One afternoon I was trying to finish up a scene I was working on. I was keeping one eye on the clock, knowing I had to pick up kids from school, and trying to eek out every last minute I had left before running out the door. I was meeting with my critique partner later that week, and I had quite a bit of work to do to get my piece in the kind of shape I wanted it.
Deadlines are crazy effective for me. But on this afternoon I had a clingy baby who wasn’t letting me get anything done. She was tired, but if I tried to nurse her to sleep (don’t judge…she’s number 5) while typing, she’d flail her arm around and slap at the keyboard. Not so helpful.
The baby needed a nap. I needed to write. I love my baby and I love spending my days with her. But we needed a break from each other.
I loaded us up in the car, grabbed the laptop, and away we went to the school parking lot. The baby fell asleep on the way, and I enjoyed several minutes of uninterrupted writing time before school let out.
I’d found a way to steal time.
It doesn’t matter what it is I’m working on, awkward dialogue, a flat character, a new scene, I know I’m going to get sucked in. Every single time.
It’s easy to get sucked in, but the process itself is grueling: Wrestle with words, form sentence, repeat. Go back to see if it makes any sense. Cut the long-winded stuff. Organize the scatterbrained stuff. What’s missing? What needs to go?
Is it any wonder then, that I allow myself to get distracted by small tasks before getting lost in my writing? Throw a load of laundry in, sweep the floor, make a phone call, check facebook and click on the Tom-Hiddleston-arguing-with-schoolchildren link . There’s always something.
So here’s what I propose. Take whatever is cramping your writing style, and figure out how to make it work for you.
In my case I’m turning the kids into slaves.
“Ok Slave, you do the grocery shopping. And you there, Slave. You walk the dog. And Tiny Slave, I know you can’t walk yet, but you make for an effective vacuum. I’m going to set you loose on the floor and cross my fingers that there’s only edible stuff down there.”
I’m kidding of course. Mostly.
But seriously, our days are full of so many things. Why not find ways to make them work for us? This means I have to look at my time and find ways to steal it back for myself. This is really hard for someone who wants to create. I can’t be ruled by trivial things like time. Except that I am.
Take a hard look at your day. Where can you steal time for yourself? As always, feel free to share in the comments. I’m not just a time thief, but an idea thief too! (Pretend that didn’t just sound plagiarstic.)