Saturday, February 25, 2006

Relax, Don't Do It

Everyone has different ways to relax and unwind. When and how often do you:
  • Watch television?
  • Go out to eat?
  • See a movie?
  • Read a book?
  • Surf the Internet?
  • Play sports?
  • Drink alcohol?
  • Do drugs?
  • Attend a museum/concert/event?
  • Listen to music?
  • Sleep more than 8 hours?
  • Post on blogs/message boards/listservs?
  • Have sex (tandem or solo)?
  • Read a newspaper/magazine?
  • Go for a drive?
  • Exercise?
  • Go on vacation?

How many hours per day/week do you engage in the above activities?

And yet you can say with a straight face that you don't have time to write?

Your book won't get finished by itself. Thinking about writing, talking about writing, and writing about writing, are not substitutes for writing.

Writers write. Now move your ass.


Allison Brennan said...

I gave up television to make the time to write. I wrote 3-4 hours every night after the kids went to bed and finished five books in two years.

I wholeheartedly agree with you, Joe. You do what it takes if you want it badly enough. Great post.

Anonymous said...

Hear, hear. I posted about this (though a bit longer winded :D) recently on my journal. This is a topic near and dear to my heart, and if there's only one thing I'm good at in my writing aspirations, it's making the time to get writing done--and using it. The thing is that most people can do all of the above, AND still have time to write if they cut the chaff that really wastes time. IE, blogging only once a day instead of constantly refreshing the screen in hopes they updated, or watching only the TV shows you truly love, and not half of the one before it because its on, and not watching that rerun you hated anyway.

I think it's healthy to relax, but one also has to make priorities for what they want.

People got the time. They've just got to make it, if writing is what they really want.

Adam Hurtubise said...


Totally agree with you.

You forgot "Going to the gym" on your list of excuses. I always put that ahead of writing.

On the vacation matter, I've learned to take them, because by the time I go on vacation I'm way overdue for one.

Even writing takes a back seat when vacation happens. And I also spend more time with my family, which is non-negotiable as well.

Vacation is a minimal drain on my writing... it ends up enhancing it... spending time with my family is necessary for my well-being, which enhances my writing... and going to the gym lets me live longer, theoretically, which allows me to write longer.

Great post. How close to finished are you on the MS?


Anonymous said...

When I was first starting to write, I joined a "creativity group" (this was shortly before I figured out that creativity comes to those who plant butt in chair in front of a computer -- NOT to those who spend 2 hours a week trading wishful thinking with other people similarly clueless.) Another writer in the group was asked what her perfect writing day would look like. It started with sleeping late (in a mythical house in the country), progressed to horseback riding (across mythical meadows on a horse she didn't own), picnics with friends, dinner on the patio with wine and gourmet food, and ended with stargazing and a light breeze blowing through gauzy drapes. Nowhere in the description was any mention of writing. All that was simply to "create the necessary mood".

That was 11 years ago. No doubt she hasn't written a word yet, but she remains an inspiration to me -- whenever I think of her "perfect writing day", I plant my own procrastinating butt back in the chair and get to work.

MikeH said...

I relax every day with a cigar and a glass of wine, as long as it is temperate enough to sit out on the balcony for an hour or so (today it was 45 degrees with a biting wind but I still considered it temperate enough). I don't feel guilty about that, however, I don't have to; my work week comes complete with 15 hours of writing time, so I only have to feel guilty about filling it all up with actual writing.

Even with all the goofing off I do during my 15 hours, I still managed to finish a non-fiction book and novel over the past eyar and a half. and I just compelted the second major re-write of the non-fiction manuscript.

I have a friend back in the States who, do to the recent death of his mother, found himself with a fully paid for house and enough money to quit his job and not have to work for a year or two. He proposed to do just that and devote himself to his writing. He has had nothing but free time for the past eight months and has not written a word.

If you'r a writer, you will write, not matter how little 'free' time you have. If not, well, you'll have plenty of free time, and an equal number of excuses.

Mary Stella said...

Thanks for the no-nonsense, no excuses reminder.

Jen Jordan said...

Two horrible songs put into my hapless head in one day! You and Russle McLean are in dire straights!

I will get my revenge on you, Konrath! That is how I will relax.

Oh, this is terrible.

Anonymous said...

Talk about killing two (or more birds) with one stone, it's not unusual for me to write while I watch TV, eat, watch a movie, surf the Internet, have an occasional drink (no Bukowski am I, as alcohol, more than any other effect, makes me sleepy), or post on blogs/message boards/listservs. It's also not unusual, while I take a breather or wait for the Muse to find her way back to me, for me to pick up a book or newspaper or magazine and read a few lines or pages before returning to my work. Yes, I do drugs while I write, but only of the Ibuprofen kind for a nasty case of tendonitis in my right wrist. I no longer write at concerts or pop culture events, but I used to (when I got paid for it). As for sex, sleeping, driving, exercising, vacationing, and the rest, those I don't do while I write -- I just write about them afterwards.

Anonymous said...

I relax by washing the blood out of my clown suit. Is that TMI?

I agree with Allison. Turn the TV off. Leave it off and you'll have a bevy of time to write that you never knew existed. And besides, that whole "eight hours of sleep" thing is overrated.

Sandra Ruttan said...

You have an interesting hobby list JA.

Lynn Raye Harris said...

I love this! I know someone, just talked with her about it this week, who claims to have no time to write. She works full time, lives 9 minutes from her job, lives alone but has a boyfriend, sings in a choir and comes to a once a week critique group. And she can't find time to write. She finally admitted that she feels like she has to leave her house every day, even on weekends. She'll get dressed and go shopping rather than write. Duh.

I gave up television when I moved to Europe 8 years ago. I've been in Hawaii for two years now and still haven't re-acquired the habit.

I never sleep in, except on weekends. My hubby gets up at 6AM to get ready for work. I get up too, make coffee, and plop in front of the computer. I don't get up much until I have to find something for dinner. Sometimes, dammit, I have to actually go grocery shopping. Thankfully, the store is less than 2 miles away.

I draw the line with exercise though. I exercise 6 days a week, and it can take up to 2 hours out of my day (on jog days). Being healthy gives me greater endurance, means I don't need to sleep in, and keeps me from catching colds.

Hawaii can be a distraction, it's true, but when I go to the beach, I take my Alphasmart, notebook, pen, and a book. :) Lying around in the sand would be boring otherwise. Thankfully, I'm not a surfer. :) (Well, except for the Web, which does distract me more than it should. My bad.)

Anonymous said...

There are a couple of people in my writers' group who say they don't have time to write. I have a full time day job, a 9 year old daughter, a husband, a house, two cats and I need to sleep or I get very grumpy. And I still write at least 1,000 words a day, while maintaining my "Amazing Race" habit. I have no sympathy.

Jeri said...

As I pointed out on my blog last week, no one ever had "World-Renowned TiVo Watcher" etched on their tombstone.

It's helpful to keep a time log for one week, to keep track of how much time you spend doing different things. It's as sobering as keeping track of the piddly stuff you spend money on.

I should add, though, that for many writers, sex counts as research. And for most of us, it's free!

Anonymous said...

This post asnd the last got me thinking that for a lot of wannabes (like me), 1000, 2000, 3500 words is very intimidating. Yet I know I can write 1000 words an hour.

Maybe the daunted wannabe should think in hours, not words. 1000 words a day is one reasonably sized novel in four months. So an hour a day can easily translate to a novel in less than a year.

But where to find an hour? Get up an hour earlier? Go to be an hour later? Half an hour before work? Half an hour at lunch time? Half an hour on the train/bus to work? Half an hour after dinner when kids are watching TV before bed?

Finding time is never a problem. The problem is finding the motivation to overcome procrastination, distraction, writer's block, writer's glug, writer's knot or whatever.

Thanks JA, you might have just given me the release I need. I will sit behind my pen and paper for 1 hour per day. Whether in three 20 min blocks, or one 1 hour, that's what I will do. I will make that time - just as I make the time to eat, sleep, work and shower. If I only write 200 words, so be it. The true value is developing the habit. Other days I might not be able to stop after an hour - and that's good too! Hopefully I'll have more of those days.

MikeH said...

"Hawaii can be a distraction, it's true, but when I go to the beach, I take my Alphasmart, notebook, pen, and a book."

Lynn, I see you are a fellow AlphaSmart user. The bulk of my writing is done on a bus commute so the AS is indispensible.

As for 'free' time and motivation to write, nothing beats having to sit for two solid hours every day with absolutely nothing to do.

Allison Brennan said...

Lynn & Karen-- I find that peope who say they don't have the time to write are actually scared of making the time. They fear if they actually write, it'll be garbage and they won't realize their dream of being published. I know, I went through this before I got serious about finishing a book.

When I wrote those 5 books in 2 years, I had a full-time day job, a husband, and 4 kids (I now have 5 kids, but no outside job.) I had no contracts, no agent, nothing but the desire. It can be done. Find the REASON behind the inability to make time and you can solve the problem and make the time. I find most won't until they make the internal commitment and push down the fear of failure.

Lynn Raye Harris said...

I love the Alphie, Mike. When I'm home, I usually work on my laptop. I have an office, but I do a lot of writing sitting on the couch. :) I have another friend who, like you, takes that Alphie on the bus. She gets so much more done than she used to before she had the AS. I take mine to Starbucks and the beach. :)

Allison, I think you've hit the nail on the head, especially when I think about my friend who claims to have no time. Maybe it's sort of like Christine's example of the girl whose ideal day was all those fantasy things. She feared to write unless she was in the right mood because it would be crap otherwise. I think my friend fears that too. That and the loneliness. She fears being immersed in her fictional world only to come out and be lonely because she lives alone.

Unknown said...

To be fair, I fully engage in reading and TV/Movie watching (as well as news/magazine writing) because I don't believe a writer should be in a creative void 24/7. Good ideas are out all around us - a murder in the news, a subplot in that shitty movie that you can make better...

For instance, I'm reading Whiskey Sour right now... and I wouldn't give up that 30 minutes a day I give it for anything... which, PS, is AWESOME J.A. ... that fucking chocolate chapter had me reading with my eyes practically closed (which I don't think I've ever done when dealing with the printed word).

But I digress. Write for 2 - 3 hours a day... but give yourself time to absorb, study, puzzle and analyze what HAS made it out already. If you write from a clueless black hole, you're screwed.

Bonnie S. Calhoun said...

But I write while I'm walking on the treadmill! Does that count!

Lauren Baratz-Logsted said...

When I give talks, I'm asked how I was ever able to write with a small child in the house. My girl is now six, so she's at school all day, but of course in the early years she was not, meaning she was neither six nor at school. I always say if you want to do it, you make the time, and I point out that I wrote an entire novel while breastfeeding. Not in one session, of course.

Anonymous said...

Jeeze, Joe, lighten up! I can say with 100% certainty that the times in my life when writing was the hardest - when I was writing myself into corners and having no idea how to get out - was when ALL I was doing was writing. I wasn't reading. Wasn't watching movies or television or listening to music.

Then I realized that I need these other things - these other creative things - in my life, in order to fill me up, to inspire me. If I become a nun in a cloister with my writing, I got nothin'. I'm just a dried up well.

Anonymous said...

Great list, but I ain't givin' up sex for writing time! The ten minutes it takes isn't that much of a time waster! tee-hee.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Joe. This is actually the kick I need. I've been feeling sorry for myself because I am simply blocked on my new book (partly because I'm on tenterhooks waiting to hear from my agent about the first), and haven't got more than a chapter and a half down on paper. I was taking a moment to figure out my evening: business appointment, then dog walking, then supper, then exercise. . .and THEN writing? At 8.30 or 9.00 at night? Nope. Can't do it.

But you're right. It isn't "can't." It's WON'T. So thanks for the kick, Joe. And thanks, Chris, for the "1000 words a day is a novel in four months." It won't get written if I cry about time.

And BTW, for any Catholics in the group - Lent is coming. How about sacrificing one of the pleasures on the list for more writing?

Rob Gregory Browne said...

I don't watch much televison. Just a couple of choice shows. Doesn't interest me all that much anymore. I do most of my writing in wee morning hours anyway, so television isn't really a factor.

But I do watch movies. I bought a projector and a giant screen and put them in my office so I can lay back on my sofa and enjoy big screen fun.

I do that at least twice a week.

And, yes, I still manage to find time to write. Book two is coming along very nicely, in fact.

Lynn Raye Harris said...

Not just Catholics, Christopher, but Episcopalians too. :) Think I'll give up, uh, hmm, lemmee see...... :)

Can I get back to you? Ha!

Millenia Black said...

I hate to admit it, but I suffer from what Allison described. Fear. And from that, you can find every reason (translation: excuse) in the world not to sit and apply yourself to the writing. Not to make the time.

All I do is write right through the fear. Challenge it. I always wind up surprising myself...and finding the time.

Jude Hardin said...

Some people consider writing (and reading) fiction a waste of time. What should our answers be to them?

Anna Louise Lucia said...

*sigh* You see, that list would have worked a lot better for me if I was doing many of those things....

And some of those things I SHOULD be doing because I consider them IMPORTANT! *tears hair*

Methinks I see a life audit coming up.

HawkOwl said...

[i]Some people consider writing (and reading) fiction a waste of time. What should our answers be to them?[/i]

Do we have to answer them? Whenever someone questions my MO I always think (if not always say) the same thing: am I doing this on [i]your[/i] dime? No? All right then, buzz off. Whenever someone is paying me or supporting me financially to do something, I feel accountable. What I do on my own dime, I don't care what they think about it.

Anonymous said...

I think when some people say "I don't have time to write" they really mean they don't really want to write, but wish they did because they think writing is a neat thing to do. They admire writers and the work put into it. The overwhelming desire to write just hasn't struck them the same way.

There are also times, for every writer who actually writes, when we spend a good deal of time working at a subconscious level while doing other things. Recent research seems to indicate that people solve simple problems while awake, but many complex problems are worked out while we sleep. If writing a novel--especially a mystery--isn't complex I don't know what is.

So sometimes we're writing AND doing something else.

Anonymous said...

My good friend asked me "Where did you find the time to write...I can't squeeze it in--oops they're calling me into the massage room..." Hmmmm...

s.w. vaughn said...

Amen. Thanks for the list of things not to do. Now, for the list of things TO do:

-Replace worn seat cushion from hours of sitting upon it. Or get a pillow.
-Occasionally remember there is a family out there somewhere. Say hello to them.
-Write, scratch that. Just write.

Oh, and Joe...a month?? I bow to your awesome novel-completion skills.