The writing life isn't always serene and idyllic. They move up the deadline.
The workday turns out to be 15 hours long.
The kids get the flu.
Dad backs into a mailbox.
It's a birthday. A holiday. Your turn to host the book group.
Everybody needs something.
The day is gone before you know it.
Time can easily blur into a long stream of interruptions and exceptions and emergencies that seem to leave no room for your creative work.
In stretches like this, it helps to simply acknowledge that yep, things are crazy. You’re not on sabbatical. The genius grant people haven’t yet tapped your shoulder with their magic wand. You’re in the thick of your life, and this is what it looks like.
So where will you find the writing time? The mental space? You need a plan. Not a huge, sweeping overhaul-it-all plan. Just a structure that guides you into your writer’s mind for even a few minutes so you can add a twig or a feather or a shiny bauble to the nest you want to keep building, the psychic space that supports your writing.
Here’s one way to start:
1. Use “transition” time as writing time.
Scan your schedule for the times when you’ve disengaged from one activity and you haven’t quite begun another. Could you steal time in the gap? Try looking in spots like these:
* Bathroom breaks. Really. Even the busiest people take these during the day. They get up from their tasks, walk to the restroom, walk back. Try stealing five minutes, or ten, for writing afterward, as soon as you return to your desk. (Will anyone miss those minutes? Probably not.)
* Commuting. Use you use your transit time to observe something closely, or let your mind wander to your own writing. Then jot notes when you reach your destination. If you're able (and not driving), write while you ride.
* Post-meal time. Delay the dishes for 10 minutes and write then. Or write after you feed the dog.
* Post-exercise time. You’ve taken your run or class or walk and cleaned up. Right there, in the space before whatever usually comes next, can you take 10 or 15 minutes and write?
Tucking bits of creative time into these odd nooks begins to weave writing into the pattern of your regular activities and integrate it with your life.
Choose one "transition" and co-opt it for writing.
2. Actively remind yourself that you’re stealing this time.
At first, you’ll need to tell yourself often, and in vivid ways, that you’re adding something new to your routine. By vivid ways I mean putting notes in the bathroom—or on your hand. Sticking a notebook in your running shoes. Posting notes in the kitchen or sticking them to your coffee cup or dinner plate or cereal bowl. Leaving a roll of toilet paper on your desk with a pen or notebook on top.
Make it hard for yourself to ignore that you are making this small shift in your routine.
Tell someone what you’re up to, and let them remind you. (If you’re ready to make a serious shift, and you want daily reminders, plus help with the bigger picture of your writing practice, contact me here and let’s talk! I can help.)
3. Repeat daily.
Just how up and do what you can. A little is good. More is good, too. See what makes you feel like your writer self. Maybe it’s a 15-minute stretch. Or 30 focused minutes. And maybe for a while it’s five minutes of texting yourself some lines as you sit in at your desk right before leaving work at the end of a too-long day.
Everything counts. You can build from a tiny foundation. You will.