Sunday, September 13, 2009

Finding Time...

copyright 2009 aaron paul lazar

You want to write. Your head is packed with stories that haunt you, begging to be released. They keep you up at night, and sometimes you wake at 2 AM to scribble down your ideas in a journal full of… scribbles. You dream of the day when you’ll have delicious, lazy hours to put pen to paper, to craft volumes of stories filled with characters who will entertain and inspire readers. You long for a few hours to call your own. Or maybe even a few minutes. You have so much to say, want so urgently to say it, but you don’t have the time.

As if sabotaging your dreams, reality creeps in with a cold splash of guilt. Your two-year-old screams for ice cream, but really needs a nap. Your teen needs a ride to soccer practice, chauffeuring home for a dinner that isn’t yet started, and another ride back to school for play practice. All the while, your eight-year-old just wants to be loved. She asks for help with her homework, and you try to squeeze it into the third trip up to the school. She needs time with you, special time. Your guilt mounts.

Laundry calls your name from the room that’s starting to smell a bit moldy. Weeds creep higher in the garden, and it’s getting harder and harder to distinguish the bean plants from the pigweed. Some days you don’t know how you’ll find time to pay the bills, never mind write a story. You buy extra powerful vitamins to see if they’ll help you get through each day, and although you know you should be cherishing these moments when the kids are little, you secretly dream of the day when you’ll be able to call your time your own.

Or perhaps you’re a corporate slave, commuting hours per day to the job that pays the mortgage but steals your soul. Maybe you’re chained to a desk, or your schedule is jammed with back-to-back meetings. You fly from topic to topic, trying to save the company, or at least fix that one annoying problem that’s sucking the life out of you. Your day starts at 5:00 and ends at 7:00. By the time you get home, you just want to eat, check your email, and flop in front of the television so someone else can whisk you away to worlds only imagined, filled with intrigue, romance, or mystery.

And so it goes. Pressure. Stress. Duties. Responsibilities. They zap your time and wrap you up like a mummy who can barely see through the slits in the white cloth, a drone who glimpses that elusive creative life with envy.

Now stop right there! I’m here to tell you that it can be done. With a little sacrifice, you can carve time out of your day to get that novel started. Even if you “do it all,” like Sarah, the accountant in the following example.

Sarah is a mom who works full time outside the home. After work, she hurries to daycare to pick up her two year old. Her husband isn’t exactly the “let me do the dishes,” kind of guy, so she cooks, sews, cleans, packs lunches, shops, reads to her son, walks the dog, and often takes out the garbage. The hubby mows the lawn and fixes things. In Sarah’s life, there’s barely time to take a shower, never mind luxuriate for a few minutes to jot down a few poetic phrases.

When I met her, I instantly recognized Sarah’s “writer” voice. Through her emails, I picked up on a severely suppressed creative urge. Her words sang to me. They were filled with so much more than typically needed to describe directions to the nearest Thai restaurant, or sharing about those juicy apples she discovered at the orchard tucked away in the boonies. I called her on it, and she admitted writing lots of stories in high school and college. She hoped to write. She planned to write. But life just wasn’t cooperating. She’d have to wait until she retired.

I challenged her. “Take fifteen minutes every day–during your lunch hour, if necessary. Just write something.”

Sarah admitted she ate at her desk most days, anyway. She surfed the web or chatted on the phone. When I mentioned writing, her eyes widened with fear. “I wouldn’t know what to write!”

My answer–write something. Anything. Write gibberish. Write about your dreams last night, or about a scene from your childhood. Write about your wedding. Your rock garden. Your dishes. It doesn’t matter what. Get something down on paper, and show it to me tomorrow. Just write.”

Because Sarah was never shy to accept a challenge, she listened. She’d been interested in Civil War re-enactment lately, and had planned to bring her son to an event in the coming month. With bleary eyes at night, she’d sewn him little costumes that fit the time period, and had researched the heck out of the topic. So, it was no surprise when on that very first day, she wrote the first pages of what ended up being a very tidy little historic paranormal novel about a young woman caught in a Civil War time warp.

Do we all have such books in us? Is it always that easy? Was Sarah just lucky?

The answer is that if you have the calling, if you suffer from the aches and pangs of wanting to write, if you think about stories on your drive to work or in the bathtub, if the itch is so persistent that you’re cranky when you can’t scratch it–then you already are a writer.

In Sarah’s case, the first page of prose she wrote was lovely. Her talent leapt from the page. I knew she had it in her, and all it took was fifteen short minutes every day to get it started. Of course, once she was hooked, she spent her whole lunch hour writing, and even finagled the not-so-helpful hubby to give her several hours a week so she could write.

Sometimes we need to negotiate with our spouses for more time. Sometimes we need to prioritize. In my case, I used to rise at four in the morning to write for two hours each day. It was the only quiet time in our very busy household. Sure, I went to bed early most nights. I’m not a martyr. I need my sleep! But what did I give up?


So, instead of being lulled into a stupefying sleep at night by mindless junk that others had written, I took control of my life and started my own series. Thirteen books and ten years later, I still don’t care about television, and I know I made the right choice.

You can do it. It’s a matter of making a conscious choice for your writing soul. You have a voice. You need to be heard. Now go figure out a way to let it out!


Kim Smith said...

Indeed indeed. But you have to want it more than anything else. You have to be willing to sacrifice something me it time or whatever. Because you sometimes won't have the energy to do it all. At least I find that to be true especially now at the age and place I am in my own life. But when the writing is going well, there is nothing better. Well. Almost. Thanks for such a great post!

Marta Stephens said...

My advice, lower your standards!! LOL Really.

It was different when our children were small. I wasn't writing then, but I was in my late thirties/early forties and was completing my bachelor degree while working full time. I had no choice but to let a few household things go. And what was left to do, everyone pitched in to help.

I started to write fiction a couple of years later. Aside from the fact the kids have grown and I've made my writing one of my top priorities, not much has changed since my college days.

I do what I can around the house, my husbands helps out, we have family time together as often as possible. I'll dedicate 1-2 days a week for house chores, and at least 3-4 hours a day to write whenever I can get it in. Other days, I veg. It's the only way I know to balance work/family/and writing.

Great post, Aaron.

Marta Stephens said...

PS No matter what, my kids and husband come first!!! :()

s.w. vaughn said...

Yes! Three cheers for giving up television! It's been many, many years for me, and I haven't missed it at all.

Movies are a different story. I looooove movies. But I pay attention to the plot, the characterization, the timing, the writing ... and I call it research. :-)

That photo of the eye? It is amazing!

Aaron Paul Lazar said...

Hey, Ladies! Thanks for stopping by to comment. You're all right on, and Sonya: Me, too. I LOVE movies!!! Have a great night. ;o)

Anonymous said...

Finding time to write, also involves setting priorities on what you write. You have a time slot open for writing. You need to produce that next story, edit the one you just finished, reasearch markets, critique your writing partner's work, update your blog, check your email, and breath. It seems like once you get started writing, new chores just continue to create themselves. It's hard producing enough time to get everything done.

Aaron Paul Lazar said...

Cher, I'm with you on that one. It seems to spiral out of control sometimes, especially keeping up with blogs and emails. Sometimes I have to just cut all that stuff out for a little while to allow me to focus. And it's hard, too, when you spend lots of time critiquing other's work, but not enough on your own. A very important balance to maintain!

E's said...

I agree with the post. Just start writing. I didn't follow the advice until I had excessive free time - laid off. But now I couldn't imagine not writing even if work, kids, and women encroach on my time. It's too damn fun.

Also, once you get far enough into the story the characters demand closure. They come to life and call you to finish up.

I really love writing. My thanks to the bad economy.

Aaron Paul Lazar said...

Ha! Hi, E's. Yeah, I'm laid off too now, and there is ample time to write, although I'm amazed at how quickly my days have filled up! Seems like I'm always busy, but the extra writing time is heavenly. Lovin' it! (But hating being unemployed. Rather a contradictory situaiton)