The Writers’ War Against Time

How will you spend your moments?

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I am at war with two creative projects begging for my immediate attention.

The list of reasons why I shouldn’t bother pursuing either of them keeps getting longer.

There is no brighter future, no promise of compensation, on the other side.

All I have is an internal sense of commitment. An inextinguishable need to follow through.

There is not enough time.

We all struggle with this fact, fighting against a force we cannot control. But the truth is, we have more say over how we spend each moment than we often realize.

It’s difficult to admit that there are things you must give up — and things you can’t, as well as things you never will even if you should — in order to do everything you want to do in a year. In a lifetime.

It’s not even about what’s more important — write or sleep? Write or watch Grey’s Anatomy? Write or read a good book? — but instead about what matters most from day to day.

You might spend all of tomorrow evening finally outlining that story you’ve been itching to start for going on six months now.

But the night after that, you might spend working on something else. Or allowing yourself some leisure time after a tough eight (or more) hours at your day job.

If only writing were easy. Effortless.

We might never sit down to do it. But when we did, we’d move mountains.

Your time can only be divided into so many segments before some of them begin slipping through your fingers, fragments too small to contain.

So it’s not even the work (and the play) that’s overwhelming, but also the complex art of figuring out how to make all the right-size pieces fit together to make up a well-spent 24-hour day.

Perhaps there’s no combination of pieces that’s “right” or “best” or “ideal.”

Instead, there’s only the “doable.” Whatever that means today. And chances are, it will only mean something different tomorrow.

I can’t write two books at once. Neither will get written.

As much as we wish we had creative superpowers, we’re just ordinary people with annoyingly hyperactive brains. Our hunger to make new things constantly grinds against time’s too-tight restraints.

We panic. We worry that we’ll never do it all.

Of course we do. It’s a perfectly acceptable human fear.

All we can do is try to write what comes to us. Make sacrifices here and there for the sake of our work. But also, occasionally, set our work aside for other things that spend our precious moments. Companionship. Entertainment. Sanity.

Whether we spend it wisely isn’t the worry. It’s whether we spend it well.

You will not spend every moment writing. Reading. Laughing.

But you’ll spend all of it trying.

Sometimes, that’s enough.

It has to be.


Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.


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