Too Busy to Write: How I found the time…

Today is day 12 of my work week and so I thought I’d post about making time to write. It’s highly unusual to have such a prolonged grant push in the lab so I’m not grumpy in the slightest, just thoroughly exhausted. There’s something satisfying about delivering double the amount of work requested, particularly when you work with a highly appreciative team. But less about grant season and more about writing…

Just as I was diving into the literary scene, I had the opportunity to hear Christine Comaford read from her book, Rules for Renegades, at LitQuake 2009. From her book: “Renegades are willing to do whatever it takes; they have that fire in the belly.”

What stuck with me was a story she told about putting a poster up in her cubicle that read, “Your first million” printed over a pile of cash. Of course I wasn’t looking to make my first million, I was trying to write my first book, but the tactics ended up being the same. Her take home message: Do whatever it takes to reach your goal. Every time you do something whether it is a purchase or your time, it should further that single goal. Whether it’s making it in business or writing a book, having that sort of focus can take you far. She made her first million, and I very nearly have a first draft. Many thanks to Ms. Comaford, she may well be the reason I found time to write.

One simple question: Is this helping me reach my writing goal?

I asked it every time I did something, ensuring my mental RAM, my time, and even my money, were all devoted to chasing down my goal. This was me going “all in.”

It’s common to be over-committed, everyone is over-committed. If I’m not over-committed I feel like I’m wasting time. There’s too much to do and too much to see, to just lay around. But, that over-committed addiction was going to get in the way of my writing goal so I chucked it. It was down to bare essentials, back to basics, if I was going to get this thing written.

Basics meant no changes in my work life (I love what I do, it doesn’t just pay the bills), keeping up with family responsibilities (which happened to be fairly demanding, check out my next project CRUSHED at, and finding time to run. Now that I see them listed here, there were a lot of basics. However, the next list is longer.

Everything else was cut: reading science books (since college, I have almost always read three books at a time: science, non-fiction, and poetry), any kind of art (quilting, photography, painting, crafting, etc), and lazy free time. Yes, my hobby buddies were disappointed but I did keep quilt camp. I now only sew once a year for a week up in the woods with my quilting friends. Odd factoid, I know. No, putting all of these things on hold didn’t hurt as much as I thought.  I also cut out huge chunks of sleeping. Aunt Jean always said, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” Agreed.

For months, I got up three hours early, crossed the bridge in the dark and was the first customer at the coffee-house. Yes, writing in a coffee-house has become such a cliché, that the cliché of writing in a coffee-house is a cliché in and of itself. I dare you to use cliché three times in a sentence. I ended everyday in that same coffee-house; I was typing when it opened and typing when it closed, working 8 hours in the lab in between. At least I avoided bridge traffic.

This wasn’t the only time I wrote, I bounced around to different places on weekends and built writing into my schedule. Every time I went somewhere, I left no less than an hour early. I’d get near where I was going, stop off somewhere to write and then make that baby/wedding/whatever shower on time. My cheap little netbook was my lifeline, I took it everywhere.

So that was partly how I got through my near first draft in less than 18 months. Now things are a little different, you can’t live your entire life with just the basics. However, that first year focused my energy and when I started adding things back into my life, I didn’t lose that fire in the belly.

That’s how I did it, how do you do it?


Up Next:

Literary Immersion Therapy: How I dove into the Lit Scene…

2 Responses to “Too Busy to Write: How I found the time…”

  1. Melissa, This is awesome, and exactly what I needed to read! I’m having a hard time making time to write, and I’ve been so distracted. I need to refocus and think about whether or not what I am doing at any given moment helps me reach my writing goals. You are an inspiration! –Nicole

    • Melissa Henry Says:

      Thanks so much for your comment, Nicole! It’s definitely a struggle and so, many more posts to come on this topic somewhere in the future. In addition to all of this, if I didn’t have a dedicated writer’s group who demanded ten new pages every two weeks, I don’t know where I’d be. Best of luck!

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