Monday, March 4, 2013

On Writing When Time is Limited

The other night at work my buddy Edd asked, “You writing much?” The question came after a conversation about our kids. His boy's a couple years older than mine. Edd is a busy guy too. “Not much,” I said. “Rough,” he said. “Yeah,” I countered. It is rough. But I realize that life just has to be that way sometime. After all, if nothing more, I'm committed to this blog so I know I'm good for at least 1,000 words (or so) a week. I realize that time gets the better of us at various stages in our lives, and I realize that time really is very limited. Sadly, I write so much less than I once did, and I have so many fewer hours than I've ever had. So what? I get to play with a baby all day and it's just as gratifying as the work of the writing that once filled up my time.

Years ago, well over 20 of them in fact, I remember buddies of mine whiling away the day with their Gameboys. Tetris was big addiction back then. I never had the patience for video games, not then, not since and not now. I did play Tetris a few times. I wasn't very good at it. I understood the shapes and how they fit together. What I didn't get was how to move the controls fast enough. In theory, Tetris is the perfect game for a guy like me. I love to fit things into a neat space. Just look at the trunk of the car when we go on trips.

So, how about when it comes to fitting things into a schedule? Well, there's the hours I go to work. There are the hours that I watch my boy. I have a few family hours when everyone is home. I have the maintenance hours when I run errands and do chores. At some point in the day I have to sleep. We all have these things going on. Most of us work. Most of us have families. Most of us have to sleep. When you total up all the stuff you gotta do in the course of the day, there is very little time left over. I don't know about you, but this left over time is very limited, is it true for you? I rarely have time to myself anymore. When it happens, I like to sit on the sofa, or barstool, and think about nothing. These are indeed different days than the ones I had just a few years back when my writing time was eight to ten hours a day. I knew at the time that those days were the days and that those days would not last. Perfect. There is a time to write and a time to live life, turn, turn, turn.

At the end of my Tucson days back in 2005, I spent much of my day writing in my journal trying to make sense of life and how I ended up living it. Admittedly, I was not a happy person then. And it was the very unhappiness that led me to Kaizen. Kaizen being the small changes in behavior that lead to larger results in life. So, now I have suggested limited time using myself as an example. I have mentioned the game of Tetris. And I have mentioned Kaizen. Pretty scattered.

Well, we all have time. I know we all have time. And if you have a television, you have the time. It's just a question of organizing it. Check out the steps I came up with:

1-Stop saying these words: “I don't have the time.” or “I don't have enough time.” You have all the time in the world.
2-Figure out what your time wasters are. TV? Mindless surfing the net? The barstool?
3-Whatever your project may be, a 1,000 word blogpost, a short story or a novel, break the larger project into small, and I mean small, easily attainable tasks.
4-Work your project(s) as a whole. This means that it may take several sessions just to accomplish the smallest of a portion of a task. Everything you complete, even if it's one sentence is an accomplishment.
5-Don't be afraid to put something down. Likewise, don't be afraid to pick it back up.
6-Be flexible. Things change.

When I consider that just a few years ago I was able to write 50 hours a week, I'm baffled. I got a great many words written, of course I did. I was not frivolous with my time. I also had no sense of urgency. I wrote what “I did” lists rather than the “to do” list I use today. I had no need to use Tetris as a time organizer. I did not need to make a change with Kaizen. I did not feel like I needed to do anything other than what I was doing. I had no sense of urgency because there was no rush. There was no need to do anything else. But I digress.

Long hours at work, kids and family, life gets in the way.

I was once told that “life can kind of get in the way.” I don't buy it. So, I stay at home all day during the week and take care of my son. In many ways I am the housefrau. And every night I go to a fancy restaurant for work. It doesn't leave much time. It's been going on like this for over six months. And, I may not be a seasoned parent. Hell, I am not be a seasoned housefrau or waiter. It's debatable if I'm a seasoned writer. But this is what I've learned:

1-I do not get all day to write. I get the length of the morning nap and the afternoon nap. I get the length of time between home and work. I get a few moments late night after I get home but before I go to sleep. If I once wrote 8-10 a day, I get less than that in a week now.
2-I have all the time in world. I get to play with a baby all day. The walk to work takes ten minutes. I do not feel in the least bit obligated to participate in anything else outside work and home.
3-This “to do” list is very small. I have four to five items on it each week. In short, it takes me an entire 7 day period to do what I used to do before the second cup of coffee on Monday morning. I am okay with this.
4-Each item on the list is further broken down into even small parts. I can do these within a few minutes. It builds.
5-I fit these smaller parts in randomly through the day like nap times and late night.

When you live with a stressed schedule, a full schedule and you still want to write, or any artistic pursuit really, you will do it. Overcome the mental blocks (avoid thinking you don't have the time), break your task list into smaller, easily attainable tasks and fit these tasks into every free time moment you get during the day. And always remember you will get accomplished what you need to accomplish.

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