do you find the time?
(Was it hiding in the crawlspace?)
Its not so much finding time as it is prying your physical
presence and attention away, either permanently or for a spell,
from someone, something, someplace less valuable to youif
you really do want to write, that is, not just pretend and fantasize
and gripe. Herewith, 30 ideas some of which might make
you shake your head, but some just might work for you. For me,
most of these have always been no-brainers, but I confess, a
number of them took me awhile to recognize and/or fully appreciate.
1. Give up TV and
social media. Just give
them up, deep-freeze turkey & freekin' forever and oceans
of time, vast and sparkling, shall spread before ye.
Facebook! The Six Reasons Why I Deactivated My Account
2. Cut the digital
leash, the crackberry, whatever you want to call that soul-sucking
That's right, I am suggesting that you turn off all notifications
and do not "text."The price of this is that you must
therefore continually combat tidal waves of exasperation from
loved ones and others that you are not instantly and always available
to them. Find the humor in this. Because really, how blazingly
3. No drugs. Duh. And I include prescription drugs
here, too. Exercise, eat lots of vegetables, drink raw juice,
do whatever you possibly can to avoid adult onset
diabetes and joint issues and so having to take drugs, for aside
from suffering from lousy side effects, you'll waste countless
hours waiting for doctors to write prescriptions, then getting
them filled at the pharmacy, dealing with insurance, and complications,
and so on & so forth.
4. Reduce, better
yet eliminate, or at least make use of your commute. If you can possibly live closer to where
you need to be during the day, even if you have to sell half
your furniture to fit into a smaller place, do that. Otherwise,
try to get into the habit of writing while commuting. I hear
some people have been able to do that. I admire them genuinely.
5. No drama. Mantra: not my circus, not my monkeys.
If you relish fighting / debating / gossiping because you find
it entertaining, that's your writing mojo leaking like water
onto the asphalt. Incessant worrying about other people's problems
that are not yours to solve is also silly. You can be aware,
you can be concerned, you can be compassionate, and when they
are your problems, then they are your problems.
6. No ruminating
over the past. Regrets,
nostalgia, whatever, writing gets done in the now.
7. Less fantasizing
about the future. Again,
writing gets done in the now.
8. Quit nursing
grudges against editors / agents / other writers / reviewers
/ readers. Oh, the injustices
of the literary world! These can vacuum up untold hours with
yammering in workshops, at conferences, and over sad and grumbly
cups of coffee. But listen here: the so-called gatekeepers and
the clueless readers and half-literate kids glued to their handheld
devices, theyre just doing the best they can, too. So are
the peasants wading through their rice paddies in Burma. You
are luckier than a lottery-winner to even be able to write at
all. So strive to always improve and write for those who appreciate
what you do, knowing that, of course, even if you one day win
the Nobel Prize, only the teensiest portion of the population
of Planet Earth will have heard of you, never mind actually read
anything you wrote. Bottom line: If you cant stay focused
on doing your own best work, youre not writing, youre
back to ruminating.
9. Stop picking
up the telephone. As
Marie Antoinette might have put it, Let them send email. If you
can, pay for an unlisted number and caller ID and change your
telephone number at least every other year. If that little click
to voice mail distracts you, why, just unplug it! And, pourquoi
pas? Plunk it in the oven!
10. Eliminate recreational
shopping, aka "retail therapy."
Whew, this one adds up over a season, a year, two years. So never,
ever shop in stores or on-line or in fact anywhere anytime without
your list. If an item is not on your list, do not buy it. Shopping
malls are time- and money-gobbling maws and believe it, the
marketers, watching your every move on their cameras, are more
sophisticated than you think you are. Not only does recreational
shopping squander prime writing time, but it tends to fill up
your house with clutter-- a time-suck in itself. Go to a park,
a museum, a library, the seashore, a basketball court, have fun
and refresh yourself as necessary, but stay way away from the
maw. I mean, mall.
11. Do not accumulate
a large and varied wardrobe based on navy, brown and/or beige. And better yet, give all that away to
Goodwill. If you wear clothing that is black and/or coordinates
with black, you'll be able to make fewer shopping trips, pack
faster, and do far less laundry and dry cleaning. And since black
makes colors "pop," your blue sweater, say, will appear
brighter. Yet another advantage: black makes you look slimmer.
(Ha, maybe I was a Jesuit in my last life.)
12. Cancel the manicure.
Horrendous time sink
there. Plus, the polish is toxic and it flakes. (Nobody notices
or cares about your fingernails anyway except manicurists, I
guess, and those who get manicures themselves. Last I checked,
they aren't getting much writing done.)
13. Quit following
the stock market on a daily basis.
This is a tick-like habit that achieves nothing but a heightened
sense of anxiety. On par with spectator sports.
14. Quit playing
computer games. On par
with drugs. Or any other addiction. Including following the stock
market on a daily basis.
15. Do not color
Depending on how often
you feel you must cover up the roots... for most people who color
their hair this is about once a month. If you add highlights
or lowlights (which, my dears, if you do color, you probably
should lest you sport that "helmet look"), you're talking
about two hours-plus in the salon chair. Go au naturel
for as many as 30 hours a year, free and clear.
16. Ignore spectator
sports. Do not attend
games, do not watch or listen to or otherwise follow games, do
not discuss games, and whole weekends for writing will emerge
from the sea of froth.
17. Do not indulge
in expensive, time- and space-consuming activities such as, oh,
say, collecting and expounding upon various types of fermented
grape juice. Come on,
folks, once it goes into a carafe, 99% of your guests won't know
the difference between one chablis and the next chardonnay. Pick
a reasonable brand and stick with it, white and red. For me,
it's Monte Xanic or else it goes into the pot for coq au
18. No more hauling
laundry. You've got to
get your clothes clean so, failing a maid to do it for you, get
a washer / dryer for your house or apartment. If you do not have
space, if it's not allowed, or you cannot afford this, then consider
portable washer/dryer because hauling bags to the laundro-mat
or down to the basement only to find the machines full, that
is one woolly mammoth of a time suck. (If you're paying for each
load at a landro-mat, you might find it cheaper in the long run
to use your own portable washer. I wouldn't know, since I'm fortunate
enough to have a washer/dryer, but a little bird told me...)
19. Never hunt for
your keys / wallet / purse / cell phone.
This is an easy fix. The moment you step in the door, you always,
always put them in the same place, a designated hook or a bowl
or a basket. This might seem minor, but those two to ten minutes
of running around with your hair on fire add up.
20. Never hunt for
Internet passwords (or wait for the "resend password"
email). Keep track of
passwords, some way, somehow. I use Grandma's
recipe box, which was deemed seriously uncool on the Cool
Tools blog, but it works beautifully for me and, so they tell
me after reading that infamous blog post, many of my friends.
21. No boat. Do not ever even shop for a boat. Do
not even think about shopping for a boat. Unless you plan to
sell your house and live in the boat. Ditto RV, camping equipment,
or motorcycle. And anyway, you cannot live in your motorcycle.
If you like to go out overnight into nature, check out Mike Clellands
Backpacking Tips. (Watch out, though, he features a link
to his UFO page.)
22. No second home. On par with the boat. No, worse.
23. Stop buying
loads of soft drinks and bottled water.
Take into account the time it takes to shop for them, carry them
to the car, lug them out of the car, store them somewhere in
the pantry or the fridge, then recycle the bottles and cans
Drip, drip, drip goes your time (and money). A good water filter
will pay for itself and quickly. (See also #3, above. Whoa, just
read the list of contents on those soft drinks. Ick.)
24. Prepare your
meals with mis-en-place. Even when making a peanut butter-and-jelly
sandwich, it sure does help to do mis-en-place. If you hate cooking,
you probably never heard of the mis. Check it out. (If you want
to keep it easy by microwaving everything or relying on take-out,
see #3 above.)
25. Take email seriously. In other words, stop letting it pile
up and become a giant, throbbing source of lost opportunities,
embarrassment and guilt. Email is vital for a writer as
vital as letter writing in days of yore, so do it well. This
also means get quick-on-the-draw to delete spam.
Ninjerie in the Theater of Space-Time
26. Use a metaphorical
"bucket" for all your to do lists and ideas. In other words, quit trying to keep
everything from next week's dentist appointment to the ideas
for your novel in your head. I use David Allens Getting
Things Done (GTD) system and thereby free up yottabytes
of short term memory for more creative work. (One day I may set
up a little altar in a corner of my office to St. Allen.) For
me, a Filofax is an indispensable tool for implementing GTD.
I Am a Mega-Fan of the Filofax.
this podcast of November 6, 2013 about the GDT method for
creative people. (I couldn't find the direct link; you may need
to scroll down for it once you land on that page.)
27. Keep your closet
decluttered and organized.
Clutter not only makes it difficult to find things when you need
them, it pulls and yanks and pinches your attention to decisions
you haven't made (like, whether to get rid of that old mustard-colored
shirt, but which might maybe go with something, or sew back on
the two missing buttons?) So you're rushed and addled, right
at the start of the day. It all adds up over a week, a month...
28. Fie to piles. Piles are sinkholes of chaos and, to
pile on another mongrel of a metaphor, they tend to sprout and
ooze all over the place like fungi. (Yeah, did that need an editor.)
Any time you need to do anything important, pay taxes, file a
claim, send out a manuscript, if you have to paw and dig through
piles to find what you need you will add possibly hours, possibly
days, possibly weeks or even months to the process not
to mention a walloping dollop of time-sucking anxiety. So get
a filing cabinet, even if it has to be a cardboard box, and make
proper, labeled files, and dagnabbit, file things.
29. Let go of things
you won't use but someone else might. This
might sound strange as a source of time for writing, but think
about it: any clutter, anywhere, becomes a drag on your time
and attention. So all those old winter coats, faded towels, mismatched
dishes, clothes than haven't fit for 10 years, overflows of flower
For heavenssakes, sell that stuff, gift it,
and/or make regular runs to Goodwill or the like. (But remember,
trying to sell it will take up your time.) As my favorite estate
lady Julie Hall puts
it, "the hearse doesn't have a trailer hitch."
Update on Cool
My top recommendation for
the holidays is the Kindle of Marie Kondos The
Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering
and Organizing ($10). A one-time Shinto shrine maiden,
Kondo bases her KonMari method on the assumption
that ones house and all the objects in it have consciousness
but, boy howdy, even if youre a die-hard materialist, follow
her method and youll zoom to a wiggy new oxygen-rich level
of tidy. C.M. Mayo
And last but far from least:
30. Remember your
pen and notebook. Always,
except in, say, a swimming pool, keep these on your person; you
never know when the muse may whisper. What I'm saying is, some
of the most valuable writing time arrives in snatches while
you're standing in the dog park, about to get out of the car,
riding an elevator, etc. In other words, you might not have been
planning to write, but write you do because write you can.