Part 2: Hiding Out
Even when you’ve been bitten by the writing bug and have no issues with coming up with ideas or wrestling with writer’s block, it’s still a challenge to find the time to sit down and write. Last month in Part 1, I posted about how I’d turned my commute by train into a daily rolling writers’ retreat, and suggested a few places to look for hidden pockets of time in your own schedule that you can use for writing.
Part 2 is about finding bigger chunks of time—an hour, two hours, half a day to devote to writing. Where can these come from?
- For me, big chunks of time mainly happen on weekends and some evenings.
- For you, chunks of time may occur while your children are out of the house—in school, at camp, on an outing with your spouse, away for the weekend visiting grandparents.
- If you work irregular hours at your day job, look for writing time on your days off, and even in your hours off. If your job starts 2 PM, you have up to six hours to write even if you sleep until 8 AM.
- If you’re in school, plan ahead to write on holidays or breaks.
- If you’re home with small children, consider hiring a young teenager to play with them after school a couple of days a week while you write. Young sitters are affordable, you’re still there in case of emergencies, and your children have the complete attention of a cool, older kid.
But really, this post is more about WHERE to write, than WHEN to write. Because I’ve learned the hard way that big chunks of time can quickly evaporate without prior planning.
The Lure of Distractions
I love my family. I like spending time with them, they believe in me, and they all support my writing habit. They even understand it, since they write, too. That doesn’t mean that they leave me alone to write. To be fair, writing doesn’t look any different from scrolling through other writers’ blogs or checking email, activities where I’m happy to be interrupted to taste something fresh out of the oven or look at wildlife in the woods. So when they stop by I get up, enjoy the moment—and am taken out of the story, derailed from my train of thought.
And it’s not just family. Even if I lived alone, there’d be the guilt-inducing pull of never-ending housework, or the siren call of beautiful weather after being cooped up in an office building all week, or a book I’ve been meaning to read, or…
Honestly? Sometimes just the CHANCE that I could be interrupted or distracted is enough to keep me from settling in for a good, long writing session.
The Disappearing Act
Time for the Disappearing Act. Physically removing yourself from interruptions and distractions whenever possible can do wonders for word counts.
Here’s where I went this past Saturday:
Writing at the library has several benefits.
- It’s quiet: even when other patrons talk, they know they shouldn’t, and they quiet down or leave when I give them the hairy eyeball.
- It’s supportive, in that there are other people similarly focused on their work sitting in silence nearby.
- The environment is simple: I have only what I bring, so distractions are minimal.
Of course, I’m surrounded by books in the library, but sitting in the Chinese and Russian section reduces the temptation to grab something off the shelf. And the library has free WiFi, but putting the laptop in airplane mode keeps me from checking email or social media.
Getting to the library isn’t always practical. But I’ve found that going to an unexpected corner of the house is also effective: a guest room, a side porch, the playroom. Your home may have different options: a basement, the roof of an apartment building, the laundry room, over the garage. You can go sit in your parked car if the weather allows it. (Joyce Zarins tells me that Andre Dubus III has done this.) Being anywhere that people won’t think to look for you will reduce interruptions.
When can you find chunks of writing time? Does it help you to hide out while you’re writing?
Finding Time to Write: Part 1, by Marianne Knowles
Are Distractions Derailing Your Wri–Wait, Did I Pick Up Milk at the Store? by Heather Fenton