Saturday, June 4, 2011

How to Create Time and Space for Your Writing Life

by Irene Latham

Once upon a time I thought in order to write a book

...I needed big chunks of time – at least a couple of consecutive hours. Not the 15 minute snatches I was able to grab between diapers and soccer practice and groceries.

...I needed a room all my own, with a door I could close. I’d call it my “study” and line the walls with books, because doesn’t that sound cozy?

...I needed to write in the mornings, because I’m a morning person.

...I needed the quiet of an empty house.

The truth is, I didn’t need any of those things as I set forth on my journey toward Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours. Those ideas were merely obstacles I put in my own way – or as Steven Pressfield, author of The War of Art, would say, “Resistance.”

In order to overcome this Resistance, I had to retrain my brain. I turned first to Dorothea Brande’s Becoming a Writer for help on the time factor – after completing her program, now I can access my story any hour of the day. And if all I’ve got is 15 minutes (or 5), I can put a few paragraphs in place, often entire scenes.

For the reinvention of space, I dedicated a corner of my dining room as my writing space and challenged myself to only use it for the business side – email and so forth – and do my creative work in as many different spots as I could: my van during son’s music lessons, the chair by the window, the glider on the screened porch, my bed (by far my most favorite writing place because it allows me to drift off to that place Robert Olen Butler writes of in his book From Where You Dream. I’m still amazed by the miraculous solutions to story problems my brain finds and allows me to capture in those moments upon waking with that computer still in my lap.)

As for quiet: I still prefer it but can write through youngest son’s drum practice and the testosterone-roar of a roomful of teenage boys watching a football game on tv.

I’m still working on my 10,000 hours, and the Resistance still plagues me. But I battle through it. The important thing is to remember that the environment hardly matters in the face of a story that must be told.

That’s why there are ancient etchings on cave walls…

4 comments:

  1. Snatches of writing time are all I get too, maybe once a week I have a two hour chunk. Realizing my novel is built word by word helped me understand that those 5 minute bits help just as much as two hour chunks. Thank you for your post.

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  2. I let many a day slip away thinking I needed those big time chunks! They are WONDERFUL when they happen... but yes, word by word. Thanks, Barbara!

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  3. Wonderful, Irene! I was just talking to someone who said she didn't have time to write and who then complained about the amount of time she spent in the pickup line at her son's school. I suggested she could write during that time and she said she could never write in her car. ARGH.

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  4. Tracy, yes, that his EXACTLY what I'm talking about. We fight so hard against creation -- a sure sign that we really need to be doing it.

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