I’m always saying I don’t have time to write and then finding time to watch The People vs. OJ Simpson or look online for new spring clothes or talk on the phone with a girlfriend or read a book. I’ve heard it said there’s no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing. I think of this when I’m lamenting how little time I have to write. How much better would I feel if I shed some of these unnecessary activities and put on my writing cap, so to speak?
The truth is, I’m familiar with all the things you’re supposed to do to make time to write. You wake up early, you stay up late, you write in your car while waiting in the carpool line at your kids’ school, you set a goal and hold yourself accountable, etc. One of my favorite mentors in grad school would wake up at 5 a.m. to work on her novel before her kids were awake. Another mentor recently wrote a blog post called “Writing While Living,” and her advice boiled down to this: don’t wait until you have time to write. Otherwise you will be in perpetual limbo and when the stars finally align and you decide it’s the right time, you’ll probably be unable to produce anything good because the muscle memory won’t be there.
This was not new advice, but I was grateful to read it since there’s a small part of me that believes you do have to be inspired to write. There are times I have felt compelled to write, even when it was inconvenient. How enjoyable it can be to drown out the noise of your life for a few minutes/hours and dive into a made up world. But I also think that part of my procrastination stems from knowing how much time and effort goes into working on a longer project, that you have to be in love with your novel, committed to it, monogamous. The last time I worked on a novel, I took a break halfway through and started writing short stories. All of those short stories have found homes in journals, and my novel remains unpublished despite my agent’s best efforts.
Logically this doesn’t make sense. But writing isn’t always about tapping into logic. I have a habit of drinking tea out of a certain mug when I sit down to write. When I started working on this blog post, I didn’t make tea, and then about halfway through I started feeling restless; after making tea, I was able to focus again. Superstition? Absolutely. But maybe being superstitious isn’t always a bad thing. Maybe there are times we need to court the muse by showing up and making time to write and maybe there are times we want the muse to hunt us down and make us write, chores and real life be darned. I think a balance of both would be nice, but I suspect I have about as much control over that as I do the weather.