Writers: Time To Stop Talking About Your Lack Of Time And Just Do The Goddamn Time Already

Ha ha ha, fuckers!

Finally found something I can kick your ass about. (Er, “about which I can kick your ass.”)

Oh. Oh! You didn’t think I’d figure this one out, did you? Silly humans. I can smell your excuses plain as day. It’s like a hamster died up in these walls — I can suss out the decrepit stink.

Let’s try these pantaloons on for size, see if they don’t fit real nice.

“I’ve got to feed the children, I’ve got to breed the goats, I’ve got to wash the blood out of the carpet, I’ve got to inject a fat syringe of ‘Mexican Dragon’ heroin into my nipples, I’ve got to misspell Tea Party signs, I’ve got to shut down our power grid with the help of a handful of Chinese hackers, I’ve got to learn to please my man, I’ve got to eat, I’ve got to sleep, I’ve got to write this really long sentence — oh noes, I just don’t have the time!”

Ah! Ah-hah. Think I wouldn’t catch that one, didn’t you? You thought you’d dazzle me with sympathy?

You almost had me, Internets. Almost had me.

Scientific fact: the day has 23 hours.

*checks Wikipedia*

The day has 24 hours.

My day has 24 hours.

Your day has 24 hours.

That hobo over there? Got 24 hours in his day. That housewife? Bingo, 24 hours. That parapsychologist? The landscaper? The lawyer? Ding, ding, ding, all possess the same 24 hours in their day. That unicorn? Well. Okay, the unicorn has 25 hours in his day, but he only got that by going down to BJ-town on Chronos, God Of Time, and you’re not jolly well a unicorn, are you? (Don’t get near the unicorn, by the way. He’s skittish. He doesn’t like parapsychologists.)

So, if everybody has 24 hours in their day, how is that some people “have” the time, and someone don’t “have” the time when it comes to something like, say, writing?

It’s donkey poo, that phrase. “I don’t have the time.” Nah. What you mean is, “I have chosen to allocate my time in a way that does not accommodate this other stuff.”

Which is fair. I’m not knocking your choices. Some of those choices are barely choices at all. Children do need to be fed, after all. Nipples do sometimes need a tasty injection of exotic heroin products.

Thing is, the “time” factor is another one of those areas where writers get to think they’re special. We all do it. We all like to feel precious in our burdens. But, unless your burden is something like, “I’m Jack Bauer and I have to use every ounce of my alloted 24 hours to torture potential terrorists,” then I call shenanigans. (And yes, on FOX, they measure hours in “ounces” and not minutes and seconds. Silly Fox!)

Yes. You have shit going on. So what? Everybody has shit going on. It’s this funny little thing called “life.” If you’re going to sit around on your hands and wait for life to magically grant you a 25th hour, or for it to suddenly stop picking on you with all the cruel things of which life is capable, hey, enjoy the magical dream. Life is a real dickbag. It’s a bully. Life will keep at you. It’s like a foul clot of frenzying piranha. Always nibbling. Churning the waters, making it hard to see. That’s the way it goes. You’ll never find a “free moment” — at least, not until you’re 80 and bound to a wheelchair and a too-full colostomy bag (don’t you hate it when the medical tubing gets caught under the wheel of your wheelchair and suddenly you can’t fill the bag anymore and the tube starts to bloat like a hot dog in the microwave, filled as it is with your mighty waste, and it swells and swells until — well, splurch?).

Listen. Sometimes, life really does take over. Much as I knock it, unique problems do persist.

But here’s the deal.

If you can’t carve off a slice now — 15 minutes here, an hour there — then you best think about giving up this whole “writing” gig, at least if you seek to do it semi-professionally. If you can’t find even a little bit of time, then you’re one of those people who talks about writing all the time instead of one of the people who actually writes all the time. (And those people who only talk about writing? Those faux-authors? Did you know that professional writers all get together once a year just to make fun of those people? We do. It’s a convention. The location changes every year. Always remote. Mountains. Desert. Orbital station. We have a list — like some kind of evil federation of Santas — and we just go through the list, one by one, mocking the posers. Or poseurs, if you prefer the pretension. We throw darts. We drink. We mock. We engage in bloodsport and to-the-death games of Scrabble. Good times.)

Do you read? Watch TV? Movies? Play games? Post on blogs? Tweet? Play sports? Eat lunch? Eat dinner? Masturbate wantonly? All leisure activities. If you can’t slice off five minutes from a handful of these to devote to writing, well, what the hell? You think this shit’s going to write itself? Like maybe you’re going to wake up and find that miracle fairies have penned your latest manuscript, leaving its warm pages under your pillow come morning?

I know, it sucks. But it goes back to the notion that “writing is work.”

You have the same time as everybody else. You have burdens, but so do a lot of people. Many professional writers have burdens, and they manage. If you can’t manage, then you’ll drown as others swim above you. I’m not saying life doesn’t throw at you unique and damning challenges. It does. And sometimes, you do need to take a break from the pen-to-paper gig to manage problems — but you let that get away from you, and next thing you know it’s five years later, and what happened? Nothing, that’s what. You’re five years closer to death and no more words closer to a completed manuscript.

We all have 24 hours in the day. We all have 24 slices in the cake.

It’s all about how we choose to cut the cake, people.

You want to be a writer? Then cut yourself a slice.

Find an hour in your day.

Make words happen. Take back time. Like Marty McFly or some shit. Yeah.

27 comments

  • Don’t writers like writing? If they like writing, wouldn’t they take time out of doing other shit in order to write? I mean, it’s not trigonometry homework that you’ve avoided doing all semester and now have to get done for tomorrow. It’s supposedly something fun!

    • @Danielle:

      Writing can be fun, but wannabe-writers often get this wrong: “If it’s not fun, why do it?”

      Writing requires work and effort, and sometimes that work and effort isn’t easy, or fun, or even pleasant.

      I love to write overall, but sometimes getting the word count to flow is like getting urine from a gonorrhea-engorged wangle rod. It comes in fits and drips.

      And you’d be amazed at how many writers are in love with the idea of writing (or being a writer) rather than the actual, y’know, writing.

      — c.

  • I suppose I can sympathise with the latter type (I have plenty of stories and even some notes lying around for them but writing is a pain in my ass), but I don’t call myself a writer. I don’t write, so how could I be one? I call myself a lazy shit. It’s more accurate.

  • One of the only good things to come out of the train wreck that was Star Trek: Generations was the following line between Kirk and Scotty (I’m paraphrasing):

    Kirk: “When did Sulu have time for a family?”
    Scott: “If something’s important enough, you make the time.”

    I’ve held onto that and reminded myself from time to time that the things that are important to me require me to make sacrifices in other areas.

    Thanks to the boot in my ass this past Monday, I’m making more time to write. My bruised buttocks and swelling word count thank you.

  • This is precisely why I keep my Piccadilly (just as pretty as moleskines, a third of the price!) notebooks with me all the time. Stuck in a waiting room? Write. Taking a break at work? Write. Spending some quality time in a bathroom stall? Write. Waiting for the others to finish burying the body? Write.

    Jeez, just BEING here makes me think like Chuck. *shudder*

    • @Chris:

      You know you love it.

      Good call on the “notebooks handy.” I use the iPhone like a notebook in that way — quick notes, vocal-or-otherwise, married with mind maps make for the easy lay-down of critical thoughts.

      — c.

  • My wife got me an iPod Touch, and I use it for the same. Yesterday I finished the 4th story in the series I mentioned, around 4500 words, and probably 90% of that was wrote on the touch. It’s a great tool. I use the free app WritePad if anyone is interested.

  • One of the passages of The War of Art that’s really stuck with me is the author’s assertion that (paraphrasing, because I’m not at hope to check) a professional will not tolerate things that distract them from their work.

    “Will not tolerate” is strong—and appropriate—language.

    • Word, peeps.

      @Jeff — I am not familiar with THE WAR OF ART.

      Clearly, though, I should be.

      Hurrrm.

      I do believe in a zero tolerance policy for bullshit, because for me, bullshit is so dang attractive. I adore distraction, and so I must execute distraction.

      — c.

  • The key is rhythm and discipline. Okay, I know, writers hate “discipline,” because we’re all used to talking about it with our ninjas and our space marines and we’d never really want to do those things ourselves.

    But, no, the thing is to know what you’re working on and keep working on it. That’s all discipline means. You make writing happen. It is what you do. You do it until you can’t do it but all you can think about is doing it again.

    Yeah, like one of those relationships. Except there are no messy breakups, just brutal quarrels and angry sex over the typewriter. Typewriter? You don’t even fucking need a typewriter. You just bought that thing to have sex on.

  • The next time I have the Just-Spend-15-Mintues-A-Day-Writing talk with my annoying wannabe-writers friends and they moan and groan that they don’t have the time, I’m just going to point them to this post. You say it much better than I do, Chuck, and you throw in unicorns to boot.

    Yeah. Love me some unicorns.

  • You keep writing exactly what I need to read, when I need to read it. Where are the cameras? Was that goat wearing a wire?

    I’m a case in point. I let more than a DECADE slip quietly by while I didn’t make the time. Then I quit my super demanding 60-80 hour/week decently paying job and vowed to write again. I wrote 4 hours a day for a year or more, sometimes while holding 2 jobs. Then what happened? I was offered a writing job and found out I’d be writing bullshit copy for a travel website about places I’ve never seen from brochures they sent me in the mail. For pennies a word. So I got disillusioned. Then I got wrapped up in life again and stopped making the time to write again. Now I’m back. My job is extra demanding right now, so I don’t have 4 hours a day yet. But I’ve got te electric knife out and I’m carving that turkey up, slicing it thin. I’m using my iPhone to write notes and I’m making mental story maps, as you said. I’m carving time out of meals, work breaks, toilet breaks, sleep, wherever I can (while still trying to keep some brain juice in my jars because that can’t run out).

    Thanks, Chuck!

    • @Darren:

      I am PSYCHIC WENDIGO. I sense your needs, and I fill them.

      Your BLT is in the mail, by the way.

      … but seriously, that’s cool. Back on the horse, my friend. Well done.

      Four hours a day is a good hunk of time for writing. Even if you can manage an hour, though, for people with practice that’s a good 1000 clean words, I figger.

      — c.

  • Oh, and the writing 4 hours every day? I stopped almost 2 years ago. It took me until about 2 months ago to kick myself in the face for that (physically difficult).

  • I felt bad after admitting I didn’t do that much writing lately yesterday that I started last night. I woke up today and after running errands I started playing Fallout 3 while looking at the internet. I read this article, turned off the game, and started writing again.

    You’re like some sort of E-Parent, Chuck. YOu always seem to know when I’m not doing homework!

    Now to get back to working on 24 pieces of carp. Not crap, but carp. Writing a scene where Aquarius is explaining the source of his powers to Tungsten and Masked X.

    …I swear this will all make sense when the book is done some day and I’ll have the dozens of fans. DOZENS!

Speak Your Mind, Word-Nerds