Overcoming the I-Don’t-Have-Time Syndrome

As I’m writing this post I feel nearly obstacle-free in my creative writing pursuits… or about as close to that as the ‘real world’ ever lets me come. I feel ready to take on the world and work ‘til all hours of the morning and night, playing with words and creating magic through verse.

How can you not feel refreshed out in this?

How can you not feel refreshed out in this?

In all honesty I do have an unfair advantage right now, having just returned from a two-day writing retreat in the middle of the Ozarks. Let me tell you, the lack of cell phone reception has never been so glorious. I feel refreshed, reenergized, and like the nature we surrounded ourselves with has refilled my creative pool.

But by the time this post is available to you, our readers, I’ll be bogged down once again in the unforgiving grind of an office day job, laundry, dishes, grocery shopping, and all of those other things life requires of me and yet I hate to do.

That’s when writing gets hard. Or any creative pursuit. Paulo Coelho, author of ‘The Alchemist’ and other novels, blogged once that “the first symptom of the process of our killing our dreams is the lack of time.” I have never forgotten that.

Time is slippery. We let it get away from us on good days and on bad days. And time is my biggest obstacle in writing. I never seem to have the time.

Especially when it comes to poetry, which oftentimes requires me to sit for half an hour, or an hour, or longer, poking distractedly at just one or two words before I find the ‘zone’ and can get any real work done. I hear a lot of authors who suggest grabbing just five minutes at a time to jot things down but… that doesn’t really help ME much, though I know it works for some.

So I schedule time. I put it on my list of weekend chores so that way I can’t talk myself out of it saying I have other things that need doing first. It feels nothing like a chore, but if I put it on the list between washing sheets and cleaning the kitchen, well, suddenly it’s something that needs marked off the to-do list and magically I will allot time for it.

(Even better, since I count my poetry work in time rather than words, I’ll give myself a minimum. My list might say “Must spend at least one hour writing.” If I don’t manage at least an hour, well, I don’t get to mark it off my to-do list. And lists with things left on them drive me crazy.)

Or I write in the bathtub. I love taking long baths and I bring my spiral along. So what if it gets dunked in the bathwater once or twice? That’s just the sign of a well-loved notebook. And in a nice warm bath, away from the TV and the radio and the computer, I find I can actually THINK.

Baths: Made for reading, writing, and wine enjoyment

Baths: Made for reading, writing, and wine enjoyment

We all have ways to work around the I-Don’t-Have-Time Syndrome. But finding time is sometimes a bit like dieting or exercising: we know we need to do it, we want to do it, but we have to hold ourselves accountable to make SURE we do it because it’s all too easy to fall off the bandwagon three weeks in.

So to find time, find your accountability partner. I have several. I often get my fellow Ferrets to bribe me with sweet treats or pictures of my favorite musicians if I hit my writing goal for the day. If I fail, well, they take the virtual pom poms away and tell me I don’t get a cookie. Sounds silly, but it works for me.

I am also very active in the contest circuit and always trying to submit my work. The thing is, I can’t submit work if I don’t have it in the first place. And I don’t want to submit work that I feel is less than my best. So giving myself a list of contests and deadlines encourages me to keep producing new work.

Find the time. You have it. I promise. It might be buried under work and children and pets and a whole host of other things that require our attention, but when your passion burns in your heart so strongly you can no longer ignore it? You’ll find the time. It’s there, waiting on you to use it and create.

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3 thoughts on “Overcoming the I-Don’t-Have-Time Syndrome

  1. Laura Weymouth says:

    This is an EXCELLENT post, Lissa! As a stay at home mom with a pretty active one year old, I live in my workplace, so it can be very difficult to find writing time unless I’m intentional about it. I’d imagine this will only get worse if hubby and I have additional kids! There’s always something else I could be doing, something more “useful.” I’ve started disciplining myself with a mental list, much like what you mentioned. There are certain household chores I do on certain days of the week and once they’re done I write, BEFORE tackling any additional chores that might be calling my name.

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