One of the most important things we can do as writers is to make space for our writing. Of course, that simple statement is covered in complex facets.
There are deadlines for many, some flexible or self-imposed, others more solid. But for most of us, I would guess, finding more writing time seems like an impossible task, especially if we’re not currently getting paid to do it. There is also real life that requires bills to be paid, food, shelter and healthcare to be acquired. The majority of us cannot toss aside our current way of living in exchange for a different, more creative one, with oodles of time to stretch ourselves and play.
In my experience, writing often needs to be scheduled and planned. Without a doubt, our writing requires and deserves our conscious effort and mostly can’t be left to chance. But what happens when we need to rely on the opportunities of time? How do we make the most of those opportunities and how can we maximize our creative life? Ultimately, drastic change isn’t necessary in order to find more time for our art-laden selves. We can set micro-goals, move through our world bird by bird, piece by piece, on our way to something bigger.
By finding ways to break up the routine, I’m convinced our abilities and desires to write will increase. I truly believe the best way to generate time for our writing is by actively working to make space for our creative selves. Here are some things I have found helpful.
- Reading—Of course this is a no-brainer for all of us, I suspect, but reading about how others find ways to create is also fascinating for me. I highly recommend Elizabeth Gilbert Big Magic, Tim Ferriss Tools of Titans and Shonda Rhimes Year of Yes. There is so much to ponder in these pages.
- Joining a museum—A great way to ignite creative sparks is by investing in a museum membership. Not only does this get me out of the house, it gives me access to the brilliant brains of talented people who see the world quite differently.
- Changing the Commute—Walking or biking to the day job can give you a new perspective on where you live and how you see the world. Taking public transit can require more planning, but maybe once a week it’s worth it to have that extra bit of down time to create or even think about something in a new way.
- Stealing time away from television and social media—Start by taking 15, 20 or 30 minutes away from the screen and giving it to your writing.
- Fresh air—How about a walk, yoga or tai chi outside; a bike ride or a seat in the sunshine, maybe even a meal outdoors—anything that takes the focus off walls and windows, cubicles and offices can kick start your creative brain.
- The library—The public library was my refuge in childhood. When hurricane Irma came through my town, I gained a whole new appreciation for this institution. Being in that space, surrounded by words, can be extremely conducive to generating creative work.
- Learn something new—Consider exploring a new language, baking bread, taking a cooking class, learning knitting or a musical instrument. There are all sorts of things we can do everyday to challenge our minds and force ourselves to see the world from an alternate point of view.
- Make a to–do list—I am not a list person, but for writing and revising this has really helped me. I now set out a writing goal every morning and set the task up based upon the amount of space I know I can make for my writing that particular day. It’s a promise to myself that when a writing opportunity or that time set aside comes up, I can be efficient and focused and hold myself accountable to my work.
By getting an MFA, I would argue that we all have a deep need within ourselves to write. And there are all sorts of ways to find bits and pieces of time for our writing. Sometimes we get chunks and sometimes only crumbs. But no matter our situation, all of us can find the time in each day to experience doing what we love. And the each day part is important. It doesn’t have to be much, just long enough to remind our heart and brain that writing matters and it matters that we take the time to do it.
Judi Marcin is a 2015 MFAC graduate. She currently divides her time between writing for young readers and as a freelance medical editor for online content.