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Woohoo, back to guilt-free writing!

This week has been the first really good “writing week” for a while for me. And I’ve finally figured out one of the major factors that lets me just write without restraint: being guilt-free.

I’m not talking about the sort of guilt one might get from having done something “bad”. I mean the sort of nagging guilt that sits in the back of your head, telling you that writing is something you should be doing after you’ve done this or that, that other things should take precedence and need doing first, and then you can get back to writing. That guilt actually has no right to exist! That might be obvious in hindsight, and some may be lucky enough to have a lot more time to dedicate to writing and it never becomes an issue, but to me, it’s something I only really thought about this week.

Working full-time and having a family means I have a very limited amount of time to spend on my hobbies and my passion, writing. (Not that I mind – I enjoy what I do and love my family to bits.) Work has been busy, plus I helped someone out putting together a website, plus a few other things that needed to be taken care of, plus I think I put myself under a bit of pressure taking part in the A to Z Challenge last month, so overall my writing suffered a bit. Oh, I found some time to edit here and there, to make notes about things I need to change/rephrase/improve/add/remove here and there while reading my work on the train to and from work, to write down some ideas I had; I even got around to writing just a little. But it wasn’t really much – not enough to give me that satisfaction that my book is progressing nicely, which is an awesome high.

The unexpected positive side-effect from having had all this time where I didn’t get around to writing much is that, instead of feeling a little guilty, I feel like… well, like I’m owed some writing time.

The pendulum has swung to the other side.

This Wednesday (my designated writing day during the week), I had a really great session and got a sizeable chunk of writing done. Ah, that feels great! And I think that I can now use this experience to my advantage by telling myself that I should be allowed to write more – as long as I don’t neglect the other things I need to do, that nagging feeling of guilt has no right to tell me I should do something else first. Feels good to have figured out that I can now “influence” that pendulum and tell it to stay the heck on one side, the other side is off limits unless it has a really good reason to be there. (Ok, on second thoughts, a pendulum isn’t really the best analogy… but you get my meaning.)

So now, I’m back to sitting at my desk, headphones on with some of my favourite music playing, and I’m enjoying writing a quick blog post (I keep telling myself it’ll be quick, but it never is…) before I get to travel back into that wonderful world I’ve created in my mind. I don’t even care whether saying that it’s wonderful is bragging. 😛 I got some gaming out of my system as well this week (something I need to do periodically, I’ll blog at some point about that “other guilty pleasure”), so nothing is standing in my way, including my own conscience. I have the right mindset and I’m not letting go.

Take that, guilt!

It’s Saturday night, no plans, no guilt, and there are hours left in which I can write. In the immortal (paraphrased) words of the great poet, Homer Simpson:

Mmmmh, writing… *drool*

How to make time for writing in a busy life

Having just read an interesting post by Nathan Bransford about not having to write every day, I thought I’d add my 2 cents as well. (Since we round to the nearest 5 cents in Australia, I can actually hand out 2 cents to all writers without beggaring myself in the process. I don’t do foreign exchange, though, sorry.)

Nathan advises writers to do “whatever works for you”, and here’s what’s worked really well for me when I really wanted to complete the manuscript I’d been working on for about ten years while still working full-time.

Designate a “Creative Day”

Originally, the idea behind it was to get the kids to stop relying on electronic devices so much. They seemed to believe they had the right to watch a movie every day, plus get their “half an hour of video game time” (that’s our limit, but the tricksy little hobbitses got around it by watching each other’s half an hour… grrr!), plus use the PC for homework. Ok, we can’t get around that last one, but the others are already too much in some parents’ books.

Thus we decided that we’d have a day where they couldn’t watch TV or a DVD, or play games on handhelds or consoles or computers or tablets or phones or whatever else there is. They had to do something… creative. Like craft something, paint or draw something, build something with Lego or the like, play with their toys, play board games (just like the grandpa in The Princess Bride says, “When I was your age, television was called books,” we told the kids, “When we were your age, MMOs were called board games…” – but no, I wasn’t into D&D). Even reading is fine (imagining things is creative, right?).

The unexpected side-effect of this was that we, the parents, couldn’t really be couch potatoes while the kids were being creative. Using the “PC for homework” analogy, I convinced them that I should be allowed to sit in front of my computer after work and write.

Wednesdays worked best for us, and I was lucky enough to be able to arrange it so that I could stop working a bit earlier on Wednesdays and use the remainder of the afternoon and most of the evening to write until my fingers bled. Figuratively, not literally.

Between Creative Day every Wednesday and the time I took to write on the weekends, I made an amazing amount of progress and wrote more in the last year of working on that manuscript than I did in the nine years before that. (More details on my progress/failure/revamp there in an earlier post, The Road So Far.)

What works for you?

This might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you find you’re having a hard time squeezing in some quality writing time between work, family, and other hobbies, perhaps this can help you as it helped me. If you’re lucky enough to be able to afford writing full-time, I’m sure you’ll recall a time when you struggled to find the time. If you can squeeze in an hour or so every day, brilliant, do that. Whatever works for you, just make sure you keep on writing!

Feel free to share your tips and tell me what works for you in the comments, or blog about it yourself and let me know where to read about it.

Cheers,

AMC