Do you ever look at the list of things you have to do in a day, realize you should also probably write for an hour at some point, and wonder how “normal” people get everything done and still have time to binge-watch Umbrella Academy, run a half marathon, cook three meals, and knit 20 sweaters?
In all honesty, most people don’t end up doing all the things they want to do in each 24-hour interval. They all made sacrifices to squeeze in kitchen time and sweater-making.
Chances are there was probably something else they really wanted to get done — like work on their secret crime thriller — and they just haven’t been able to get to it lately.
I once made the mistake of telling my mom, when she asked me if I’d done something she’d mentioned the day before, “I haven’t had time.”
She turned her head and glared at me. “You’ve had plenty of time. You just haven’t made it a priority.”
I mean, she just wanted me to watch a video she’d posted on my Facebook timeline — this was nothing urgent (I love you Mom!). But she made a pretty good point (and totally called me out for not following the advice I give the writers who come to this blog for help. Cheers).
You probably often find yourself fully convinced you don’t have time to write.
It turns out you are completely wrong.
“I don’t have time for this,” you say. “I don’t have time for that.”
And while it’s true there are many things throughout a day you probably don’t actually have time for, you’d be surprised at how much of your day is taken up by empty space — otherwise known as “time not being used for things that need time to do.”
I recently spent an entire day keeping very close track of how I spent my time. I noted how much time I spent standing or sitting around scrolling through social media outside of work hours. How many minutes I stayed in bed after my alarm checking my phone. How long it took me to get off my phone and go to sleep after getting back into bed at night.
Spoiler alert: There were a lot of empty minutes. And to be honest, I didn’t even really enjoy most of that emptiness. Because there’s a big difference between mindless emptiness and “planned” emptiness — such as knowing you’re going to sit down for an hour and watch that new episode of Grey’s Anatomy on Thursday night.
It’s those unplanned, almost unnoticeable spaces throughout your day that add up to your feelings of “never having time” for the things you want to or need to do.
When I’m talking about empty space, I don’t mean that you should constantly multitask (in many cases it’s probably not helping), or that you should give up important things like sleep in order to fill more time with “stuff.” Should you be careful about how you utilize your space? Of course. But you also shouldn’t pack it so tightly that you begin to feel you’re suffocating.
You SHOULD, however, take the time to figure out what your priorities are and what they aren’t. Because if you truly want to make writing happen, and you are struggling to “find the time” to make it happen, it’s pretty clear you are choosing other priorities over writing, whether that choice is completely within your control or not.
So the question then becomes: Why aren’t you making writing a priority in your life? What can you do less of in order to create more space for all the words?
For me, creating space for creative expression often means it’s going to take me longer to get through reading a book. I don’t clean my house as often as I probably should. I don’t always get around to watching the trending movies or TV shows until weeks — sometimes even months — later. (For reference, I just watched Black Panther a few weeks ago, so, better late than never.)
Instead of spending time on things I’d often rather do, I make time for writing instead. These other things can wait. Writing could also wait, but typically the longer you wait to write, the harder it is to get back into it.
It has helped me tremendously to not only set a daily writing goal (it can be very small, like writing 500 words), but also to block out time to complete that goal. I have anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour in the morning between the time my puppy starts her morning nap and when I start my day job. I could use that time to do, well, nothing. And sometimes that’s how it ends up. But I try my very best to use it for writing, and that changes my entire day for the better.
As much as you can, make writing a priority.
Don’t say you don’t have time for it if you don’t mean it.
Pay attention to the open spaces in your day and see if writing can fit into any of them.
If it truly matters to you, you will make the time. I hope.
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.