This and/or That

If you ask a bunch of writers about how to find time to write there are two basic camps: Butt In Chair (BIC) and Steal Minutes (SM). If you go to any writer’s group and ask a general question like “How do you find time to write” you’ll get a nice smattering of about equal weight of the two camps. No one will deny the other camp’s position and they’ll be quite polite about it.

Now, if you go to those same groups and post something about how you are setting a schedule for yourself to plant you butt in the chair, you’ll find all the SM folks telling you that the best way to get writing done is to steal minutes. They’ll even be so gracious as to tell you how they keep their note book in the car and write while waiting for their kids to get out of school or use their lunch break for writing instead. I have to admit those stories are inspiring and I’ve managed to get a few good tips out of them for ways to make writing easier to sneak in.

On the other hand, if you post about all the great words you managed to get when you were waiting for your kids to get out of school or over your lunch break the exact opposite happens. Then your comments are filled with people telling you that to be a writer you really just have to sit down and write. You will never find the time to do it. You have to make it. They will tell you in detail how they set the alarm an hour early so they have that time to write while the rest of the family sleeps. Or maybe it’s at night once the kids go to bed.

All of this is likely to send the new writer into fits of confusion trying to figure out what to do. Well first and foremost, if you are a new writer looking for what to do: Do What Works For You. Meaning try setting a schedule, getting up early or locking the office door. Keep a notebook with you at all times and write in every spare second you have. It will soon become clear what does, and what does not work for you. For the rest of you, do the same thing.

My thoughts on the issue are that the two ways aren’t mutually exclusive. You can have your set time and still steal minutes. Actually that’s exactly what I do. I don’t give up my lunch break and I don’t have kids to pick up from school, but I do have down times when I can pull out my notebook and scribble a few words here and there. Most days I can net close to 1000 words that way. I have also discovered that BIC is a very powerful force. Sitting down and staying there is great for making the words come. It’s even better for editing, formatting and all those other parts that get the stuff ready to walk out the door. It’s also great for when you need to make sure that you are keeping the tone and voice consistent. On the days when I can apply myself to writing for a good 3-4 hour chunk I can type between 3,000 to 5,000 words.

It might then appear that I would be better off with the scheduled time, except that with interpreting, family and other obligations I can’t make that time every day. I can however always steal a few minutes out of the day. Oh, well then I should follow the stealing minutes method. Not necessarily. While I can write new words that way, I will still have to type them at some point. I will still have to make sure that everything matches and I will still have to come up with time to edit. I don’t have to be part of one camp over the other. I don’t have to decide that one way is better than the other. I would be willing to bet that I’m not the only one with my tent firmly pitched right on the line between the two. Actually, I know I’m not, because I’ve seen those discussions on social media sites and I’ve seen the same people posting on both sides of the fence.

How you find time to write is as personal as how you decide what to write. Most of us, if we are honest with ourselves, will see that what we need is really a little of this AND a little of that.

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