How do you keep writing when you don’t have time?

When I started this blog, last spring, while taking Meghan Ward’s Social Media Madness for Writers class at the Grotto – which I highly recommend to any Bay Area writer mystified by the demands and protocol of social media – I vowed to keep to it regularly.  Habit, discipline, building a readership – all that good stuff relies on consistency.  OK to take a break for a vacation or such, Meghan advised, just let your readers know.

I sat down this morning to let my readers know that this morning, I won’t be posting because I need to work on a revision due to my writers’ group in two hours.

I started blogging here, in part, because I needed to keep writing while planning my wedding.  I’m one of those people who tends to think she can clean out the closet, re-organize all the bookshelves, make soup, and still have time the read the Sunday New York Times – in one Sunday afternoon.  I like to make to-do lists, lists that suffer from overambitiousness.

So when the reality of wedding planning didn’t allow the kind of writing time I was used to – three to four hours, every morning – I fought the inevitable.  I can’t stop writing!  If I don’t write, I’m a failure!  Then, somewhere between lining up the caterer and ordering the invitations, I gave in.  I’d put my writing on hold when my mother got cancer and when my father died and I was the sole adult survivor, when I became seriously ill, when I bought and moved into a new place.  Sometimes life events get in the way, and why not make room for joy as well as sorrow and mortgage pre-approval?  This would be my wedding; I wanted to get it right. Some writers are able to keep to their writing schedules no matter what life throws their way – and they seem to be men, don’t they? men with wives or the book royalties to afford the kind of household help that facilitates writing all day? – and I’m not one of them.  I’ve made my peace with that.  I may not clock my four hours every day, but I do what I can – scribble notes with story ideas, make rambling entries in “Write It All Down,” a file so named after my friend Michael’s advice to me when Mom was diagnosed, post to this blog.

The wedding is over now; a new life has begun.  (The wedding was perfect, by the way.)  I feared the transition back into daily work.  I had left a few projects on the back burner, and I didn’t know which to pick up first.  I feared the empty screen.  Last week, I turned to one of the many piles on my desk – next weekend, I’ll go through them all, right? and get the Times read, too – and pulled out my notes from a few months ago.  I’d shown my writers’ group the first chapter of my novel, and they’d had many helpful things to say.

I began re-writing the chapter.  I have two versions of the re-write now, and I’m toggling between as to which works best.  But here’s the point:  I need to spend the next two hours in Rincon (the fictionalized town where the novel takes place) not in the blogsphere.

Does this mean the blog has run its course?  How disposable, after all, is a blog?  (Pretty disposable, I’d argue, and yet I keep at it.)  Has this one run its course, having served as a way to keep writing when I couldn’t Write? Here I sit, in my bathrobe, empty coffee cup at my side, typing out this explanation for why, this Friday, I won’t be posting.  And before I know it, that’s my post.

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About lindseycrittenden

Lindsey Crittenden is the author of two published books: THE WATER WILL HOLD YOU: A SKEPTIC LEARNS TO PRAY (Harmony Books, 2007) and THE VIEW FROM BELOW, a collection of short stories (Midlist Press, 1999). Her personal essays and articles – on topics such as prayer, the pitfalls of too much California sunshine, and visiting a group of lifers at San Quentin – have appeared in The New York Times, The San Francisco Chronicle Magazine, Image, Real Simple, Bon Appétit, East Bay Express, Health, and Best American Spiritual Writing. Her fiction has won national awards and has appeared in Glimmer Train, Bellingham Review, Quarterly West, and other publications. Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, she graduated from UC Berkeley, moved to New York City as soon as she could, and returned to California for grad school. While in the graduate creative writing program at UC Davis, she discovered (much to her surprise) the fun of teaching. She lives in San Francisco and teaches at UC Berkeley Extension. She has completed a novel, and is writing new short stories and a (very early stages) nonfiction exploration of spirituality & sex.
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8 Responses to How do you keep writing when you don’t have time?

  1. taureanw says:

    Congratz on the wedding!
    You bring up some interesting points. I’m afraid I am not one of those people that can find a few hours a day to write no matter what is happening. I actually have a hard time writing for a few hours if I do have some free time :-p
    Keep the blog and set it to the side. You never know when you might need to break it back out & use it again!

    • Thanks, Taurean, for the congrats & the response. I know I’m lucky to have the few hours, regardless of whether I revise a chapter, post a blog, or do the laundry. It’s what works for me – I need an hour just to get warmed up. One of the things I always keep in mind is that every writer works differently. I do think interesting things can happen when we push ourselves past the block, though doing so can be horrid. Best to you –

  2. C says:

    Keep blogging – but, above all, keep writing! I, too, heard that the wedding was perfect!

  3. You’ve only just begun blogging! Your blog is far from having run its course 🙂 Congratulations on the wedding and for sharing this post about your struggles to fit everything in. I am VERY much like you – today, for example, I have enough on my To Do list to fill three days. I can never catch up. But I keep at it – and try not to let blogging and cleaning and other obligations infringe upon my precious writing time (except for big events like weddings, of course!). Keep writing!

    • Meghan: You are my role model in time management – how you balance it all and still manage to (occasionally) bake the best banana-chocolate-chip bread I’ve ever tasted inspires me. Thanks for the encouragement!

  4. Callie Feyen says:

    Selfishly, I say keep writing when you can’t Write. I think there are a lot of disposable blogs out there, but I don’t believe yours is one of them. I say it’s selfish because I get a lot out of reading your posts, however, I understand that the “real” writing calls us to get our butts in the chair and spend time in Rincon (or in my case, with a whole bunch of cicadas). At any rate, your words are valuable to those of us learning how to write, but we also understand when the pull to do the “real” writing takes you away from blogging.
    Also, I’m glad to hear the wedding was perfect. Congratulations!

  5. A lot of what keeps me going (in addition to dogged, even tedious, self-discipline) comes from readers like you, Callie, and your vote of confidence. Thank you! And keep listening to those cicadas — I can’t wait to read where they take you!

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