5.09.2011

STEALING TIME TO MAKE A SCHEDULE

emyshin asked...
if you don't mind me asking -- i think you've mentioned that you had a job while writing SHATTER ME: how did you find time to write so quickly, hold a job, and keep up with social networking (and generally being awesome) at the same time?

Holly asked...
Hi! I’m one of aspiring writers who wants to get her book done but doesn’t have enough time (I’m studying hard). I think I need to get on schedule but don’t know which one really works. Do you have your own writing schedule? Is it really possible to write a novel in a short period of time? 

these are really excellent questions. i think they're questions every writer struggles with, because so many of us are working and/or going to school, and/or supporting a family and/or running after kids and trying to get dinner on the table, all while attempting to write a novel, research the industry, establish an online presence, and attempt to market our books. it's a lot to ask of anyone.

up until about a week ago, i was working full-time. day job + writing job + life and life and life and life. and i don't even have kids. i am in AWE of the mothers and the fathers who work full-time and parent full-time and still find time to write. it boggles my mind.

because here's the thing: it's hard as hell.

i'm not going to lie. i can't pretend i just waved my Writer Wand and made things happen, because it's not easy to do all of these things at the same time. it really isn't. that's why it makes me ache with frustration when people intimate that writers must have a lot of free time, and oh, how nice for them to be able to sit around and suck on a pencil while inspiration bubbles in their teacups. i have no idea what world they think we live in, but it's cruel and painfully unfair to assume that writers don't work hard. in fact, we're working almost every free minute we can find. 

we read books because we have to know our genre, our industry. we have to know what sells, what's hot, what's hitting the shelves in a big way. we read because we're looking for an agent, an editor, a publisher. we scour the acknowledgments sections of books we love because we're doing research to find a good fit for our novels. we save money to go to conferences just for five minutes to meet with an agent or an editor or to hear a few words at a panel that might help us inch closer to our dreams. we write until it hurts, until it makes us cry, until we're hunched over our laptops banging our heads against the windows and telling ourselves it's useless, it'll never work, what were we thinking and when was the last time we brushed our teeth.

it's hard.

but it's not impossible. i know it's not because i see it every day. i see moms and dads and college kids and teenagers getting book deals and finding their fit in this industry and i know it's not impossible. but scheduling time to write isn't something i can teach anyone. it's something that has to come from you. you have to want to write -- you have to want it badly enough to prioritize, to restructure your plans, to understand that you'll be cutting back on your social life and your play dates and you probably won't be sleeping much at all. that's what it takes.

i found time in the quiet moments i should've been sleeping. i found time in the hours i could've been out with friends. i found time in the early mornings i should've been hitting the snooze button and in the evenings i should've been cleaning the kitchen. i found time on the weekends when i shirked family responsibilities and should have, but didn't, leave my house. i spent every single 3-day weekend and holiday break working, writing, reading, revising. i read industry blogs and studied query letters and scoured forums and rss feeds while waiting in lines and eating breakfast. i spent lunch breaks at the library, the bookstore, combing through stacks of books and touching individual spines and staring at covers and studying trends. i blogged every day, almost every single day, and promised myself i wouldn't give up. i told myself i couldn't. not now. not anymore.

there's no such thing as a schedule for your average writer. we don't have the luxury of staring out of windows and taking longer than 30 seconds to splash water on our faces. we're running on a quarter tank and we make it work however we can. the schedule is up to you. you'll find pockets of time you can no longer afford to squander. 90 second commercial breaks. five minutes while you're waiting for the kids to jump in the car. 10 minutes while the chicken cooks. half an hour in the waiting room at the doctor's office. 45 minutes at the DMV. the moments will arrive -- it's up to you how to use them. 

writers are thieves. we steal moments and memories and now we steal minutes, too. we scramble for extra seconds and shove them in our pockets when no one is looking. 

if you want to write, you make it work. you make time.

there's really no other way.

<3

15 comments:

Jen Daiker said...

Writer's are thieves. It's the truth. When someone asks how I find time I just say "I make time" 40 hour work weeks, feeding a family, and attending school, only to add writing. We writer's are crazy because now how to be any different.

Emy Shin said...

Thank you for this lovely and very inspiring post, Tahereh! It's true that as a writer, you have to carve time out to write out of other segments of your life.

Mariah Irvin said...

Thanks for reminding me why making the time is worth it :)

Melody said...

Thank you, Tahereh. Thank you, thank you, thank you. You are inspiring, and I mean that in the most sincere, heartfelt way.

Ara Grigorian said...

As always, spot on!

For most of my adult life, I found every reason imaginable to explain why I didn't have time to write. Undergrad school was demanding, then career, then marriage, then grad school while holding on to day job, then launched two businesses while holding on to said day job, then kids, then, then. When I was 39 staring at 40 my wife said, "You've done all these things you like. How about you do what you love?"

for nearly two years now, every night at around 9 pm when our two boys fall asleep I start writing... and stop when my head falls on the keyboard. I wake up at 5 am and repeat. But I'm always "writing" even when I'm not writing. Because as you said, writing is much more than writing what you see in your mind's eye onto paper. It's reading, learning, interacting and being.

Now, I have two finished manuscripts. One of them is "in the process." With luck, I will be able to realize my dreams. But the hard work will never go away. Because life does not stop. It just changes.

Thank you for being awesome.

~Ara

Krispy said...

Thanks for this post. I'm still trying to find that balance without totally burning myself out, but this is inspiring!

Marsha Sigman said...

Hell yes. Here's to being a major thief.

The Pen and Ink Blog said...

Well said! I had to share this one. I'm going to let my first advance pay for the SCBWI conference this year. There I hope to meet an agent so I can get my mid grade and adult novels out there.

Bethany Elizabeth said...

So true! Time is a luxury no one has anymore, and it's easy to say that such and such a job has so much time. It's not really ever true. *sigh*
it's worth it though.

Ishta Mercurio said...

Writers are thieves: yes, we are. And the life of a thief is never easy. Wonderful post.

Lindsay said...

Awesome post. Making the time is so worth it... even when I'm over-caffeinated at 2 a.m :)

Anna said...

I love your letters to writers-it makes me feel like I'm not weird for spending time reading the latest and greatest book for inspiration, helpful hints and, yes, the acknowledgements section. Keep up the great work! I can't wait until Shatter Me arrives in stores!

Julia B said...

Thanks for putting that so elegantly into words!

I don't write as much as I want, but I still have pulled all-nighters to get manuscripts finished so I could email them out before work, and taken leave days just to write instead of going somewhere with my family. It helps that I have a wonderfully supportive husband - but he can't make me write. I have to actively choose it every time.

Em-Musing said...

Very well said. I've given up TV. I'd rather work/play with my creativity, than watch someone else's because nothing will come of it.

Sara said...

Thank you, I needed that! I have a family, and freelance work. Not only have I gotten good at stealing time, I can revise to the sound of Phineas and Ferb. I read in bed, in line, while I eat, when I wake up at night. I do web stuff when I'm totally surrounded by people and distractions. It's not my first choice, I much prefer it when I'm in my quiet office for five uninterrupted hours, but that is not what most days look like.

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