Time: the Gift you Give Yourself

- by Elaine Isaak

We were talking at my local RWA chapter about what we needed in order to get to the next level in our writing careers, and one lady summed it up with a mournful, “Time.”  It makes me think of the riddles in the dark scene from the Hobbit, where Bilbo can’t think of an answer to Gollum’s riddle, and desperately squeals out, “Time!  Time!”  and that, of course, was the answer.  Time.  It’s what we all need.

But here’s the thing, we all get the same amount.  Every day, every writer.  Nobody’s ever going to give you more of it.  “Hey, you’ve been good this week, here’s an extra two hours–do whatever you want!”And yet, many of us, every day, are frustrated because we don’t have enough time.  If I have one message that permeates all the advice I give to others about writing (or often, about life) it’s that you are making choices all the time, even if you’re not thinking about it–and many of those choices affect your time.  They affect how much time you have to use, but also your attitude toward that time.

You’re making a choice to be on the internet right now.  That may be a good choice–maybe you get a lot out of reading writing blogs, or you need to chill out before starting the next chapter.  That’s fine, as long as you know that the choice is yours.  Question the choices you make about how to spend your time.

One of my current failings is that I check my email every morning.  How is that a failing?  Well, morning is my most productive time for writing.  I don’t usually have a long time before the kids get up and we need to do breakfast, etc.  But the most productive period of my writing life so far was when I made a commitment to write whenever my baby (now 10) was napping.  Even if it were only for 15 minutes.   An extra 15 minutes of writing time every morning?  Yeah–I need to change that habit and take back my time!

But we can also change our attitude toward the time we do have.  My 4-year-old is the master of this.  I would think, “ONLY 15 minutes to write?  Not worth it.”  He would say, “15 is a lot!  Let’s play!”  So perhaps the key to mastering our use of time is mastering our attitude toward it, re-envisioning our day as plentiful, our time as abundant, even if we find it in little pieces through a busy day of other things.  Each of those little pieces could be like finding a shiny new quarter on the sidewalk.  Pretty soon, you’re talking real money!  A precious gift.  15 minutes!

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