The flow state, for a writer, is an accidental luxury. Once we’re in it, we’re addicted to the high – and once we’re out of it, we crave it. The only issue is that being pulled into a state where you forget where you are and hyper-focus only on what you’re writing, time slips away. Great if you have nothing else to do, but dangerous if you have to be somewhere at noon and you start writing at 10.
This is one of those things about writing that people who don’t do it just don’t get. Losing track of time, when you’re writing, doesn’t mean you’re wasting it. It means you’re so deeply immersed in what you’re creating that time, for awhile, becomes irrelevant.
We would all love to be able to spend time every day lost in time, but the reality is, time is often limited. I know having been able to spend hours in a different world yesterday without having to worry about how long I’d been gone was a privilege. I know I might not get time like that again for awhile. I know many people rarely do, or never have.
Having to limit yourself to a certain number of hours or even minutes of writing time is a struggle. I know. I know it can make you not want to write at all: what’s the point if you can’t spend all the time you want on something you love? On one hand, some time is better than none, and we do have to train ourselves to embrace the time we have. But I also think we need to set aside at least one free block of time once a week – an afternoon, an evening, maybe even a whole day – so we can get lost in our words.
How? Your answer to that question will most likely differ than mine. If I really push myself during the week, I could technically dedicate an entire weekend only for writing, if I wanted to. But I also don’t have a family of my own or the obligations I know come with it. I don’t have many physical places I’m required to be at specific times. But I know many of you have at least one job, maybe families too, or at least people you dedicate a lot of time toward. School, maybe. Other hobbies or responsibilities or things you like to do aside from making time for writing.
One simple thing to try: instead of constantly stopping to check the time as you’re writing, set a timer. That will pull you out of your trance of sorts only when it’s time to stop writing, and hopefully not before. I get it – once you get going, it can be hard to stop. This is just one of those things we all have to figure out. Getting writing done isn’t always the problem. It’s that deep writing phase, that one we all need to experience every once in awhile – getting there, and having the time to stay there for as long as you want to.
I hope that you’re able to clear some time on your schedule this week for writing without worrying about the time. If it’s not something you can manage once a week, maybe once every two weeks, or once a month. It’s very fulfilling – a little disorienting, but it’s worth it.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.