finished. Learning the craft is important, but there’s also value in learning from your mistakes and improving your work as you grow. Again, just something to consider.

And I’ll say this two... When you’re completing your time assessment, ask yourself why you’re doing certain activities – especially the ones that fall in the optional category. If you’re involved in some of those groups and organizations because they give you a sense of accomplishment or make you feel good about yourself because you’re making a contribution, then ask yourself if you can get the same sense of satisfaction from completing that novel you’ve been working on for the last five years. (I’m just saying....)

Also, when taking a look at your motives for participating in these activities, if you find that you’d really rather not participate in a group, but you do so out of a sense of guilt or misplaced obligation, then this is the perfect opportunity to cut your losses and get out. After all, you have a legitimate reason. You can honestly tell them, “I need to step out so that I can focus on my writing.” There you go!

Whatever you decide to do to make time to pursue your writing passion, realize that you’ll never really be fulfilled and happy until you do it. Zora Neale Hurston once said, “There is no agony like bearing an untold story inside you.” That story you have on the inside of you is not going away and the more book release parties you attend for other people, they will only serve to remind you that you haven’t yet accomplished your writing goals. So do yourself a favor and do what you gotta do to make it happen.

I sincerely believe that once I got serious about being a successful writer and set out to structure my life around that dream, it wasn't a struggle to find the time and the focus to write. And now that I’ve done that, I feel so much better about myself and I can proudly say that I am living my dream!

I hope this helps someone and if you have comments, questions or concerns, please drop me a line. And if you just think I’m crazy...that’s okay, too. You’re probably right on some level and I still want to hear your thoughts.

Blessings to you as you continue to make your dreams your reality!

Peace~

Melissa Ewell Miller
http://www.writtenworks.net/

Comments

  1. Ouch Melissa! You're all up on my toes. lol So much sound wisdom w/practical tips I can use.

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  2. I'm glad you're system is working. Pray for me that I can acquire half of your patience. When my people bug me, I close the door on them.

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  3. Your system is a great idea. How can a writer hope to put pen to paper if we don't prioritize our work. It's hard, but so very important.

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