February 1, 2012

On making time for the things you want to do

I don't get personal on this blog often. Well, not much beyond geeky stuff anyways. Don't worry, I'm not going to get crazy. I just want to answer a question that I get asked a lot. As some of you may know, I have a dayjob. I'm lucky enough to have a great dayjob, one that I really enjoy. But in my free time, I'm pursuing writing. I'm inching closer and closer to being able to write full time, but it's still a few years off (at least). I'm not even sure I'm brave enough to go fully freelance. So given that I work 45+ hours in a week and write a few things, people often ask me how I do it or whether I ever sleep. The easy answer: I make time.

I know, easier said than done. It doesn't help that I spend two hours of each weekday commuting (yes, I am great friends with the 405). But when you want to do something, when you're chasing the thing you love doing, you just have to suck it up. Figure out how much time you need every day to write or create and squeeze it out of your schedule. It could mean giving things up. Honestly though, if you're not willing to sacrifice time spent watching TV or sleeping or playing video games here and there, it's probably not something you are crazy about doing. I mean, I have time to exercise. I could easily fit that into my schedule. I could get up thirty minutes earlier or take a run when I get home from work, but I don't want to make time for it.

I realize I have it easier than someone with a family. I just have cats and myself to look after, not kids. But I take my inspiration from a guy (Travis Hanson, creator of the Eisner-nominated webcomic The Bean) who has a full time job and a large family and he manages to chase his dream. He has a saying, "Don't tell me how bad you want your dreams to happen, show me." Such a simple statement but so easy to follow. I repeat it like a mantra. Don't just talk about doing the things you want to do, actually do them. For me, it means making myself write even when I don't feel like it and even when I am exceptionally tired. Especially at those times. It means writing when you have no "inspiration." You'll definitely go through periods when you feel like what you're typing or trying to create is worthless. You'll feel like you can't write and should never sit down in front of a keyboard or pick up a pen again. You can't let it stop you from trying though (I often pick up Natalie Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones when I'm having bad writing days just to get my brain moving again).

Actually, that's not entirely true. Sometimes if you are obviously hitting a wall, it's good to walk away. I trust you're able to recognize when you're at one of those places.

I don't really have a set schedule either. I could be better about that, but I don't have a set amount of time I spend writing each day. I do have a writing calendar. I know what articles are due when and where and when I want to post on my blog. I keep track of random ideas for articles on that calendar. I make a list of things I need to write every night, and I have a side list of pitches I want to work on and I'm just starting preliminary research on a book. I often bribe myself with rewards for finishing articles. And they are silly awards - like watching an episode of a TV show or having a glass of wine or cookies. That makes me sound like I'm 12, but it works for me. I've also learned that I work better late at night rather than early in the morning. So I stay up. I try to always get at least five hours of sleep, and usually it's more in the neighborhood of  six-seven. I also make it a point to make some time to read. That's important to writing (I still don't read as much as I'd like to).

This sort of makes me sound like I'm a crazy self-disciplined person who never has any fun. Neither of those things are true. I am the queen of procrastinating. It's actually kind of embarrassing. That habit has caused me more than a couple of almost sleepless nights meeting deadlines. Since I recognize that about myself and know that it's hard for me to switch out of that lifelong habit, I kind of plan for it. I trick myself sometimes. I also make sure my schedule has time for hanging out with friends and going neat places. Sometimes the fun doubles as work. I had the best possible day visiting Rancho Obi-Wan with friends, but I also did a couple of interviews while I was there. It's okay to do both at the same time.

My schedule's not perfect. I know I'd get more done if I did things like ignore Twitter and Facebook and just generally managed my time better. I have an okay balance right now though, and I feel like I'm still making forward progress. I might be inching rather than running, but still. Forward.

What do you guys do to make time for the things you love?


  1. I'm glad you "got personal" in this post - this was encouraging and motivating. Thanks! :)

  2. A lovely post...and very true. I know what I want to do, but between working 60 hour weeks, a baby and the ever-present specter of research, I am REALLY bad about actually making time for the writing that I *want* to do.

    Thanks for the thought provoking post. :)

  3. Very touching post Amy!

    My schedule isn't as busy as that, but I try as much as possible to merge what I do with what I love (I've just started a Film Production course).

    I really need to start writing at a more regular pace than I used to, but nowadays I've got more original projects (when I started, I crossed 'Star Wars' with 'Predator' and 'Terminator' with 'Alien'. And then another 'Predator' with 'Jurassic Park'...Which I sent to my Producer contact who said I'm on the way to be 'a writer to contend with'! Anyway, I digress)

    But yeah, I'm ploughing through! ^^ Very good luck with your own writing! It inspires others I'm sure!


  4. "Don't tell me how bad you want your dreams to happen, show me."

    That's so awesome. And so true. When I used to do a lot of crafts like cross stitch, I would hear people say, "Oh I wish I had time to do that!" I was always tempted to day, "But you would have time if you really truly wanted it." We make our priorities, and we're ultimately in control of what we choose to give our time to. Of course, family and work usually come first, and, frankly, that's how it should be.

    Thanks for sharing your tips and tricks for getting some good writing time in, also. I'm not writing for anyplace other than my two blogs, but I'm trying to maintain a pretty frequent scheduled of posts. I like to keep an hour slot open for each of those each day, but sometimes I have to short one or the other, or both, because of life. Flexibility helps, and I have some fall-back posts that keep me writing without taking up too much time.

    And, like you, a lot of my regular-life events and activities are what I blog about. For example, while I was on a creek hike with my class this morning, I was taking notes on what the professor asked to cover, like everyone else, but I was also taking notes for a blog post I wanted to do, and taking photos as I went along.

  5. Hi! I've recently stumbled across your blog, and this last post has been spot on! It's encouraging to read about someone else's experience, and more importantly about making time to write. Also, it's a hell of a motivator.

    Personally, I've always liked to write, but have struggled to actually do it. Call it lazyness, call it a lack of belief in my own writing, but either way I've had a hard time sitting down and doing it regularly. Of course, life has a way of making it even more difficult with time, especially when balancing a full time job. Alas, in spite of that, here I am slowly learning how to make time, not unlike what you've described.

    Anyway, thanks for the post!

  6. This lesson is perhaps the hardest in life to learn -- it's also the most valuable. Sometimes, you genuinely *don't* have time. But most of the time, you do, even only if that time is very little. If you use it the right way, you can do so much with it. I proved this to myself the year I set a goal to read 50 books and read 73. Or when I completed a NaNo novel this past year. It's hard to drag yourself away from the trivial things in life. But if you do make time for the things you love, even if you have to drag yourself to do them some days, it really pays off.

  7. It's nice to know I'm not alone in figuring out how to balance life to fit everything in. :)

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  9. Time this thing is difficult to distribution, has been a headache!
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