The last few days I keep stumbling on the same issue that either some of you are expressing to me, or I see others struggling with, which is easy to summarize in the following statement:
"Oh, I want to write a book, but I have no time. There's ... (insert a valid-sounding reason like "millions of dollars to chase for my American dream" or "twenty elderly aunts to take care of" or "scores of TV shows to catch up on" or "hungry triplets to feed from three bottles at once" or whatever.)
So here's the deal. Life is full of busy shit. We're like muckworms squirming in it, fighting for that bit of sun to warm our slimy hides (you can tell writing TUBE is influencing my imagery here). And life is full of people. These people will demand things from you, like help with their own dreams of millions of dollars, or help with changing diapers of their forty elderly uncles, and on and on and on. Unless you employ a stopper for this chatter, IT WILL NEVER CEASE.
And since I've been lately very good at keeping the gates to my mind closed and as a result producing a good amount of writing every day and even accomplishing my 100-pages-a-day reading goal (I set it upon myself), I have decided to share with you this wisdom, so next time you whine and plead and beseech and moan on having no time to write, I can refer you to this post and spank you till you write me a Pulitzer. Or two. Or ten.
The rules are simple.
1. Minutes add up.
You might not realize it and not even see it, until it's evening, and you're exhausted, and there's still a shit-ton of stuff to do, and your brain is wrung dry and you can't produce squat. What writing? Fuck that. You want to drop into bed and expire. And yet you can't, that nagging question swirling in your head. "Where did the day go?"
Ever had one of those? Yeah, I know, me too. It seems you're running around all day like your ass is on fire, and nothing gets done. How is that possible? Minutes. Minutes of wasted time eat into hours eat into days.
I have recently resolved to read poetry and was breaking my head over how to find time to do it. Then I have noticed that every time I go pee, I take my phone with me. What do I do? Oh, check this and that. So I stopped doing it and decided to read a poem every time I pee. Or 10 poems every time I poop, depending on the length of the poop. The results astounded me. Little by little I have been able to read 20-30 pages of poetry a day! Granted, we girls pee more often than you guys, and we sit down, but I suppose you can easily hold your precious member in one hand and a book in another and your mom won't scream at you (in your head) for tinkling on the seat, right? You'll still retain your aim. Try it. It'll magically show you the passage of minutes.
2. If you let things sit, some of them will resolve themselves.
I occasionally would get private messages from you. DMs on Twitter, or messages on Facebook, or on Goodreads or on Wattpad. Or emails. And sometimes those would be requests of some sort. Actually, they're requests 80% of the time. "Can you read my story?" "Can you give me advice?" "Can you look at this link?" "Can you wash my dog?" "Can you dance for me naked?" Whatever it is, it lodges in my mind the moment I see it, and I start thinking about it, therefore it pushed everything else out of my mind. And if there's a bunch of these? My mind starts boiling.
So, I'm now checking these things only once a day, AFTER I'm done with my writing. An interesting phenomenon occurred. One person sent me a message, and then when I didn't respond, a few messages containing "???" All right. You see where this is coming from? From being instantly available. And that's what I mean by keeping the gates to your brain closed: keep this stuff out. In the evening I responded, and all was well. Then I got another message, and by the time I responded, the request resolved itself. Here is your new mantra (repeat after me):
I'M BUSY WRITING.
Whatever it is other people want from you, you can't give everyone everything. There's only you! You'd burst to pieces! You yourself know how much energy you have every day. Ration it. If you have 1 hour a day on engaging with people, open your gates, talk to everyone who's there, and then when the hour is up, close them. You're done. No more. You have a finite amount of time, and if you won't keep it protected, it'll be squandered by others on trifles.
3. The world won't die without you.
This is my biggest struggle still. This worry about everyone else. The kids to feed. The squirrels to make faces at. The tweets to tweet. The emails to answer. I'd get to the point of a nervous tick, compulsively reaching for my phone thinking that life as I know it has ended. Well, it didn't. In fact, it's all the better because I'm spending time on writing: it's making me happy which is making people around me happy which is making the world happy.
Whatever it is you think is draining you, push it out and close the gates! For me it's news. I don't read news. I have no capacity to deal with news and then write. If some horrible shit happens somewhere (and some horrible shit always happens somewhere) I want to drop everything and run and save everyone and fight for the right thing, and so on. Forget about writing. My mind is gone. Once I noticed it, I stopped. I was ashamed of it for a long time. "Did you hear about this-and-this?" "Nope." "But it's been all over the news!" "I don't read news." I'd get these strange accusing looks. Well, this doesn't bother me anymore.
To make a change in the world we must start with ourselves. And that's what I'm working on, that's my contribution. If one day I'll have enough mental space and ammunition to fight along with others, I will. This is not my fight right now. My fight is to learn English so I can express what I feel with such power that it will ring through your skulls and lift you up to the Moon and bash you at the stars till you'll be consumed with desire to scream my powerful words on every corner. Until then, I'm learning my craft.
I suggest you look at your life and pick your battle. And if your battle is to write a book, then set everything aside, close the gates, AND BLOODY DO IT. You don't know when you'll die.
4. It's your life. Spend it how you want to spend it.
If writing is what you want to do, as soon as you declare it to people, there will be always those who will try to stop you, dropping their own fears and unaccomplished dreams on you. KEEP THE GATES TO YOUR MIND CLOSED. Don't let those people in. Cut them out of your life. Whatever people tell you you ought to do, it's their view of your life. Well, they can go stuff their ideas up their asses. You'd be surprised how harmful words can be, how easily someone's harsh comment can dissuade you from writing and, on top of it, make you lose precious time. See the pattern here? Minutes. Once you glance at some message telling you that maybe you should drop this writing idea and go look for a job, you won't be able to get it out of your head.
So, again. Gates. Gates. GATES!!!
What you put in your head stays there. What you see you can't unsee, what you hear you can't unhear. I have noticed that one negative line can wreck me for hours. Hours! That's hours of lost writing time. We creatives are fragile girls and boys. We can pretend all we want to be thick-skinned, but we hurt, oh we hurt badly when we hear our art is worth nothing. We want to give up. We cry all day. We mop and sop and hem and haw. That is why many of us never read our book reviews (though I read every one of mine). Again, time. The minutes are ticking. Your book won't write itself, will it?
5. Don't give a flying fuck about what people think.
In case you decide to employ my method of "keeping gates to your mind closed," chances are, someone will ridicule you for it. Especially if before people have gotten used to you being constantly available. I bet they'll tell you what they think about you. I bet they'll call you names. I bet they'll throw tantrums just to show you how upset they are. Family members are especially good at this. What to do? Let them. The times of you making other people feel better are over. If you want to find the time to write, you'll have to banish all those little time suckers. Funny enough, once you start this process, people who genuinely love you will support you. It's good weeding, I tell you. True friends stay, the rest fall off. GOOD RIDDANCE.
6. Practice, practice, practice.
Like with any skill, this thing of shutting gates takes practice. You'll slip. It's okay. I slip too. But with time you'll get better, and better, and better. Ever wonder how some people you admire get it all done? It's not like they have more time than you. They have the same old 24/7, but they have learned to shut the gates and keep them closed until they get their work accomplished, whatever that work is, and open the gates only for the amount of time they can give and not a minute over. You can do the same. Once you start doing it, you'll notice people respecting your time more and more. It's an amazing feeling, to see it. You'll be nagged less. You'll be bothered only for important reasons. The world will sort itself out and adjust to you and leave you alone to create.
AND THAT IS HOW YOU MAKE TIME FOR WRITING.
P.S.: Oh, and as requested by Ryan in the comments on the book pricing post, I will write another one, with a more detailed breakdown next. So hang tight, Ryan, it's coming.