Ever get caught up in frustration that there’s just not enough time to write?
Between working full time, homemaking, investigating information we need to write, and a few other significant endeavors, like parenting, many aspiring writers feel they’ve been “tied to the whipping post!”
Tired of feeling whipped? Let’s take that WHIP in hand, turn it around, and get cracking!
First, let’s clearly identify the factors that WHIP us, ie., detract from our writing time:
W is for working! While some writers are fully financed by someone or something, most of us have to work full-time to keep that ever-so-important roof over our heads and food in our bellies! When we think about just how much time work takes, it can be quite overwhelming. There’s the eight hours of actually working (more, for most of us), plus the required time getting ready for work, getting to work, needing to hang out there, or nearby, for lunch, and returning home from work. Then there’s the things we do aside from the office that we need to do–work-related email, phone calls, documentation, planning, etc. Add it up, and average the 8-hour work day is really more like 12.
H is for homemaking! Homes don’t just make themselves. Nowhere on the planet do we see the level of entropy available in the home. You make the bed, someone sits on it. You pick up all the clutter and someone comes in with mail, keys, shoes and a half-empty soda which somehow span the length of the counter and half the hallway. Paint accumulates fingerprints and chips away at the edges. Lawns succumb to weeds and insects. Garages attract “stuff” with some yet-to-be identified force more powerful than gravity or earth’s magnetic field. Inevitably, an essential dinner ingredient is missing and someone must run to the store, delaying dinner, and dishes are not cleaned, counters wiped and sinks rinsed until 9:39 p.m. Then, just as you finish walking the dog and are about to turn out the light and head for bed (is there still time to write?), someone left a glass on the counter and a bowl and spoon in the sink. Then there’s the weekend, resplendent with hope, but, in reality, piled with laundry, consumed with shopping, sucked up with vacuuming, and splayed in unexpected emergencies like doggie diarrhea or plumbing perturbation. Result: another 4-5 hours on weekdays, plus 10-18 hours each weekend day. Zero words written.
I is for investigating. How much time do we spend investigating facts we “need” for our writing? Seriously? On a quest for the richest scenery, the finest vocabulary, the most informed factual data, and, “Oh, wait, there’s an IM from Stan. Oh, and wait, let me check Facebook, just to see if anyone liked or commented. I do need to keep up my social network,” you reason. “It will help sell my book someday.” Then, there you are, sliding down the screen in a mindless crusade for any actual post of substance or meaning from an actual friend. But then, “Whoa, look at that! Gotta save that recipe,” and “Oh, how cute! Gotta share that one,” and “Yeah, I can relate, wish I had written that SomeeCard.” Bam. 30 minutes, gone. Move over to Bing or Google, to investigate a subject for your book or blog. “What? I didn’t know that happened. Let me read more about that!” Click. Right-click and open in new tab. Click again. Until your writing time is gone and you surrender to heavy eyelids as you drop your Ipad onto your face. Result: 30 minutes (get real, 2 hours) a day! Serious sleep shortage, zero words written.
Hmm, let’s move on. The tip of the WHIP really gets us.
P is for parenting. Parenting is uber-important! It is the most important thing you can do if you have kids, or dependent grandkids. So, hopefully you’ve at least found a way to overlap or double-duty some of the above time-sucks (work, home-making, investigation) with quality parenting. Maybe you cook, eat and clean up together. Perhaps you sing a fun song while you scrub the bathroom sink and wipe the mirror while Jenny plays in the bubble bath. If your child needs help with homework, maybe you forget the dishes, order pizza and make math counters out of cucumber slices at the kitchen table with little Sam. If your granddaughter takes soccer, maybe your yard doesn’t win the neighborhood prize as you spend precious time driving her to practice and cheering from the sidelines. Let’s not succumb to guilt about parenting efforts; kids need and deserve our best more than the world needs our novel. Result: immeasurable hours, immeasurable returns, zero to no words written!
But you’re a writer. What were you thinking? You should have known that writers need countless days holed up in their rooms, typing and editing and deleting and starting over again. You should have watched Fletch. Then you’d know what a ridiculous idea this novel was in the first place. Then you’d have known how it could cost you your sanity, your family, your livelihood!
(Go see Fletch. Cheap rental, good flick.)
It’s too late to go back. You have a few chapters written and you know where you want to go with your story. You know the world needs your story! But it took five years to write those few chapters. So what is there to do? You’re WHIPped.
Can we do away with Work, Homemaking, Investigating or Parenting? No. But we can stop being their victim and get a grip!
It’s time to grab that WHIP as it comes at you again, pull it out of the hands of that cruel task-master, and stand up. If you’re with me, let’s take a whole new approach in dealing with the WHIP. Are you ready? Here it comes!
Our new acronym goes like this:
W is now for Write anyway. (I know, it sounds petty at this point. Bear with me.) Don’t give up on writing. Write about the challenge of writing. Write about the frustrations and joys of parenting, homemaking, work, investigating. Use the knowledge, experience and wisdom gleaned from the extra years your novel is taking to enrich your character development, your theme and relationships in the novel. More years of experience can deepen your maturity and message as a writer, so don’t think you’re wasting your time. Embrace the opportunity to learn from the frustrating challenges life throws at you. Let them be fuel for your fire to write.
H is now for Hold on and Heal. Let’s face it, writing can be quite cathartic. Things come up from deep inside when we’re thinking about our characters, our message and how we’re going to build tension, solve conflict and inspire our readers. There are times when your writing hits your own nail on the head, and disturbs you so deeply that you need to distance yourself to process it all. It’s okay to take a break, to put a project on hold while you do what you can to handle life’s challenges and heal from life’s bruises. Take the time to heal and be healthy. It will further enrich your stories.
I is for Inspire. Investigation is important business, too, but the new “I” will help you get the frantic search for accurate information in perspective. Does your novel really need to be a perfect source of data, or is its role to inspire those who read it? When we focus on the inspiration we’re hoping to share, it is easier to find a happy stopping point for all the information we’ve amassed! Let the data be a background that can move from remarkable clarity into a beautiful blur, accentuating the object of focus in the foreground. (Insert photo to represent focus foreground, blurred background)
P is for Plan. I bet you thought I’d say prioritize as my P word! Nope. Most books on time management stress prioritizing. The problem with prioritizing, if you’re anything like me, is that my hobbies (ie., writing) come last. Everyone and everything else seem more important at the moment. I find that if I am going to write that it’s because I plan the time for it, just like you plan a vacation, a date, or a semester in school. Planning means you put it on the calendar like an appointment. You use a paid vacation day or two, or three, for it. Writing becomes a priority if you plan it. Think of the motion a whip takes as it heads to its destination. At the onset, its tip follows the motion of the handle, looping around and gaining momentum. The wielder keeps focus and at just the right time, with a relatively small change of direction and velocity, sends the tip to its destination with a sonic boom! In the same way, planning time to write can begin with motion away from your target, and then loop into a furious concentration of energy in a planned burst that makes a tremendous impact! Then the whip pulls back to the hand of the planner, who recoils it and gets ready for the next big move. Master the art of good planning, and set and keep that appointment when you can really focus and let it all out!
Write anyway. Hold on and heal. Inspire. Plan.
Whiichhaaaaauww! You’re writing with a WHIP.
Joan T. Warren