Writing Wednesday: Carving Out Time

Like most people who write but also have the day job, it’s often a battle to get the space to write, even with good planning and time management. Still, when I feel I’m not making progress, I can open the folder on the computer and see that I am. The number of chapters, the word counts, increase pretty regularly.

I wish I could support myself with my writing. Who doesn’t want to play with their invisible friends all day?

There are just so many other things. Even the things I enjoy, like visiting family, taking a walk, spending time with friends, or watching a movie, they all take time. So how do I have time to write.

The fact is, I didn’t have time while my kids were growing up. I went to work, went home, helped kids with homework, got dinner on, put everyone through showers, got everyone to bed, fell over, and my alarm went off at 5:30 A.M. the next day so I could go to work again.

If that life sounds familiar, cut yourself some slack. Depending on the ages of your kids, you may not have the option to write on workdays. You may even be at home with toddlers and still not have the option. Kids need their parents, and that’s just the way it goes.

With the understanding that I couldn’t do it then, and that my living situation is likely different than many others, I’m going to share what my week looks like and where I find time to write. This isn’t because I think I’m better off than anyone else, but in hopes of helping you find inspiration while you look at your time.

I’ll also add on, many people ask me when I sleep, and the answer was: I sleep at night. A big challenge I’m still fighting is the chronic fatigue from the post-covid symptoms. When that fatigue happens, there are no plans that get completed. It’s not physically possible. I’ve had to learn to be gentle with myself about that… something I’m not great at when I’m in good health!

So, now that I put in all the caveats, here’s my typical week.

Sunday: Cooking/meal prep for the following week (approx 3 hrs). Dishes (30 min). Housework (generally an hour unless I go diving into a large project, then it could be 2-3). Sometimes a tv show or movie streamed with friends in the evening (2 hrs).

Monday-Friday: work, sometimes a quick run to the store beforehand because I work a later shift and have mornings clear. Walk the dog before and after, go to bed pretty quickly after.

Saturday: Laundry, grocery shopping, visit with family most weekends, pet care (a husky mix needs an insane amount of brushing, even when she’s not blowing her coat), sorting and paying bills, and other errands that need to be handled. (Yes, Saturday tends to be a very busy day for me.)

I typically get to bed between 10 and 11 at night and wake up around 7:30 in the morning.

Okay, so, what about writing?

Here’s where I put it.

I got a chromebook I can take with me while doing laundry. The ONLY account logged in is the one I use to manage all my writing. As tempting as it is to get my personal gmail on there, I refuse to do it. While the laundry is running, I’m writing. I even take it when visiting family and keep poking at things if we’re watching a show or I’m watching them play a video game. I print out chapters and edit by hand while cooking and while watching TV.

On Sunday I write my blog posts and throw a few things together for Twitter so I don’t have to stay glued to social media. I used to also create content for Facebook, but I deleted my account a few months ago and do not regret it. I also work on the newsletter over the weekends, though that’s generally something I do when there’s a smaller chunk of time because it’s really a series of shorter pieces.

Because I work the later shift, I use the mornings to fill in any gaps in this blog. I also work out snags in the plot, and do a little bit of writing on my WIP. Not every morning is suited to that, but where I can, I will.

Total time per week for writing ranges from 7 to 15 hours, depending on what’s going on at the time.

The biggest challenge is not letting myself get distracted. I love writing, and it has become a default setting, but I also enjoy many other things. I have to protect that writing space even from myself.

Maintaining the boundary around “This is time for writing and working on my stories,” is also something I have to do with friends and family. I do turn down invitations because I’m going to be writing. I do warn people a few days in advance if I’m going to be turning the phone off and making myself unavailable.

Wherever the time exists, whether that’s during a long commute, on your breaks at work, getting up earlier or staying up later than the rest of the household, find it. The fact is, you deserve to do something that you’re passionate about. Consider it a form of self-care.

Once you find the time, defend it. If your time is found by getting up before everyone else, don’t let anyone get the idea they can get up early and start making demands on your time.

And remember, we say “carving out time” because just like carving, it takes effort, adaptability, and focus.

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