In the past few months, I have advised several writers with whom I'm working as a writing coach to lie, to cheat and to steal. Oh, we've also talked about other things – developing a submission tracking spreadsheet, choosing a writing conference, preparing critiques for an upcoming workshop, trying new structure ideas for a memoir.
Yet, some of the most interesting conversations have focused on treachery – the questionable things we are sometimes forced to do, in order to have the time to write. While it would be just dandy if into every writer's daily life, some sizable chunk of uninterrupted time were to magically appear, free of day job tasks, child rearing, commuting, household duties, pet care, spousal maintenance and meal preparation.
But since that's a fantasy, most writers need to instead wrestle time for their writing. When one has exhausted strategies for squeezing more time from the same 24 hours – getting up earlier, writing during the (public transit) commute or on lunch hours – it's time to get serious about getting a little bit (or maybe a lot) more cunning. Even deceitful.
When my first son was an infant, I had access to free daytime child care but only if it was for an "important reason," which I quickly understood to be exactly two things: bonafide paid work or a medical appointment. A walk in the park or a haircut to refresh my colic-baby brain and remind myself I was still human? Nope. Lunch and adult conversation with a friend? Not a chance. Writing creative work which had no sure market value? Are you daft?
So I lied.
I didn't go to the dentist. I went to my writing group.
I said I had to work for 4 hours, knowing the brochure I was finishing for a client would take only two hours.
I did paid work late at night for two solid weeks and used the daytime child care time for my own writing instead.
Lately I find myself advising others to take similarly drastic action. Why?
Because otherwise no writing will occur. Because significant others who say they want to be "supportive" -- aren't. Because children who are old enough to make their own meals -- don't. Because bosses keep making unreasonable (and uncompensated) "requests" for ever more time. Because house guests keep wanting to arrive, or stay. Because the volunteer committee to whom one has always said "yes" just won't hear "no". Because a relative thinks writing falls into the same category as watching reality TV in the middle of the day.
Because in some homes a closed door, a person hunched over the keyboard writing (and not on Facebook), and/or a request for "some writing time" is the same as announcing to those within earshot (and everyone else who has your phone number or address): "Please interrupt me as often as possible for the most mundane, trivial reasons and then after I answer your silly question, by all means, please keep hanging around."
So toss your gym bag in the car, but head to the cafe next to the gym to write instead. Keep the sitter an extra hour (or two). Leave for that appointment 30 minutes early (traffic, you know?). Send the spouse and kids out so you can "rest."
Lie. Cheat. Steal. Get your writing time.