A lot of people want to be writers. The desire to express a story, and get paid for it, is an attainable dream. After all, there are no qualifications needed and no expensive tools required. All you need is a pen and paper, and your creativity to come up with a good story (that’s the hard part). Yet for the majority of new or aspiring writers, the most commonly heard phrase is: “I don’t have time to write”.
And they’re right. They don’t have time to write. It doesn’t matter who they are and what they do (frazzled single mother of four, hard working corporate exec, fresh faced graduate), the fact is that they want to write but they don’t have the time to fit it into their schedule. This is perfectly acceptable and reasonable. A lot of professional writers and lecturers, and perhaps even blogs, will say that the phrase “I don’t have time to write” is a poor excuse for not actually sitting down to do the work.
This line of thinking is an easy superior position to take. It’s unfairly focusing on the person’s perceived lack of commitment to stick to their goals. Professionals can sniff at the wannabes that the difference between writers and those who want to write is that writers write (I’m paraphrashing Martin Amis here). There is no question that this statement is true but just because someone says “I don’t have time to write” doesn’t mean that they’re slacking off from actually scribbling something down.
People work their ass off to make ends meet, pay their bills, feed their kids, love their partners - y’know life - and this kind of demand can drain the creative energy that’s necessary to write. In this instance not having the time to write is genuinely true and fair: “I’m exhausted, I’ll get to it next week.” However, the phrase is misleading and subconsciously damaging. It’s time for the phrase “I don’t have time to write” to be turned into a question: “How do I find the time to write?” The answer is The Push.
The Push is the extra drive and commitment necessary to turn the writing hobby into a career (or at least a regular hobby). It exists on two levels: one for the aspiring writer and the other for the professional. The aspiring writer needs to find The Push in order to discover their writing routine. The professional writer needs The Push when he’s obsessively checking emails every thirty seconds and staring in front a blank page for two hours. One is trying to find the time to write, the other is trying to make the best use of the time that they’ve created.
If you’re an aspiring writer, there are a couple of ways to find the time to write:
No time to write but have enough time to watch your favourite TV show? Tape it. Write. An hour a day, after dinner, before you go to bed, whatever. If you’re not generating the creative momentum and energy you crave and feel that one hour isn’t enough or too frustrating, then get up earlier at the weekends or stay up later. Lunch hour usually spent with Pete chatting about sports & TV? Tell him sorry, not today fella, and scribble down some thoughts while you munch your sandwich. Find the gaps in your week and plug them with writing time. Get into the swing.
2. The Extreme
Give up your full-time job. Write. Married with kids? Explain your frustration and passion to your partner, see if you can find a way to make it work. Embrace a total lifestyle change and a whole new set of compromises. Get a part-time job if necessary but ensure that writing takes up the majority of the working days. (This is what I did: I gave up my job. Started writing. “Whoops, how am I going to pay the rent?” Read scripts. Earned pittance but enough to pay the bills, and it immersed me in the craft of screenwriting, so it felt like writing full-time.)
For the professional writer, here are a couple of ways to avoid procrastination or the desire to switch on the PlayStation:
1. Random Notes
If you’re working on a story but don’t see a way in or you’re stuck , try scribbling down some random notes about the character or what the general plot-line is, then try to use this as a ‘snowball effect’ to generate the required momentum to get into the story proper. The brain may be feeling resistant to such activity but soon, two hours pass by and you’ve made some progress. Trying to write outlines for Doctors particularly works well in this regard.
2. Sod It
Turn on PlayStation. Only joking. It’s ‘Question Time’. Prepare a little Q&A for yourself but make the questions specific about the characters and story that you’re currently avoiding working on. Questions like: “How did I get this idea?” “Why do I think it’s a story worth telling?” “Does it really excite and/or interest me?” “Do I think it will excite and/or interest others?” “Would I want to be friends with the main character?” “What’s at stake?” Etc. Then turn on PlayStation.
Obviously, these are tips and methods that work for me so they might be useful to try if you’re stuck or struggling to find the time to write. A lot of readers of this blog are committed and professional scribes so feel free to share your writing tips and methods. I find all kinds of advice and approach can be inspiring and encouraging but it all boils down to one incentive really: getting The Push.