HOW I WRITE – PART III – “Finding” Time
I had a gynecologic checkup this week, and while chatting with the doctor—whom I’ve known forever (her office was across the street from an independent bookstore, back when OUTLANDER was released, and when she darted in on her lunch hour for something to read, the bookseller pressed OUTLANDER on her, mentioning that I frequently came by to sign stock. The doctor glommed the book, came back, and told the bookseller to let me know next time I came in that she’d be delighted to give me a free Pap smear. [g] (Like I said, this business does sometimes have unusual compensations))—she told me that she was working on a book herself—nonfiction.
“But I’m not getting anywhere with it,” she said, shaking her head. “I have all the material, and a good outline—even a couple of chapters! But it’s just so hard to find the time to work on it.”
This is a pretty familiar story. I can’t tell you how many people tell me this—meanwhile expressing admiration (or disbelief) at the notion that I’ve written all these monstrous books while having children, working, or whatever. I had one good friend at the university where I used to work, who was fascinated when I got published (I kept working there until 1992, when DRAGONFLY came out), and decided that he wanted to write a novel of his own.
Now, David had a wonderful story. It was something based on the history of his family that had taken place in WWII (they were Polish Jews) and it was fabulous; had everything: romance, betrayal, tragedy, adventure…but—
“I have two consulting contracts to finish,” he told me, “and this seminar I’m teaching, but as soon as the semester’s over, I’ll have a good chunk of free time—I’ll start writing then.”
“David,” I said, looking at him sadly, “you’re never going to write that book.”
And he never has, alas.
See, the fallacy here is that you must have “a good chunk of time” in which to write. The fact is that “a good chunk of time” (one free of interruption, obligation, or sudden change of circumstance, in which one “sits down” and focuses on the work at hand) does not exist.
GABALDON’S FIRST AXIOM: You do not “find” time. You make time, or you don’t have any.
So, how do you make time? Well, this is a rare and specific skill, akin to spinning straw into gold, but I do think anyone can learn to do it, even if your name isn’t Rumpelstiltskin.
I am about to demonstrate this particular skill—it’s . My husband has just come home—I hear him rattling around downstairs (well, more like banging; he’s replacing a junction box in the wall right under me), and will shortly want lunch. What I have to do today is to write 1000 words (more or less) of a “noir” crime short story, and finish reading the novel I’m supposed to review by this weekend.
I have (probably) twenty minutes before my husband’s hunger overcomes his hammering. So—do I continue with this blog entry (which would be fun, but can be continued tonight or tomorrow)? Do I go outside and pull weeds out of my garden? Do I wander downstairs and make conversation with my husband between hammerblows? Do I go collect the dry-cleaning that I mean to take in this afternoon? Do I think what to cook for dinner tonight?
No. I post this, pop over to Word Perfect and work on the “noir” piece until Doug comes to get me for lunch.
The dry-cleaning and the weeds can wait indefinitely, I’ll talk to Doug while we have lunch, and as for dinner, I know I have the makings of beanie-weenie on hand, should inspiration fail. What has to be done now is write.
So I will. [g] It doesn’t matter that I don’t have three uninterrupted hours. It only matters that I have now.