Today’s “Hobbies and Habits” guest blogger, Sarah Baughman, has a post that speaks directly to ME. I’ve struggled quite a bit in the past few years with how to make more time to write. I have no problem making time to blog because I absolutely love it, but my more “serious” writing gets pushed to the side as a result.
Some might suggest focusing solely on the blogging if that’s what flows easily. I’m not ready to give up the fiction though. The satisfaction of completing a short story then–gasp–having an editor of a literary magazine actually want to publish it is 180 degrees different from pushing “publish” on the back side of this blog. And if I were to complete a novel (I have finished two novels, so I mean a novel that’s good) then forget it. Peel me off the ceiling I’d be flying so high.
Why do I procrastinate then? I don’t know. What can I do about it? Let’s get Sarah to help me! (and you) Her advice applies to any task you want/need to complete.
Sarah, a writer who has lived all over the world, currently lives in Germany with her husband and two children. Please read more about Sarah and her work on her blog. Also follow her on Twitter @serbaughman.
TWO HOURS TO WRITE . . . AND WHY IT WORKS
by Sarah Baughman
I never became more serious about writing than I did as soon as I stopped having time to do it. I’ve always enjoyed writing—even dared off and on to call myself a writer—but I was never one of those people who regularly filled journals, churned out stories every week, or committed to regular daily writing sessions.
Enter baby. After my son was born, I lost sleep, time, a little sanity, and the ability to finish a coherent sentence. Of course, the gains more than made up for those deficits, but nevertheless, conditions hardly seemed ideal for creative pursuits. I could barely take a shower—how was I supposed to write?
Yet I did, producing more in the six months after his birth than I had in six years preceding it. And in the past two years, through full-time work, another pregnancy, and the fine art of juggling toddler and baby, I’ve continued to make time for writing. Sure, it’s fractured, sporadic, and rarely long enough, but it’s working.
I’m thriving with a new routine my husband and I started this winter: he comes home right after work on Tuesdays and Thursdays so I can have an hour to write before dinner. It’s been surprisingly productive. I pass the kids off, turn a deaf ear to any residual crying, hit the keyboard, and emerge after an hour feeling like a much improved version of myself. In my life before kids, I always wanted big blocks of time to pursue projects, but especially since my daughter’s birth, I’ve learned three important lessons:
- As soon as it gets a lot harder to carve out time for your hobby, it gets even more important (when you do what you love, everyone benefits). I know I’m a better and more fully present mom when I have regular time to write.
- You have to be willing to pursue interests in short spurts, tune out distractions, and use the time you have really effectively. I often mull over writing ideas during the day, even when I don’t have time to write. That helps me hit the ground running as soon as I flick my computer open.
- The chaos that makes it difficult to devote substantial time to your hobby will make you value your hobby even more, and thus potentially up your productivity. I’m convinced that restrictions can actually fuel creative work, and that life’s distractions help clarify priorities.
Sometimes I wonder why I didn’t write more when I had all those hours to do it. I wish for a magic combination of the kids I have now with the time I had then. But in the end, I think having less free time has been strangely helpful.
A good friend of mine told me before my son was born that having children can narrow a person’s focus, making them hyper-aware of what was most important. It reminds me of those extreme questions: “If your house was burning down and you could grab only one thing, what would you take?” “If you were stranded on a deserted island and could only talk to one person, who would it be?”
The parent’s equivalent: if you had one hour in a day to yourself, how would you use it? Post-children, my answer has become crystal-clear: I’d write. Thank goodness for Tuesday and Thursday afternoons!
Sarah makes it sound doable, doesn’t she? Let’s hear from the rest of you. Are you, like me, struggling to use your time well? Is there a hobby or vocation you could pursue if you made it a priority? Finally, why do you think so many of us self-sabotage like this?
(Clock photo via Flickr by Roby Ferrari)