Writing a novel is hard. Finding the time to sit down and write it? That’s even harder.
I was reminded of this when an email from the Camp NaNoWriMo folks appeared in my In Box earlier this week. For those not familiar with Camp NaNoWriMo, it’s a concept similar to November’s NaNoWriMo, but you’re able to set your own goals instead of shooting for the 50,000-word mark. I tried to do Camp NaNoWriMo last year, though admittedly, it fell during an unusually busy period for me and I failed miserably. Well, that’s not totally true. I wrote words; I just didn’t meet my goal (or get beyond the first chapter of the manuscript). As good as my intentions were to complete that manuscript (which is still in my To Be Finished pile), all kinds of stuff (including my son’s birthday party, a deluge of projects at the day job, and a round of revisions from my agent that turned into three passes instead of one) kept popping up.
Writing a novel is one of those weird things you can’t do passively. It’s kind of like running. When you’re running, you are actively engaged in the act of moving your legs in a forward motion for long periods of time. It can’t be outsourced (or I would have done that in middle school), and it can’t be done “on the side.” But the act of running at least leaves your mind free to wander so you can think about things like your never-ending To Do list, what you want to have for lunch, or how Character X can murder Character Y and appear to get away with it until Character A figures it out at the end of the second act. You don’t really have a similar luxury when you’re writing because every bit of your brain is engaged.
So how does one do it? Taking one month out of the year off from social engagements and housework and life and laundry is hard enough, but the bulk of the writing advice out there screams the importance of writing daily. But how do you do that when there’s homework to do and bills to pay and people clamoring for your attention from all angles? After all, most authors have to balance writing with some semblance of a social life, jobs, parenting, and/or school. And after factoring in that pesky need for sleep, entire days can pass without a single word added to the work in progress.
A number of people have said it all comes down to time management, but I think it’s more than that. For me, making time to write depends on how important it is to tell my story. Some people have said it’s about dedication and discipline, and while I don’t disagree, I think desire is as much—if not more—of a factor in getting the words onto the page.
If your book is eating away at you, and you want nothing more than to sit down and write, don’t wait for the perfect “writing time.” Most writers don’t have that luxury. Write on your phone or on scraps of paper, then transfer the words to your computer before you go to bed. Set the DVR and turn off the TV, and have a date with your manuscript instead. Know there will never be “enough time,” so whatever it takes, make a commitment to yourself to get your words onto the page and finish that novel.