The Challenge of Time
I’ve been thinking a lot about time recently. Mostly about how I never seem to have enough of it and how it goes by so fast. I’ve also been thinking about what is really important to me in my life, and what is not. July and August were a little dark for me. Not just with what has been happening in the world, but with what has been happening in my life. Nothing calamitous happened, but I wasn’t writing and that makes my world a dark place. I am always surprised to learn just how dark whenever this happens.
I started again over the Labor Day weekend. It was like wading through sludge, trying to get words down on the page. I worried that I had gone so long without writing that I had forgotten how. It had only been a month but it felt like years. Still I managed to get into a rhythm and make progress. I am currently reworking/editing the ten chapters I have rewritten of my fourth draft. There is not a lot that is more torturous than editing, but that is a topic for another post.
I work full time. I am not a morning person. Getting up at 5am and spending time on my writing in the morning is not productive for me. I’ve tried writing during my lunch hour, but found disconnecting from work and connecting to my novel takes most of that time, so it’s also not productive. Plus I really need a break in my work day. That leaves the small window after work and before dinner as the only time of the day during the week for me to do any writing. Of course if I want to exercise that is also the only time of day that works. Finding the balance between those two things is a bit of a battle.
It doesn’t feel like enough. 45 minutes to an hour, if I’m lucky, up to five days a week is not enough time to make a substantial amount of progress. Sometimes it's not even 45 minutes, if traffic is bad or I’ve had a particularly hard day and need time to recover after I walk in the door. There are weekends as well, but two days a week where I can spend a more substantial amount of time writing also doesn’t seem like enough.
So what would be enough? What would be the ideal amount of time for writing each day?
If I’m really honest with myself the sweet spot is about 45 minutes to an hour at a time, maybe an hour and a half to two hours max if I'm relaxed and rested. Sound familiar? Any longer and my brain starts to turn to mush. So it’s not really about the amount of time I have to write. It’s about having the time and space to think about my writing before I actually sit down. That way when I put pen to paper I’m more productive and feel like I’ve accomplished something.
The last few weeks I’ve thought about my story throughout the day, whenever I go to the bathroom or for a walk. I write about it in my journal at night, what I worked on that day and what I hope to accomplish tomorrow. Or I use my journal to try out story ideas, details, or back story. I’ve also been more diligent about note taking. If I have an idea I jot it down in the notes on my iPhone. Not only has this helped me be more productive, but I’m living a more creative life. It’s not about having enough time, it’s about using the time that I have in the way that makes me the happiest.