A Time to Write:

How to phrase your New Year’s resolution properly

It will be after New Year’s Day when you read this (my resolution should be to get these tips written in a more timely fashion!) but today is December 29th, and three days hence a lot of people will resolve to find some time to write in 2006. And a lot of them, as the year passes, will fail.

Why is it so hard to find time to write? I think the first reason is that “finding” time is almost as rare as finding money. Very few people have spare hours drifting around in their days, and on the rare occasions when you do come across a patch of free time, you’re usually not prepared for writing.

Like money, time has to be made. And since the time bank in that old commercial, where you could drive up to the window and buy a few hours, doesn’t exist, to get the time you need to write you have to give up something else. And since you can’t avoid all the stuff you have to do (by definition) to get the time you need to write, you have to give up something you want to do. You have to give up something fun and/or relaxing. You have to give up some of your play time. Ouch.

And further, you’re exchanging your play time for work. It’s interesting work, sure. It’s an ever-changing challenge, and when it goes well it leaves you with this incredible, creative high. As jobs go, it’s probably the best there is…but it is work.

There are lots of other reasons to put off writing. I once listened to a lunch speech where a fellow writer listed twenty-something reasons not to write a novel. The one I remember best was “you’re a research slut,” and I remember because of the way a member of my writers group (who produces wonderful, meticulously well-researched historical fiction) winced before she started to laugh.

There are probably a number of reasons, excuses, and explanations for why you’re not writing as much as you’d like. And the sad thing is that many, maybe even all of them, are valid. Carving the time to write out of a full and busy life isn’t easy. But if you want to get your stories out into the world, there is no other way. So if your New Year’s resolution had something to do with finding time to write, maybe you want to consider revising it. (Writers are always allowed to revise.) This year I will give up X and use that time to write instead.

Will giving up X be painful? Damn straight. It always hurts when your X gets gored. (Yes, that’s a horrible pun—get over it.) But if you can surrender just one thing, especially if it’s something that has a preset time slot in your day/week, the time to write will be there. And though the difficulties of making time to write are very real, the rewards of writing are myriad and splendid.

So for my New Year’s resolution: I resolve to get my writing tips out in a timely fashion. Except when I really can’t. Or when I forget it’s due. Or when the time just gets away from me…

Winter 2005

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