"I read and walked for miles at night along the beach, writing bad blank verse and searching endlessly for someone wonderful who would step out of the darkness and change my life. It never crossed my mind that that person could be me." -- Anna Quindlen, Living Out Loud.
When aspiring writers tell me they lack time to write, I pose “The Miracle Question”:
Let’s say you go to sleep tonight and during the wee hours, a miracle occurs. When you wake up, everything that has been sucking time from your day and driving you crazy has miraculously evaporated and you have as much time as you want to write. How much time would that be?
What has fascinated me as I’ve asked this of a dozen people, is how little time they ultimately realize it will take to satisfy what they claim to be their heart’s desire.
“Ah,” most muse quietly, not believing, but wanting to, that a miracle could really take place, “enough time to write.” I can hear the smile in their voices. (I mostly coach over the phone). They usually begin by enthusing how, given the chance, they’d start writing and never stop. I question them. “Assuming you’re awake 16 hours a day, you’re saying you want to spend every moment writing?” That usually stops them. “Hmmm, well, now that I think about it, I guess not.”
A little more probing generally leads to the realization that an hour or two a day, perhaps a morning, would feel like enough. If they could devote only sixty minutes out of 1,440 to writing, it would satisfy the itch, make them feel as though they are accomplishing something, give them some control, bring a bit of peace and satisfaction or any number of other benefits. It might not generate a thriving career, but it could certainly jump start one.
My next question, and one I suggest you ask yourself if you’re in this situation, is “On a scale of 1-100, how badly do you want this time? Do you crave it? Is it a hunger? Is it worth sacrificing for?” If it’s a yearning, not a passion, you may need to accept that it is not important enough to fight for. That’s why it’s critical to ask yourself the question and be honest with the answer.
What many of us long for of course, is a real life miracle—preferably one for which we need do nothing more than open our arms and rejoice when it comes to us. But in a world powered by myriad demands, how is it possible to achieve our dreams if we are not absolutely sold on them? If gaining time to write is not as important to you as eating, spending time with friends or loved ones, doing for others; if it is not a healthy obsession, a fire in your belly, an overpowering urge, then you are unlikely to make the necessary commitment, much less stick with it. If writing feels like a preference, rather than a burning, hot blooded craving, it can be all but impossible to find the time, much less justify it to ourselves.
So may I suggest that if you want to write, but haven’t been able to consistently work the time into your life, that you take a few minutes to address these questions:
1. How much time would I need to devote to writing to make me happy?
2. How committed am I to taking this time? (Scales work well for this, try 1-100, 1 being “not at all” and 100 being “I am fully committed.")
3. If I am committed, how will I make time for writing?
4. What will I do if I do not live up to my commitment; who or what can I call on to keep me accountable?
It is as simple as this: If you want to find the time, you will. If not, it is best to accept that this is where you are right now in your life. You can always ask the questions again another day. Who knows, maybe then, you’ll come up with different answers. But at the very least you will act on your true beliefs and will relieve yourself of the burden of pretending that you can’t get what you truly want.