Several of my recent conversations have focused on just how it is that I have so much time to write. I kind of love this question because I’m really proud of just how much time I have to write. That’s right, I said it: I’m proud of how much time I have to write.
In this two part series I’m going to teach you how to have time to write. That’s right: you. Whether you’re a single parent or a person with college part time and two jobs, whether you’re retired or still in school full time. Before you freak out and click off let me be clear: it is possible to write. No matter what else is going on. But first you have to deconstruct why you don’t write. And then you have to learn how to take back your time. In part one, this post, we’ll deconstruct why you don’t write.
If you’re reading this once there is a link up to part two, where I talk about how to take back your time, you might be tempted to skip. And I get that. Why not start there and give you the goods up front? Because there are societal norms and expectations that have to be addressed, deconstructed, and kicked to the mutha f’ckin curb in order to have “so much time to write”.
The Value of “Busy”
I’m not sure when it happened, but so many people admire those who are “busy”. They say it with such reverence when speaking of others. “Wow, I want to have a cup of coffee with Jane but she’s so busy.” This last word usually involves some sort of weird, glassy-eyed smile. On the other hand, when talking about themselves women will strike a posture of importance, square their shoulders and say, “I want to X . . .” (where x is an activity people enjoy) “. . . but I’m just so busy.” Here, busy is uttered with a martyred affect.
Here’s the thing: busy is not a good thing. In fact, think about the context in which we hear the word “busy”.
- busybody: A nosy person with enough free time to interfere in the affairs of others.
- busy work: Work meant to take up time but that is not productive.
- busy as a hibernating bear: A common response when someone says “I’m busy.” Because everyone knows that busy is bullsh*t.
- keep him busy: give someone something to district him from whatever else is going on.
These are not good things. These are things that are inconsequential and take up time.
Let that sink in for a second.
Busy = inconsequential time suckers.
Let me be clear: you are not busy if you are running your kids around. You are a parent. You are not busy if you have two jobs and/or go to school. You are responsible.
Busy is undefined and lacking in prioritization. It is spending time on things of no merit.
Stop Revering Busy
A while back a girlfriend of mine, when we were both in our time suck jobs, talked about how hard it was to find time to get together for dinner and a movie. She, a single mom of three all under driving age, had good reason. I, on the other hand, did not. I am married to an independent spouse. I did not work on weekends. I don’t have children. And yet I could never seem to find the time. Because I was so busy. Busy meant haphazardly doing all the sh*t I didn’t do during the week. Not because of any other reason than at some point I just wanted to go home and sit on the couch.
Here’s a sneak peak at how to take back your time. I spent many hours on the couch with a glass of wine or the remote. Because at the end of the day I was exhausted. Then, on the weekends, I was a flurry of activity: cleaning up the kitchen, getting groceries, running to the post office and the bank and the tailor. Had I done these things during the week the only thing I would have missed was? You got it: sitting on the couch with the remote. Which, while relaxing, was not a good use of my time and is what caused my busy-ness on the weekend. Again, being busy isn’t doing things that need to get done… it’s undefined and lacking in prioritization.
My friend, an admirable woman, was engaging in responsible parenting. I, however, was just not productive, efficient, or managing my time.
And yet we all love these busy folk. We admire how much they are doing. How much they are accomplishing. People admired me for my time suck job and insane running around on weekends. I look back and want to shake them and me — why?! Why on earth do we revere this behavior?
One last example. Years ago, an old friend of mine and I were talking and she kept saying how she couldn’t want to start having babies so she could stop working. Let me be clear: I have no problem with those who choose to stay at home and mother. But she also mentioned childcare. And so me being me, I asked if she was thinking about starting a business. And she said, “No. I will be busy.” And I asked what it was like to have small children (those who want and have children LOVE to spend time telling the rest of us who do not understand the allure of children what a yeoman’s task it is to bring them into the world and keep them alive. I don’t doubt these things. This is why I have no desire to have them). Anyway. She said that she would be busy cooking and cleaning and shopping and decorating. Decorating.
This, to me, is the epitome of busy. You do not need a gourmet dinner on the table every night. Or a house that is constantly changing. If you enjoy these things, that is one thing. But do you?
Stop Condemning Prioritization
I can’t win. I’m looked down upon because the idea of a human being inside of me and then forcibly ejecting himself from my vagina does nothing to make my hormones sore. I’m looked down upon because I do not belong to a book club, like Luluroe (although I do want a pair of those Brooklyn Bridge Leggins — OS if you find them. I will pay you immediately!), go to Church, sell jewelry that turns your neck green and breaks after a few weeks, etc. I’m looked down upon because I travel a shitload, play boardgames and . . . here’s the seque you’ve been waiting for: and because I have “so much time to write.”
In fact, many people actually say to me, “I can’t believe you have so much time to write,” with an air of disdain.
And this has gotten me thinking. A LOT. What, exactly, is wrong with the fact that I have time to write? A few things. But I’ll get back to that in a minute.
Why You Don’t Write (or practice the piano, or paint, or do yoga, or draw, or game, or do any number of things you want to do)
I do not believe that you should forego things like family and education and jobs to make time for the thing that you love. I do believe, and will hold you to task, that you are busy on purpose. And that this means one of a few things (and often several of them).
- You do not actually want to do the thing you say you want to do (eg. write).
- You do not know how to use the time you have.
- You are ashamed to take time for yourself. Or you feel guilty when you plan to or actually do it.
- You don’t know what you want to do with that time.
- You are afraid to succeed.
- You do too many things for “enjoyment”.
This is just a sample. But seriously, think about it. How many apply to you? Not sure what I mean by them? Here’s a breakdown that I want you to consider as you wait for part II of this post where I’m going to talk about how I overcame these hurdles and why I’m writing like a mad woman.
Why I wasn’t writing:
- I wasn’t producing good stuff so when I spent the time writing it felt like a waste of time.
- I was wasting a significant amount of weekday time thus stealing valuable writing time from the weekends. I also wasn’t making good use of my weekday hours.
- I hated the reaction when I said I was spending x amount of time writing. When I would write and Kris would say, “I’m going to clean the garage” I was overwhelmed with guilt. (I may write a part three to this series about how to talk to your loved ones about your writing time).
- I had a few things I was doing that I was doing maybe because I thought I should. And because I thought maybe I wanted to. Like practicing my piano and going to the gym and tracking every wine I tried.
- I was terrified of what would happen if I did successfully finish and perfect a novel and query it successfully. What the hell would I do then? I couldn’t write on command.
- I would do things I thought I should do because I sort of enjoyed them but really they were things other people in my life enjoyed that I felt I should do, too.
I’ve laid myself bare here, so take some time to really think about why you’re not putting aside time to write. Then come on back for Part II where I’ll go through how to find and take the time to write.
Homework: Catch yourself when you’re busy. Just stop for a second and say, “Okay, this! This right here! I’m running around like a crazy person because I haven’t used my time well.” That will start you on the path to having time to write.