Friday, March 22, 2013

Too Much Time On My Hands: When Writing Takes Discipline

Well, this is ironic, to say the least. This week's post (which should have been last week's post) addresses how to keep yourself writing when you are not busy. And yes, this is a legitimate topic: lots of us do better writing when we're busy than when we have a lot of free time. I've posted plenty on finding time to write when we're busy, because that's my situation most of the time. (Here's the latest post on fitting writing into a full schedule, if you want to check it out.)

The irony, of course, is that my life has been so busy lately that I missed posting on the blog last week, when I was supposed to talk about not being busy. It probably seems to you, the reader, that I'd have nothing to say about how to write when you have too much time on your hands.

But, no. This is actually a topic I know a lot about.

In fact, I've talked about it before, because I'm a classic procrastinator who struggles with the daily discipline of writing (see The Art of Discipline if you don't believe me). It's why I decided to invent the Twitter hashtag #writinghabit and start a conversation about daily writing. I think it's important to write daily. When I'm busy, that's hard. But when I'm not busy, it's even harder.

I'm serious about that. Perhaps it's because I'm normally so busy that when things slow down, I get lazy and don't want to do anything. But free time often hinders my daily writing. And I'm not alone. Fellow writer Serena Saint-Marceaux shared with me her challenge of writing during Nanowrimo like this:

"I don't have a structured schedule that keeps me from having time to write... And sometimes that seems harder to deal with, almost, because there is no demarcation of 'Oh, now that everything is finished for the day, now I can write.' I just have to decide, 'Now, I'll set aside a couple of hours, or a half hour, or a few moments, to write.'"

There's an important truth in Serena's statement. When we're not busy, we may feel no urgency to make a schedule of what we're going to do and when we're going to do it. It can be temptingly easy to say to ourselves: "I'll do that later, because I'll have time for it later." If that's how we treat our writing, though, it's the kiss of death for our muse, isn't it?

No, we need to schedule, or set aside, a length of time for our writing on a regular basis. And if that's the only appointment we make for ourselves on a slow day, that's fine. It's still an appointment we need to that matters greatly to ourselves. It's a form of self-care for writers to fit time in for their writing, the same way that we make time for a nice massage, or a trip to the gym, or a leisurely cup of tea or coffee, or some reading time. All these things are important to caring for ourselves. And for writers, the act of writing is such a part of who we are that we aren't really being our full selves if we don't do it sometime.

If you have the freedom to schedule your writing at several points during your day, then you might want to experiment with writing at different times until you find the time that is most productive for you. You might even try finding two slots to write, with a break in between. But do yourself a favor and make your writing an important appointment with yourself, so that the day doesn't get away from you. You're worth it, and so is your art.

Now, you share: If you find it hard to write when you have a lot of free time, share about it here. Tell me your tricks for scheduling writing into your day or for motivating yourself to write when you don't feel like it.

For the next couple of weeks, I'll be talking about where we write: a home office, on the go, and so on. So if you have any thoughts or questions about that topic that you'd like me to tackle, let me know. Until next week, happy writing!

Copyright (c) 2013 by M.A. Chiappetta. All rights reserved.

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