Slivers of Time: Uncovering Writing Moments for Your Customized MFA
So, you’ve got your preliminary reading list in hand, and you feel like you’re well on your way to earning your customized MFA. Congratulations! Of course, you can read book after book, relishing every moment, but if you don’t make the time to write, you’re not a writer. Writers make the time. Simple as that. If you’re a writer, you write. If you’re not a writer, feel free to switch on the television or grab the newspaper.
These next three posts will explore ways you can uncover hidden time you can use to write, ways you can ensure that, once you sit down, you do actually write, and ways get your work read and critiqued by others so that you can rewrite with a purpose.
Making the Time
Writing takes time. In fact, it takes tremendous amounts of time. There’s no way around it. Allowing enough time for serious writing, in addition to all the reading you’re doing while pursuing your customized MFA, isn’t going to be an easy task, but if you truly want to be a writer, if there are words inside you clawing to get out, then you have no choice in the matter. You must find enough time every day to craft your literary art, or else your talent and drive will languish and fade away.
But, there simply aren’t enough hours in the day, I hear you say. My days are packed full. I can’t get everything done, as it is. That’s not the whole truth of it, though, is it? There are ways you can fit more writing time into your life, but they require commitment. They require willpower. They require giving things up, maybe those things you most look forward to and believe you depend on. But, if your desire to be a writer is strong enough, passionate enough, there’s no doubt: you’ll be able to make enough time.
If you’re just starting out as a writer, you could do worse than strip your television’s electric plug-wire, wrap a spike around it, and then stick it back into the wall. See what blows, and how far. Just an idea.
~ Stephen King
Do you watch television (or Netflix or movies)? Even a half-hour of writing time a day is generous when compared to no writing time, at all. This sounds like common sense, but the allure of passively sitting in front of a screen even for a few minutes, a screen that was designed solely to capture your attention and entertain you, is tough to contend with.
Okay, television is obvious, but what else do you do that robs you of writing time? Do you surf online? What about Facebook and other social media? Do you do the crosswords every morning or play online games? Do you spend too much time reading or watching the news? Is any of these activities actually more important to you than your writing?
Embrace Your Edges
Write at the edges of the day.
~ Toni Morrison
What are the edges of the day? These are the early morning and late night hours, those times before the work of the day begins and after it’s finished. It’s those blissfully quiet hours while your loved ones sleep. Toni Morrison began writing while she was a single mother of two small boys, rising at 4 AM every morning.“Writing before dawn began as a necessity – I had small children when I first began to write and I needed to use the time before they said, Mama – and that was always around five in the morning.” Can you wake up before anyone else in your house and spend an hour or two happily stringing words together? Can you snatch an hour or two after dinner’s been eaten and the children have gone to bed? This may take some getting used to, but changing your daily routine to incorporate time for writing will pay off in ways you can barely conceive. There’s nothing like the dream of holding a finished manuscript in your hands, and allowing yourself a set amount of time every morning or evening is one way to translate that dream into reality.
Discover Hidden Time
I can write anywhere. I write in airports. I write on airplanes. I’ve written in the back seats of taxis. I write in hotel rooms. I love hotel rooms. I just write wherever I am whenever I need to write.
~ Garrison Keillor
Do you have a lunch hour at work? A long wait for your dentist? Did you drop our daughter off at soccer practice, and now you have to wait around until she’s done? Do you have a long commute or maybe a half-hour to kill between appointments? There are slivers of time, jewels hidden in plain sight, that are just waiting to lend themselves to your writing energies. Use them. Train yourself to notice them, and grab them before they pass by. Keep a notebook and pen with you, or a tablet or laptop, or a recording device so you can dictate, and you’ll be ready any time a spare moment offers itself to you.
Make Writing a Priority
Take a long, uncompromising look at the way you divide up your time. Are you allowing time for things that actually matter less to you than your writing? Are you spending time with friends you don’t care for? Watching television shows that are forgotten minutes after they end? Attending mind-numbing town meetings? Religiously washing your Dodge Dart for an hour every Saturday morning? What are you making time for instead of writing, and are those things truly more important to you? Carry a notebook in your pocket or purse for a few weeks and jot down how much time you spend on each and every thing. Then, decide whether there might be a better way to allocate your daily allotment of hours.
Once you decide how much time you can devote to your creative work and when, pencil it into your planner. No, ink it in. This time is sacred. Nothing, save for an emergency, may interfere with your planned writing time. Tell everyone around you that this is your time, and you’ll be available to them after it ends, but while you’re writing, nothing is to interrupt you. Your passion, your desire, your talent and ability are worthy of this time, and you must value these precious writing minutes and protect them.