Lie #2 I tell myself: "I don't have time to write."
I lie to myself. Because writers can be liars.
Why do we do this? We tell ourselves fantastic lies, usually built on fear, that stop us in our tracks. That stop us from writing.
Here is a lie I tell myself.
“I don’t have time to write.”
Have you said this to yourself? To others? I think I said this . . . last week. But this is a lie.
The truth is, when we tell ourselves this lie, or other “writer” lies, we think we’re being honest.
What we might mean instead is something like one of these statements:
I feel like if I sit down to write, nothing is going to come out.
I worry that if I sit down to write, what I write will be bad
I feel stuck in my work right now and I don’t know what to do if I sit down to write.
I worry that I’m not inspired right now.
I feel overwhelmed in other aspects of my life right now.
I worry I should be spending my time doing something else to make others happy.
Any of these sound familiar?
There are ways to combat these lies we tell ourselves. Instead, we can tell ourselves the truth.
Lie #2 I tell myself:
"I don’t have time to write.”
Five Truths to help you un-lie to yourself.
Truth: You do have time. Yes, you do. Remember that time is relative and whether you can write for fifteen minutes or three hours, that it is still writing time. If you’re not making time to write, how is your time getting filled? Maybe your day is filled with numerous other activities and obligations. I sometimes write on my laptop in the car while my daughter is in piano lessons because that’s where I can fit in the time. But forty minutes is forty minutes and whether I write 400 words or 4 words, those are words in my Work in Progress that didn’t exist before that time. But do consider the truth that it might not be obligations that are filling your day. There might be distractors filling your day: a group text with coworkers sending each other GIFs, social media, that one more episode you need to watch. Those distractors kill time. I catch myself getting distracted sometimes and then “not having time.” Tell the truth. Are distractors filling your time? Even without an excess of obligations and distractors, I know that finding time can be tricky, but I promise the time is there. I’ve written early in the morning at 5 a.m., late at night when I’m half asleep (pretty sure I deleted that work), on airplanes, in bars, even at an amusement park. The point is, you must make the time. The time is there. Like my buddy Gandalf said, “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us” (Tolkien).
Truth: Something might be going on in your work. Saying you don’t have time can be an avoidance tactic. Are you stuck in your plot? Did your characters go off script and start a band? Are you in the dreaded “saggy middle” of your WIP? If you suddenly don’t have time to write, it might be time to take an honest look at what is really going on with your WIP. I “didn’t have time to write” through most of December. And you know why? I got stuck in my plot. I couldn’t see how to get to the next scene. So I avoided my manuscript. And now because I avoided this issue instead of sticking to my writing time, a month went by and my characters are just getting going again. Tell the truth. It’s not time. It might be something going on in your work. But you can fix it. You can revise it. You can edit it. You can delete what you wrote later. You just have to make the time to sit down and write.
Truth: You might be feeling guilty. Anyone who creates something has a selfish streak. Ouch. It doesn’t mean you’re selfish, friend. Keep reading. Creating is, by and large, a solitary act. Writers, artists, musicians, etc. must be able to put themselves in that state of solitude to create their work. You know what place I’m talking about. It’s that place neither here nor there, and the words just flow. And to put yourself in that state of solitude, it might mean you have to take a little bit of selfish time for yourself. I know! Ignoring your friends and family, especially if you have children, is rough. They love you and want to be with you. Take a moment and consider how awesome that is. But if you’re a writer, you cannot write if you don’t make the time to write. Have an honest conversation with your people. They love you. They support you. They are your greatest cheerleaders and want you to succeed. You may still have moments of guilt (I do), but if you’re honest with your people and can work out when that time to write can be, I promise, everyone will feel better.
Truth: You might have too much on your plate. Writers would love to sit in their writing space all day and night and play with their imaginary friends. But most writers can’t. Most writers have full time jobs and families and errands to take care of. I have a full time job, a beautiful family, and lots of errands. And, to top it off, I am a person who has trouble saying “no.” No is such a powerful word, and yet it’s so hard to say. But the truth is, we cannot do everything–even if we desperately want to. You have to say no to make room for yeses. I’m not saying that feeling overwhelmed is always due to having too much on your plate, but it’s certainly something to take an honest look at. Can someone else do the laundry? Make dinner? Pick up your daughter from dance? Can you tell your boss to ask someone else to take on that project because you know you’ll end up bringing it home with you? Is there anything you can say no to so you can say yes to writing time?
Truth: Writing is work and work takes time. If you’re like me (and most writers), you have a full-time job. I love my job. I’m an English teacher at an online high school. My job is awesome. But I spend my time at work because I get paid. If you get paid for your writing, congratulations, that is awesome. But even if you do get paid, there was a time when you did not get paid for your writing. Let’s be truthful, sometimes it’s difficult to make time for things that feel like work if we’re not getting paid. And friends, writing is work. Lots and lots of work. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. But if you’re a writer, you must commit to your writing time or you’ll have no words on a page. Think about this: if you don’t write, no one is going to discipline you. No one is going to withhold your paycheck. No one is going to gossip about it. YOU have to be your own boss. Set up a reward for yourself after you’ve written so many minutes or hours if you must. Treats never hurt, right? Let yourself notice how marvelous you feel at the end of the day in which you made time to write. You do have the time. You might have to be creative to find that time or turn off your phone. You may have to finally be honest with your WIP, your people, and most importantly, yourself. And last, you must realize that writing is work and work takes time. But that time is there.
Un-lie to yourself. Truth: You have the time to write because you’re a writer and writers make the time to write.