One of the biggest challenges writers face is finding the time to do their work. How many masterpieces have been lost because the would-be writers of those masterpieces had other things to do? How many would-be novelists have been thwarted by the fact that they must sit down for hours a day and put their ideas on paper?
We do not know. All we know is that the world is a darker place because these writers didn’t have enough time.
So the question we are addressing today is: How can writers find more time?
When people say they “don’t have the time” to write, what they usually mean is that their life is full of other responsibilities and demands that they cannot ignore. But what they really mean is that writing is too low a priority in their life. In order to free up some writing time, then, a reshuffling of priorities is necessary.
Families are the biggest time-killers in the world, so it makes sense to start there. If you have a spouse and children, a great deal of time can be saved by getting a divorce and giving the spouse full custody of the kids. Chances are you weren’t thinking straight when you got into that whole mess anyway, so cutting the cord sooner rather than later is a smart move.
Jobs eat up a large portion of the day as well. If you have the kind of job that requires you to wake up in the morning and go to an office from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., quit. That time can be put to better use writing. If you have the kind of job that requires you to get out of your pajamas at any point during the day or night, quit it too. Most good writing is done in pajamas, especially the ones with the little owl faces on them.
Friends, too, are a big waste of time. Hardly any writing ever gets done when friends are around, because they always want to talk, go out for coffee, or play tennis. The best way to get rid of friends is to explain to them, in the kindest way possible, that they are time-sucking leeches who are standing between you and greatness. If they are as good a friend as they say they are, they will understand and leave you alone. Then get rid of your phone, shut down your Facebook page, ignore your email, and move to a rural area where groceries are delivered by pack mule. Get a gun, too, because everyone has that one, true friend who will always track you down, no matter what. The sooner you shoot and bury them, the better.
Another important skill every writer must learn is how and when to use the word “no.” Suppose someone asks you for a favor. Whatever the favor is, if you take your writing seriously, the answer is no. You don’t do favors anymore. In fact, you don’t do anything for anyone anymore, for any reason. If the landlord wants the rent check, you tell him no, you’re not playing that game anymore. Suppose your brother dies in a tragic accident and your mother would appreciate it if you attended the funeral. Sorry, no can do, you tell her—you’ve got important work to do. Or maybe your daughter needs a new kidney and you’re the only match. Hell no, you say, go get a kidney from someone else—someone who doesn’t have a lot of writing to do.
It’s as simple as that. But that’s just the first step.
Once you’ve identified and eliminated all the time-sucking parasites in your life, it’s time to look around and see who you can steal some time from—people who aren’t using their time wisely, that is, and would benefit from giving some of it to you.
Grandparents are a good place to start. They’re old and usually have lots of time on their hands. Grandmothers are great at cleaning your house, doing your laundry, cooking meals, and setting up dental appointments. Grandfathers aren’t good for much, but they can fetch a few bottles when the liquor supply is running low, and they don’t mind yelling at grandma if she starts to slow down or slack off.
Bill collectors, government officials, psychiatrists, and social workers are also people whose time is easy to steal, mainly because they all want you to do stuff you don’t want to do—like pay bills, take your meds, and stop harassing your grandmother. All you have to do is refuse, though, and the extra hours you would have spent dealing with them can now be dedicated to your craft.
So you see, finding the time to write is largely a matter of prioritizing correctly, then doing whatever is necessary to honor the commitment you have made to your work.
But that’s still not enough.
Indeed, the most prolific writers in the world (Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Stephen King, Barbara Cartland, and Emanuel Swedenborg, to name a few) all have an additional secret. How, you ask, could Isaac Asimov write 468 books—a feat that's physically impossible? The answer is, he and these other writers know how to travel through rips in the space/time continuum, where they work in a parallel universe. There, thirty years might elapse for every year in this dimension, allowing them to do a thousand years of work in what appears to be a human lifetime.
Granted, these people are a special breed. For one thing, the writer’s wormhole is only available to people who wear unusually thick glasses and/or have strange beards. (Not many people know it, but yes, Barbara Cartland had a beard.)
For most people, though, one lifetime of writing is plenty, let alone thirty. I only share this fact for those who feel that their daily word output is somehow inadequate. If you are writing all day, every day, have alienated your family and friends, and have successfully severed all contact with humanity, rest assured that you are on the right path.