Like any writer who also works a full-time day job, I struggle to find time to write. It doesn’t help that I have a long commute (a little over one hour each way). By “time to write” I don’t mean simply finding available minutes somewhere within a day, but finding minutes in which my brain is functioning and I have enough energy to be at least minimally creative. In other words, quality minutes.
Finding quality writing time is like carving precious stone from the walls of a mine. My job as a trainer in a corporate environment completely absorbs my mind and creative energy during the day. Arriving home between 6:30 and 7:00 p.m., I’m brain dead. Whatever thoughts I had about writing during the evening are gone, and all I can motivate myself to do is eat dinner, grab a glass of wine, and plop myself in front of something mindless recorded on the DVR. Wasted time? Perhaps. But I can tell you that trying to write when I’m that brain dead is just not productive.
So what’s a writer to do?
For quality time, my particular schedule favors the dark hours of predawn, so most weekday mornings, I set my alarm for 4:30 a.m. Yes, that is as grueling as it sounds. I am not a morning person, so this schedule requires enormous commitment and will on my part. It takes me 15 minutes to actually roll out of bed, toss on some clothes, splash cold water on my face, and shuffle to the coffee maker in the kitchen, which (thankfully!) is programmed to be brewed and waiting for me. Sucking down my caffeine infusion, I make my way to my office, squinting and blinking as I turn on the bright overhead light.
Once at my desk, I have 30 minutes to write, respond to email that came in the day before, and take care of personal business. Social media? Forget it! No time for that, even if I wanted to. I have to be careful not to get caught up with email, or distracted by reading online articles. If I focus, I can get in 500 words before my alarm chimes telling me it’s time to get ready for work — right about the time my brain is waking up and creative juices are beginning to flow. It takes nearly as much commitment and will to leave my desk as it does to arrive at it in the first place.
There’s lunchtime, of course — if I’m disciplined and eat quickly, I can chisel out 10 or 15 minutes of writing time. Case in point, I’ve drafted this post over the course of several lunch breaks (picture me sitting in my pretty little red Prius in a parking lot with my iPad on my lap) and am finishing it up at 5:00 a.m. I can also carve out time on the weekends, between taking care of household business, gardening, and socializing.
I figure that at this rate, I’ll be finished with the first draft of my next memoir sometime around February of next year. That’s not so bad. The trick, for me, is to stay positive and focused, learn to dive quickly into creative mode, and write in short bursts.
What about you? Are you challenged for writing time? How do you manage to find that precious quality time?