Life is crazy and I’ve been trying to think of a blog topic for weeks. Between substitute teaching, my church calling, and endless family drama (ask me about the tenant we evicted from our NC house -- no, on second thought, don’t ask), my writing has been on the back burner for months. I. Hate. It. I’ve been sewing quilts to feel like I’m accomplishing something. The only problem is that every time I go to the fabric store, I think of new quilts I want to sew, and the writing gets more neglected. Yesterday I sat down to read over the few chapters of Vesta Divided I wrote somewhere back in September, and drew a total blank on what I planned to write next. Even with the book’s detailed outline on a piece of paper next to my laptop. Help, someone kidnapped my muse, and I think the villain is Time.
I’m convinced we are our own worst enemies when it comes to beating ourselves up over how we use our time. For example, the time I spend on Facebook since I signed up for it could have been used to write six novels by now. Instead I waste time online, arguing with strangers over Constitutional rights and posting photos of the quilts I’ve sewn. I know it’s a black hole for my time, but why do I spend hours on it?
Why is time so easy to waste? When I’m at work, I want to be writing. When I’m doing housework, I want to be writing. When I’m reading or editing someone else’s work, I want to be writing. When I’m writing I want to be actually writing instead of moving commas around and changing my indent spacing.
As a creature of habit, I have a few requirements that need to be in place for the writing muse to visit. You might call them excuses (you can omit ‘might’), but I’m not one of those authors who can write anywhere and keeps a daily word count goals. (NaNoWriMo? Get thee hence!) I must be at my desk, in front of a window, room temperature ideal, and no distractions. Which means if my family is at home, I’m not going to get much done.
To be fair, I’ve trained my family not to talk to me when I’m at my desk. If the matter is urgent (like the house is on fire), they can interrupt after I look up from whatever I’m typing. For years my husband couldn’t understand why I got irritated by what he considered reasonable interruptions – “What’s for dinner?” “Who cares? Go away.” “Do we need to pick up (name of son) from work?” “By ‘we’ do you mean ‘me’? Go away.” – Until I painstakingly explained to him that stopping in the middle of a thought or sentence was maddening. “Can it wait? Then go away!”
I consider writing the highlight of my life, so why isn’t the bulk of my time focused on it? Am I so distracted that I can’t rescue my poor muse and keep her safe in the land of no distractions? Don’t I want to finish my book? (Yes!) So what’s the problem?
There’s a season for everything (cue music, “Turn, Turn, Turn” by the Byrds) and since I’m not in school (as a student), don’t have small children at home, don’t work full time, and am not in the middle of renovating my house (yet), I should have tons of time to write, right? How I envy authors who manage to crank out 5,000 words a day with small children, a full-time job, and a house renovation in progress! I should be the master of time, not its servant, so what to do?
Getting off the internet would be a start. Keeping my phone in my purse where I can’t hear it beep when I get a text. Stop reading – that’s like saying “stop breathing” – but books are a distraction for me. Stop loading new ebooks onto my Kindle (staying offline would help with that issue). Delegating chores like meal preparation and laundry to my fully-capable adult sons would make life easier. The job I can’t cut back on, or the calling, and I can’t ditch my family (although sometimes I’d like to), but I can figure out where my time management goes off the rails and fill that void with writing.
Guilt is never good motivation to get things done. If all we did was give, give, give, we would be hating life in short order. Yes, there are things we, as functioning adults, are obligated to do every day. But “take time to smell the roses” is important too. So some days I waste an hour or two reading, cooking something decadent (and eating it), painting my toenails, texting or having lunch with a friend, or staring out the window at the falling snow, but these selfish moments help recharge me for the next round of duties.
As we get into the Christmas season, doesn’t it feel as if we have even less time to work with? Suddenly the calendar fills up and stress levels rise. I evaluated how I spend my time in December years ago and came to the conclusion that I would be happier if I gave up baking. Less cleaning the kitchen. Less weight gain. And since I’m off gluten, there’s no temptation lying around to be consumed. It’s a win-win because I feel less busy, less stretched. Christmas is about Christ, right? Not cookies.
So I’m done rambling – I think. My goal is to stop wasting time where I can and get back to writing. What will you do with your time? Is it your servant or your master?