Countless times over the years, when people learn I’m a writer, I’ve heard: “Oh, I have a book I’ve been meaning to write, if only I could find the time.” I have also heard, equally countlessly, from writers who lament not being able to find the time to actually write: “Life gets in the way.”
Well, yes, sometimes it does. But many years ago, when I decided that what I wanted to be above all else was a published writer, I realized that the lackadaisical “Oh, I’m just not in the mood” attitude I had about writing was going to have to change. At the time, I was working a full-time job. I had friends who expected to see me now and again, a boyfriend who liked to spend time with me, and many other commitments. So I came up with a plan. Two nights a week, and one weekend day, I would write, whether I felt like it or not. If I got in more than that, fine. If not, then I wouldn’t feel guilty.
And that is what I did. I worked all day, came home, went for a run, ate dinner, and then worked for at least an hour and a half those two days a week. One weekend day, I spent the morning or afternoon working. I soon discovered that I could not tell the difference between writing that was inspired, and writing that wasn’t. In other words: how I FELT when writing made absolutely no difference in the quality of the prose. This flew completely in the face of everything I had told myself about writing before then, but the evidence was indisputable. Not only that, but gradually, over the course of several months, I had a full novel completed. And then another, and then another.
When I got married and had children, I had to squeeze that writing time into the two hours a day when my children were napping. By then, I’d developed the habit of concentration. If it could be done when my children were awake, I saved it until then. Those two hours were sacred, and I did not waste them because they were all I had.
Now, I’m a fairly driven individual, with tendencies toward OCD. Not everyone is like that, I realize. But I’ve come to realize that everyone must develop his own way of approaching writing. That it must become a habit of sorts in order for you to keep at it and succeed. Because you know what? It’s HARD.
The good thing is that it doesn’t matter what that habit consists of. Fifteen minutes a day while you’re waiting for the bus to unload your children? Good. One full day a week? Writing during soccer practice or escaping one morning a week to a nearby coffee shop? It’s something, and all those somethings add up. Anne Rice says that there are no rules, that every writer must simply do what works for them, and she’s right. You must stop listening to what works for everyone else and feeling guilty because it doesn’t work for you. You must find what DOES work for you. But to do that, you must actually … write.
You are the only one who can determine the time you can commit. You are the only one who knows what you’re willing to sacrifice. You are the only one who can figure out where you can wedge in those few precious minutes to write down a few words. It doesn’t matter if they are spread throughout a day or a month or a year. You just have to actually pen them. And don’t fool yourself into thinking that the peripheral stuff is all important: You can spend years working on character biographies and collages. You can take copious notes on plot and you can research until you drop. At some point, you’re going to have to put those things aside and move forward. To write a novel, or a textbook, or an article, or whatever, you must actually put words on paper. It doesn’t matter how you do it, or where you do it, or if you listen to music or don’t listen to music or write in coffeeshops or need silence or need the chaos of a dozen kids running around. It doesn’t matter if you spend fifteen minutes a day or two hours or once a week or three times a month. There is only one thing that matters. There are no rules—except one:
Megan Chance is the critically acclaimed, award-winning author of several novels. The Best Reviews has said she writes “Fascinating historical fiction.” Her books have been chosen for the Borders Original Voices program and IndiBound’s Booksense. A former television news photographer with a BA from Western Washington University, Megan Chance lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two daughters. Find her at: http://www.MeganChance.com.