Finding the Time to Write

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Maybe you want to write. Maybe you feel you have to. But you never seem to find the time. And then, when the weekend finally comes, you find that reading a new book or going out with friends comes more easily.

I have often gone to bed with a sense of regret that I have not written enough. That I could have put in an hour or two more, and that that would have been good for me. It can be a wretched feeling.

To write you need more than time. You need space around you. You need quiet. And you need to believe that what you write has meaning, whether for you or for others. And then you also need patience. Because the right words may not come right away.

We may create sentences and paragraphs, but like a water mill on the bank of the river, we need the flow of the water, the flow of our inner life to drive our writing. This is true even if we don’t write about our personal experiences but invent people and places and events. Even if we write for others.

Life is hopelessly busy, whether you are working or studying full time or part time or not at all. A myriad of other things will distract you and make writing seem hard by comparison.

The only sure way to write every day is to create time for writing. To plan writing time ahead if you have to. To give yourself the luxury of writing in the morning before anything else has the chance to distract you. Also, to skip on easy forms of consumption during the rest of the day. To watch fewer movies. To browse fewer sites. To shop less. Perhaps even to read less.

But is writing worth giving these things up? Is writing worth working less? Earning less?

That’s a question each one of us who writes must answer constanty. Not just once, but every time we face it. Because nobody ever decides to be a writer once and for all. We have to decide to be writers every day. And with every page and word we write, we have to confirm our decision.

For my part, I can say that the friendship and understanding of a blank page, and its power to distill life and give it a coherent shape, is worth saying no to other things. It would have been easier for me not to write this post but do something else instead. To play with the cat or read or listen to the Buena Vista Social Club.

But just as strenuous exercise brings a sense of elation after the last pushup is completed, so does writing bring a release after the last full stop. And in that release life appears tolerably strange, and all the questions whose answers keep changing and all fears and uncertainties seem not only bearable but even welcome.

For there was never a story, however sad or tragic, that did not look good on paper. And that, to me, makes time spent writing worthwhile.

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