Monday, 13 June 2011

Finding More Time To Write

Someone said to me last week, 'You must be brilliant at time management.' It was a bit disconcerting because I think I'm rubbish at time management. It's one of the areas I constantly berate myself about, as I'm a serious procrastinator.

But I have to admit it's not the first time it's been said to me, so I've tried to think what other people see in me that I know is not true. My conclusion is that it's because outsiders only see the things I achieve/do - the novels, short stories, teaching, blog, Twitter etc. What they don't see is all the faffing around that I tend to do in the privacy of my own home.

We can't do everything. A high achiever such as, for example, Barrack Obama is busy holding international meetings with heads of state, but he's missing out on other things - wasting time on a sunny day with a couple of mates out in the garden with a glass (or two) of wine, for example, or watching The Shawshank Redemption for the sixth time. Now, you might prioritise Mr Obama's occupations over mine, and his are undoubted more significant than mine, but I get more enjoyment from revisiting a favourite film than I would from any amount of high level meetings with heads of state.

It makes no difference how clever or focussed or anything we are, we can't do everything. If we choose to do X, we can't do Y. All we can choose is what we put high on the list. I put writing and reading and teaching writing high on my list. I put going to the cinema and art galleries and being with family and friends even higher. Everything else is, frankly, an also ran.

I don't have any other hobbies. I don't sing in a choir, for example, or play sport. I don't cook, except for special occasions. I do minimal housework - my domestic standards are low, I'm not interested in immaculate or perfect. I don't watch much television. My children have grown up so I'm not bound by things like the school run.

So, yes, I do lots of writing related things, because that's what I prioritise. My priorities might not be yours - I once tweeted that I hadn't ironed anything in years, and someone tweeted back, how sluttish. That's her opinion. Mine is, ironed clothes don't make you a better writer (or a nicer person).

If you don't have time to write, it's nothing to do with being a good time-manager, and everything to do with what you're choosing to prioritise. If you want to write, you will. Make it your priority, and it will happen.


Jim Murdoch said...

I was only telling my daughter yesterday I didn’t know where our iron lives. I know we have one and an ironing board but my wife and I buy clothes these days that don’t need ironing. As for housework, the bulk of that falls to me due to Carrie’s health but when you don’t do much bar sit, write, eat and sleep really there’s not much to do bar wash the dishes, make the bed and hoover occasionally especially if, like me, you’re tidy by nature. I have a friend in Australia who’s also got to that stage in her life where things are done when they need to be done and she’s discovering less and less that needs to be done. Her daughters tease her about it and make her feel guilty but they’re young and have different priorities; they judge by appearances.

My personal gripe, now that life has conspired to give me all this time to write, is that I’m not more efficient. I’m certainly always busy but I’m nowhere near as productive as I’d like to be. I’m sure it’s an age thing. I know I’m only fifty-two but I’m an old fifty-two. As I said of the protagonist in my third novel: “Jim was forty and had been ever since he was thirty.” I could blame it on living with a pensioner but I’ve always been old for my years. There’s no point whinging about it – we can’t all be Proust.

womagwriter said...

Great post and one I fully endorse. Years ago when I moaned to him indoors that I didn't have enough time for something, he reminded me that I have exactly the same amount of time as everyone else - ie 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If I wanted time to do something I just had to make it the most important thing for that day. Wake up knowing you ARE going to spend an hour writing and an hour running. Fit everything else (including the day job!) around it.

I never iron either.

Anonymous said...

Interesting, isn't it, how many writers don't iron? Or do much housework. We definitely have our priorities right.
Though I have to confess to being torn between writing and gardening, and there are many times when gardening wins.

Penelope Alexander said...

Wonderful post! I discovered early on - after reading The Colditz Story - that early on! - about smart military type who kept that way by pressing his uniform each night beneath the mattress. Now, that's class in my book!

Sarah Duncan said...

Non-ironers of the world unite and get writing! (And leave your clothes under the mattress.)

Deciding to wake up and write for an hour is a good tip - I always do it when I'm away on a writing break, but somehow it doesn't easily translate to home. The hour running never gets done though...