Why It’s OK to Say “I Just Don’t Have Time Right Now”

Is it wrong, every now and then, to be honest, and real, and say “I really can’t do this now?”

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I’ve written a lot here about time management – sort of. My belief is that we always have more time than we think we do, and that not writing because we “do not have time” is an unacceptable excuse. But is it wrong, every now and then, to be honest, and real, and say “I really can’t do this now?”

That depends.

It depends on your reasoning. I’ve had a few rough anniversaries in the past few months, and sometimes when you need to take care of yourself emotionally, taking a day off from writing is not an excuse so much as a necessity. However, those are things we can plan for. I can look at my calendar and expect that I’m going to have a really rough few days on this day and that one, so I’ll do a little more writing ahead of time to make up for it. You can’t always plan ahead. Things come up. Life takes weird turns. Sometimes you just have to move writing to a lower position on your long list of priorities.

It depends on how often you say it. Once a month? Twice a week? If you are consistently using lack of time as an excuse, there could be a lot of underlying issues. You either aren’t invested enough in your current writing project to make the time for it (which does happen) or your life is quite literally a mess right now and you’re going to have to put writing off to the side for now. That doesn’t mean you’ll never go back to it. In fact, in putting it away for the time being, you should also plan when you’re going to pull it back out.

It depends on whether or not you intend to return to writing. If you close your notebook and tell yourself you’ll get back to it “later” because you don’t have time today, that’s a little dangerous. Deep down, you probably really do want to. But if you don’t give yourself an exact day and/or time when you are going to sit down and get some writing done, you’re just going to keep putting it off. That is when “I don’t have enough time” becomes the kind of excuse that holds you back.

You’re never not allowed to take time off of writing, whether it’s because you have to take care of personal issues or because you’re trying to focus on something that, at the moment, takes priority over your writing projects. It’s when we continuously use time as an excuse that it becomes a problem. I’ve been making very slow progress on my novel for months now – not because I don’t want to work on it, but because I literally have not had time. But will I get back into it in larger doses? Of course. That’s the difference. I haven’t abandoned it. I know that after next week, I have about a month to crank out the last 20,000 words, and I plan on doing that. Just not right now. Not yet.

When was the last time you said “not right now” because of time? Were you able to get back into it? Did you feel guilty about not writing? How did you handle it?

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-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.

Image courtesy of pixabay.com.

Writers: Get Some Sleep

Want to write more – and better? When you are tired, go to sleep.

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“I’m running on THREE HOURS OF SLEEP right now!!”

“How come?”

“I’M WRITING A NOVEL!!!!!!!”

Ever been in this position before, either on the sleep-deprived side or the eye-rolling side? I’ve been on both. The former was, thankfully, a very long time ago. Like many people out there, I fell prey to the peer pressure that made me believe being tired was somehow saint-worthy. I still come across people like this all the time. They somehow think giving up sleep is more important than taking care of themselves. Writing somehow becomes more important than sanity, and health.

Listen. There’s a reason the book I finally (FINALLY) finished writing last year took three years to write. It’s not because I slacked off. It’s not because I intentionally let other things get in the way. Rather, it took me that long because I finally came to the realization that not sleeping enough, just so I could get more writing done, made absolutely no sense.

Those people who brag about being sleep-deprived because they were up all night writing? I have two theories: either they’re lying (exaggerating at least, which writers are pretty good at) or they spent a good two or three hours in front of their laptops, not writing, before they were ideally supposed to go sleep. THEN they decided they needed to get some writing done.

Our embarrassing inability to prioritize these days – myself included – is why many of us feel the need to boast about how exhausted we are. It must mean we’re just working so hard, right? Not always. Honestly, it usually means we only meant to watch one episode of Scandal and ended up watching six. Oops.

Writers, this is some of the best advice you’ll hear all week, so pay attention.

Want to write more – and better? When you are tired, go to sleep.

Staying up and getting just one more hour of writing in isn’t worth it. Not if you can get some rest, wake up an hour earlier tomorrow and write when you are well rested and adequately caffeinated.

Can’t wake up earlier? Then you’re not going to bed early enough. Your body only needs as much rest as it needs. And if your early-morning excuse is that you just don’t want to get out of bed and write, then you need to figure out another time of day you’re going to sit down and get it done. And that doesn’t mean starting at two in the morning.

Believe me, I know what it’s like to be busy. I am addicted to working, and I’m not even joking about that (if I were, I wouldn’t have repeated it so many times on this blog). I commit to way too many things, which means making time for my own writing is HARD. I’m so tired after dinner that I do not want to do any more work. So what do I do? I write for a few hours. Never past 8:00. Then I spend a few hours doing whatever it is I do on YouTube for hours at a time (shrug), because that is my fun and social time. And then … guess what? I go to sleep.

Then I wake up and do it all over again.

I always get my personal writing in (journaling, novellas, my novel). Sometimes that means I have to skip watching a show and watch it online later, or I have to tell a friend, “Hey, I’m in the middle of something right now, can we set up a time to catch up a little later this week?”

Some days, after writing all day for clients, I don’t want to write anymore. Some nights, I’m so engrossed in what I’m doing that I don’t want to go to bed. But I have to. Because then I’ll turn into one of those people who counts the hours until 5:00 on Friday hits and whines on Sunday nights because – the horror! – Monday is coming. And I refuse to be one of those people.

The same way I refuse to return to my days of walking around proud of my sleep deprivation. Because it isn’t something to be proud of. It’s unhealthy, it’s unproductive, and it doesn’t make me any more of a hard worker just because I put off my personal projects until midnight.

Granted, I don’t have my own family I’m responsible for or even my own apartment, so I don’t have a lot of the same responsibilities many of you out there might have (yet). But I do know how hard it is. That’s one of the reasons one thing we talk a lot on here about is how to find time to write. It’s a struggle. I get that.

But of all the things you could give up, please don’t let it be sleep. Your writing is going to suffer. Your energy and happiness is going to suffer. When I worked full-time in an office and had to commute into the city and back five days a week, I wrote on the train while balancing coffee in my lap at seven in the morning. I wasn’t awake enough to do it – because I’d only been up for an hour, after sleeping for seven – but I made it work. I made sleep a priority. And so should you!

Sleep. Find other time throughout the day – breaks, lunch, while waiting for water to boil – to get a little writing in. Get into a routine and make it stick. Well rested and energized, you’re going to write much more efficiently, which makes for a little less editing later. Right? Right.

If you’re still reading this, and it’s past your “bed time” – go to sleep! Now! Then, when you wake up in the morning, get back to writing.

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-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.

Image courtesy of Flickr.