Saturday, March 31, 2012

How to Make Time Magically Appear

For the past two weeks, I've been getting up earlier than roosters three days a week to run for 20 minutes before I wake my kids up for school. "Earlier than roosters" means exactly 5:15.

On Wednesday my husband kissed me good-bye while I was still lying down, which was so completely not part of the plan that I leaped out of bed. You should know that leaping out of bed is not something I do often. Most often I move out of bed by millimeters, but if he was kissing me goodbye, that could mean only one thing.

It was 5:47. Dangitall, I needed to get that 20 minutes of running in somehow!  I got dressed as fast as I could and sprinted to the treadmill. As I ran, I entertained myself by imagining what the rest of the morning was going to look like. It was going to be ugly, of that I was certain.

After running, I took the quickest shower ever, and rushed into my son's bedroom to send him scurrying into the shower. Only then did I look at the clock. Somehow, miraculously, I was back on schedule. It was 6:20.

It was like having an extra half hour appear in my morning.

You'd think I would remember something magical happening like that, but I quickly forgot. I blame the mist from the Percy Jackson series. You know the one that keeps the dull, regular humans from noticing magic... Then I started doing research for this blog post. I haven't gotten nearly as much writing done as I need to lately, so I began googling topics like "finding time to write" and "how famous authors find time to write."

I quickly realized that time doesn't really magically appear in my morning. It's impossible to 'find time to write'. I have the same 26,400 seconds in my day that Stephen King has in his, and he writes 10 pages every single day!

What I realize, looking back on my Wednesday morning amazingness was that by inching out of bed millimeter by millimeter, by staring vacantly at the wall for who knows how long after I finally stand up, or whatever else it is I do in the morning, I manage to waste half an hour.

The lesson?
Any task will expand to fill the time allotted to it.

Writers fall victim to this trap all the time. Such a large part of writing is spent inside our own heads, or "getting ourselves out there" on the internet that it's incredibly easy to never actually GET to the writing part.

What can we do about it?

JK Rowling says:
“Be ruthless about protecting writing days, i.e., do not cave in to endless requests to have "essential" and "long overdue" meetings on those days. The funny thing is that, although writing has been my actual job for several years now, I still seem to have to fight for time in which to do it. Some people do not seem to grasp that I still have to sit down in peace and write the books, apparently believing that they pop up like mushrooms without my connivance. I must therefore guard the time allotted to writing as a Hungarian Horntail guards its firstborn egg.” 

Shannon Hale says:
Oh man, I am so sapped. I am a Vermont maple in winter. I've got two mobile almost-one-year-olds and a 4 yo and 7 yo and a husband, who counts as maybe a 10 yo... Anyway, what I'm trying to say is, I'm in no shape to be dolling out advice. I barely survive. I'm sure you know what I mean. This marvelous, marvelous chaos. But my center is my creative time. For 2 1/2 hours four times a week, I have a babysitter, and I close my door and write. Turn off the mommy craziness, turn on Writer Woman. It's not an easy transition, but I have to do it. I just have to.

There's the key! Somehow find time to devote to writing. Set clear goals about how much I am going to accomplish.

Here are 2 great posts about squashing productivity into its allotted time:

Finally, I want to tell Sarah how much her posts inspired me, and how much I will miss them. She's figured out another key to being productive: figure out your priorities and give them priority in your life. Thank you Sarah. You will be missed.


  1. Oh, this post speaks to my heart. I do not understand how my mornings disappear the way they do... well, yes I do. Between the snooze button and email it's a wonder the kids ever make it to school.

    I got up early to write over the summer and it worked really well... for a while. I was bad about going to bed earlier, which led to me (1) gaining weight - sleep deprivation makes me HUNGRY and (2) getting sick - because I'm a wimp. A hungry wimp. Running at that hour is unthinkable :)

    Wonderful post, and thank you!!

  2. I love how you magically found an extra half-hour. :)

    I so needed this post. I don't even want to think about all the time I waste during the day. I'm going to use this advice to get a cleaner house and more writing done everyday.

    Thanks for sharing.

  3. "Any task will expand to fill the time alloted to it."

    How true. I mean, my laundry certainly seems to balloon to fill the hamper even though I swear I just did a ton of loads last week. Same with dirty dishes.

    Speaking of dirty dishes, time to go do some conquering...

  4. I wish so badly that I could train myself to get up in the morning before classes and write. Unfortunately my mind is considerably more productive at night, even more unfortunate because I have no choice but to take early classes.
    Hopefully I can make getting up early a habit. Maybe if I work at it long enough my creativity will wake up with me!
    Great post!
    The Fiction Diaries

  5. Love this. Sometimes, though, when I allocate time I find that my muse just absolutely deserts me. I sit down during the designated hour or two and say, 'this is your writing time, so write.' And I'm totally empty. * sigh * Any advice on making sure you can actually be creative in the time you carve out?


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