I’ve just recently re-read Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott’s book on the craft of writing (and you should read it, too) and when I decided to focus on her for this week’s masterclass, I found plenty of writing tips.
What I want to point you to especially, though, is this article from Sunset magazine, “Anne Lamott on Finding Time.”
Anne talks about her writing students, the ones who bemoan the lack of time to write because they have families or jobs or need to work out or can’t stay up late at night.
Anne reminds us that if you love this craft, you’re going to have to make the time. Your house won’t be sparkling clean. You may have to give up some sleep, or a workout or ask a relative to watch the kids one night a week. If you want to write, really write, you’ll have to carve out the time. You’ll have to stay off Facebook, close down Twitter and Tumblr, turn the ringer off on the phone, put your head down and just do it.
I am a single mother, with primary custody of one spunky, argumentative teenage girl and one overly-lovable but frequently exasperating autistic boy. I work a full-time forty-hour a week job with a forty-five minute commute each way. I have no relatives around me for a thousand miles and my ex only gets the kids every other weekend.
Unfortunately, my writing deadlines don’t always conform to my child custody schedule. So concessions are made.
I won’t be doing a photoshoot for House Beautiful or Architectural Digest in my home anytime soon. Dinner is often made for the kids but not for me, and I find myself gulping a sandwich at 11pm as I sit with a laptop in bed. I get up early, I stay up late. I write on my lunch break at work. And when the kids go to visit their father – I know I have one job: put as many words down as I can, even if I think they’re crap.
So no, I don’t have any hobbies. I write.
No, I don’t watch The Walking Dead, and while Breaking Bad is now on Netflix, I haven’t seen a single episode. I know I’ll end up getting sucked in and lose precious time if I do.
I don’t have much of a social life, either, and that’s okay for now. I channel loneliness and boredom into poignant and sarcastic characters, and it all works out.
It won’t always be this way – there does have to be some balance. You can’t write about interesting lives if you don’t have a life of your own, after all. But when a work needs starting, or finishing, or continuing, or revising, you have to make the time. You just plain have to make the time.
Simple in theory, harder in practice. But worth it. So very worth it.