Is there anything harder than writing? Yes – finding the time to do it. Or rather, creating the time.
We all have busy, complicated lives. We rush about doing our jobs, raising our kids, working down the To Do list, ticking the boxes. Somewhere on that list is ‘Write my screenplay’ or ‘Write my novel’. Somehow, that box never gets ticked.
What to do?
I could bang on about time management, but really if you need someone to tell you to make a schedule and stick to it there’s no hope for you. It’s obvious. You probably do it already, but don’t always stick to it. Life gets messy, other stuff gets in the way, and the writing doesn’t get done.
I could also say if you really want to write, you will. Nothing will stop you. You will squeeze writing into the busiest schedule because if you don’t your brain implodes. If you don’t need to write, give up now. You will eventually, anyway.
That may seem harsh, but if you treat writing like everything else on your to do list – as just another thing to do – you’ll never finish that script or novel. Writing requires much more of you than re-grouting the bathroom, cleaning the oven or paying the bills.
The neurologist Daniel Levitin says that “ten thousand hours of practice is required to achieve the level of mastery associated with being a world-class expert – in anything.” [quoted in ‘Outliers’ by Malcolm Gladwell] So if you want to write well you have to practice. Which means you must put in the hours.
You must make a choice. It’s time to sacrifice something to the god of writing.
Make a list of your non-negotiable activities – stuff you have to do, your absolute priorities. **Clue** Writing should be on this list.
Now make a list of all the other stuff you do that’s non-essential – watching TV, reading the Sunday papers, window shopping, looking at tits on the internet (I know you do it), and so on. These are the things you will sacrifice to your new god. Be ruthless about this. You will simply not get through the work you need to do to complete any writing project if you’re not prepared to make sacrifices.
It’s easy to get sidetracked working on something big like a feature film or novel because it takes soooo long. You have to hold the thing in your imagination, in your heart, for many, many months, possibly years, while you toil away on rewrite after rewrite. With no guarantee the thing will work out in the long run. Anything you can do to support yourself by streamlining your life to make writing an automatic part of your routine, the better.
For instance, I’m working on this post during my lunch break at work, so I can concentrate on my novel when I get home later.
It’s always a choice. Do you want to write, or not? If you do – write. No excuses. Make it work.
“Nothing will work unless you do.” – Maya Angelou
Another thing about to do lists – NEVER put on your list ‘write novel’. It’ll scare the pants off you every time you look at it. It’s just too big. Break it down into manageable chunks – like ‘write chapter 3’. That still might be too big, so try ‘write scene where Archibald discovers Llewellyn living in his walk-in wardrobe.’ Or just stick to word counts – ‘write 500 words’, or 1000, or numbers of pages if you’re writing scripts – ‘write 10 pages’ or ‘write next sequence’.
Obviously there are times when it can’t be helped and the writing gets lost amongst the chaos of life. There are other things more important than writing – not many, and not as many as you think when you’re justifying not writing to yourself.
Make it easy on yourself and don’t beat yourself up if you miss your target. Try again tomorrow. Keep moving forward. Get to the end.
Then rewrite, and rewrite, and rewrite….