Not too long ago, I was chatting with Derek, a Twitter friend of mine (@wrytersblockDH) who is a busy, busy man with a busy, busy day-job. He's also a writer. As we talked about finding time to write, he said to me:
"It's the mental energy to write after a 12-hour door-to-door day I can't find."
It's hard to argue with a statement like that. After all, Derek is in the same shoes that I'm in, the same shoes that a lot of my other friends are in. We're working day-jobs, some of them hectic. We have lives filled with family, church, school, volunteer work... And after a full day of activities, we often feel tapped out. The energy to write or create anything artistic just doesn't seem to be there.
How do we find and renew our creative energy?
That's the question I'm parsing out on the blog for the next few months. And I think the answer is going to take several steps. It's not a single stop; it's a journey to finding that mental energy. But it begins with a decision to move toward what we want. A goal. In this case, I think the goal is to write more. Maybe to write enough to get good at it. Maybe to get good enough to be published. But setting the goal is step one.
Why? Because the bottom line is this: we have to choose to make time to write. It doesn't fall in our lap. We have to hunt the writing beast down and take it captive. And there must be tools we can use to make the hunt easier for ourselves. I'm on a search for those tools, and you're coming with me. Let's journey together to find ways to keep our creative selves vibrant and productive. We are worth it, don't you think?
The first tool we can use is a simple one, but it may be the most challenging to master. It's self-knowledge. You have to know what makes you tick, so you can fit your writing into your life. This may mean fitting it in. It may mean clearing out some of the obstacles that keep you from writing. It probably means both. But it's in knowing yourself that you can make the kinds of decisions that you can live with and stick with over the long haul.
The people I know elbow their writing into their life in many ways, depending on what works for them as individuals. Some have flat out told me: "I don't read much anymore." Or, "I don't watch TV anymore." It just takes too much time to do those things and write.
Personally, that doesn't work for me. That's not how I tick. I like reading too much to give it up. But I don't read as much as I used to. Many times, I skim books. And I read differently too. I read for technique more than I do for content. It's not often I can lose myself in a book anymore. Knowing that about myself helps me choose what I read and what I dump at the wayside. And that helps me have energy and time to write.
Fantasy author Peter V. Brett has shared publicly that he, too, had to struggle to make time to write, just like those of us who are writing but aren't published yet. Brett had a full-time job, a family, and friends, and he didn't have a lot of time to write. But he did spend one and a half to two hours commuting each day. So, he wrote during his commute.
He's obviously the kind of guy who can put in his earbuds and concentrate on writing in a crowded space, and he knew that about himself. That's why his decision worked for him. (Listen to him talk about it on the Speculate podcast here, starting around minute 10:00.) I don't have the same opportunity he had, because I drive to work. There are no trains here. But I can be at work early or stay late to write, and sometimes I do that, because I know that works for me.
Another friend of mine, Renee, has created a mobile writing style because as a grandmother helping out with the grandchildren, she loses writing time to driving the kids long distances to and from school. Rather than going home after dropping the kids at school, she stays nearby. Renee says: "I take my grandchildren to school, then set myself up at the park, typing in the car or at a table. (I now carry a table and chair int he care, so I can set up anywhere.)" Talk about being ready! She also uses a battery backup for her laptop, which helps her be mobile.
I don't have the free time in the middle of the day that Renee has. But I try to keep a notebook handy when I go out, so if I suddenly find myself with free time, I can write at the drop of a hat. Being mobile definitely works for me. In fact, it's often easier for me to write outside of the house, because when I'm at home, I get distracted. So I trick myself into productivity by going to a local bookstore or coffee shop with my laptop.
Obviously, the key here is to make the most of what you have to work with. This doesn't completely answer Derek's question about maintaining the energy to write. I'm moving toward that issue over the upcoming series of posts. But the first step to reclaiming the mental energy to write is knowing what works for you as a writer and, frankly, as a person. Not everyone likes mobile writing. Not everyone can concentrate during a commute. Not everyone can give up TV cold turkey. But there's something you can do, and you have to figure out what that is and do it. Only then can you make that first step toward freeing up your time, protecting your creative juices, and get some writing done.
Now, you share: What do you do to make time to write? How do you protect or revive your mental energy for creative activities? Have you ever given anything up to make room for your art? Share about it in the comments, and be sure to mention the tips you have, the things that work for you. And if you're doing the #writinghabit challenge, in which you write every day (even if it's just a word or two), tell me how that's going for you. I want to hear about it!
Copyright (c) 2013 by M.A. Chiappetta. All rights reserved.