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.
Possibility 1. Give
up TV and social media.
Just give them up, deep-freeze turkey & freakin' forever
and oceans of time, vast and sparkling, shall spread before ye.
Facebook! The Six Reasons Why I Deactivated My Account
Possibility 2. Cut
the digital leash, the crackberry, whatever you want to call
that soul-sucking hypnotic thumb-twiddler.
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
Writer's Distraction Free Smartphone (Plus an App Evaluation
Flowchart to Tailor-Make Your Own)
Possibility 3. No
drugs. Duh. And I include
prescription drugs here, too. Exercise, eat lots of vegetables,
drink raw juice, meditate
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. Ah! But I am not
a medical professional, so I have no idea what you should do.
Possibility 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.
Possibility 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.
Possibility 6. No
ruminating over the past.
Regrets, nostalgia, whatever, writing gets done in the now.
Possibility 7. Less
fantasizing about the future.
Again, writing gets done in the now.
Possibility 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.
Possibility 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!
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.
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
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.)
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
Quit playing computer games.
On par with drugs. Or any other addiction. Including following
the stock market on a daily basis.
Do not color your hair. 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. You might
be able to read something fluffy but you probably cannot write
while someone is poking and pulling at and washing and blowdrying
your hair. Go au naturel for as many as 30 hours a year,
free and clear.
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
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 a
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...)
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.
Never hunt for Internet passwords (or wait for the "resend
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.
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 Ultralight
Backpacking Tips. (Watch out, though, he features a link
to his UFO page.)
No second home. On par
with the boat. No, worse.
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.)
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.)
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
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.)
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...
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.
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 vases, toys
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:
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.