Craft: Finding the Time to Write by Ally Bishop, Reviews Editor

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When I realized I had to write the article for the craft section of Hippocampus this month, I found myself frozen in fear. I had to write something brilliant, obviously. And something that speaks to the soul of the writer. No pressure, eh? I conjured eloquent diatribes on character development; lengthy commentary on the importance of setting as character. An impressive argument for why plot is just as important in nonfiction as it is fiction. Mind you, these nuggets of pure genius all exist in my head. Not a word of it made it onto the page. Why was I keeping my mad genius from you, dear reader? Because it’s all been said, and quite honestly, better than I could ever say it.

So what can I speak on? Well, you could argue this has been said before, too, but in this, I have a particularly personal perspective: finding the time to write.

For years, I had no problem finding the time to write. I’m not sure if I just had less going on, or if I was simply more unhappy with life, so therefore chose to retreat from it in the form of my writing. I got up each morning at 5 a.m., wrote for an hour, and often, wrote more at night. It was my schedule, my habit.

Then life changed. I got out of an unhappy situation and into a much happier one. I started feeling fulfilled as a person, more complete in my life. And my writing fell by the wayside.

I write both fiction and nonfiction, and often I find that nonfiction comes to me more easily. It resides in the truth of our lives: the unique views we take, and it wells inside us until we have to put it down on paper. But regardless of the genre I choose to write in, lately it is the choice to write at all that is the problem.

Of course, I could blame facebook. Twitter. LinkedIn. Amazon. My constant need to be connected and find the best deal on the latest gadget. But there’s something else at stake here. Something that keeps me from doing what I love. That makes it more chore than joy.

Writing is like any relationship. You have to spend time on it and nurture it in order for it to stay healthy and grow. So it is no wonder that the longer we avoid it, the more terrifying it becomes. The more it tortures our soul with its nearness, only to leave us at the alter when we finally commit to sit down and thrash out a few words.

Time. That is the key. And a willing spirit to allow it to be hard, impossible at times, to put one word in front of another. Just like we schedule in time for our children, our mates, our friends, we need to schedule our time to write. Morning, evening, late at night: whatever time is best for you or whatever time you can fit it in. We must honor our creative need, just as we honor our need for food and water. It’s not that different. In fact, it may be nearly as important.

So how do we put this into action, ensuring that our time for writing is regularly scheduled and our goals met? We simply have to do it. There is no one outside of us that can force us to. Think of it as the aerobic class you attend every morning at 6 a.m. because you want to get in better shape, or your child’s dance class you don’t want them to miss and–god forbid, get behind the other students. It must be taken that seriously. Figure out what time is best for you–first thing in the morning before everyone is awake? Or last thing at night when everyone is asleep? Maybe your lunch hour is better served in front of your laptop? Whatever it is, figure it out and stick to it. Force yourself, even when you don’t want to. Tell others that this is your commitment and tell them to ask you if you completed your goal for that day. Tell them to guilt you, if necessary.

Personally, I chose early in the morning, before the pressures of daylight can obliterate imagination. I set my alarm for 5:20 a.m., instead of 6:20 a.m., and get up while the sun hides behind the horizon. Is it tough? Some days, it really is. But other times, I remember that I’m not getting up to jump into workout clothes or get ready for work. Instead I’m meeting some of my favorite people for drinks, hijinks, and life-altering action. Even coffee can’t offer that kind of thrill.

Whatever it takes, it is not inspiration that drives the words–it is discipline that allows the mind to open to inspiration and embrace the gems that linger there, waiting to be culled. Your subconscious must trust that you will open the door each day and allow it room to roam. Give your creativity the opportunity and it will amaze you with its perseverance and its drive.

Ally Bishop has an M.F.A. in creative writing from Wilkes University and has published in local newspapers and blogs. She’s also hard at work on her WIP, a mystery novel.

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