“I don’t have time to write.”
“I’m too busy right now.”
“When I’m retired, that’s when I’m going to write.”
I don’t have time is the biggest, most common excuse, we all make.
There is an election coming up in my province and in talking with a young man the other day, he said he wasn’t going to vote because he wanted to make an informed decision. I reminded him that he still had a week to educate himself.
This past weekend I had a booth at a local craft/artisan market selling my books. Several people came up to me and said they were writers too. Well, they were writers, but they hadn’t written anything in two years. They said they just didn’t have the time right now.
As a writing coach, I had to step in and call bullshit. It isn’t that they didn’t have time, they just chose to use it differently. That’s OK, but they should own it, admit it, be fine with it.
The myth of free time
Let’s be honest. Saying we don’t have the time can be a great way to get out of a commitment you don’t want to have. “Oh, I’d love to babysit your sweet children who are little Tasmanian Devils, but I just don’t have the time.” “I’d love to help you move, but I’m just so busy right now.”
I’m not saying that people aren’t busy. Far too often it is a badg of honor to complain about just how busy we are. If we aren’t running on minimal hours of sleep and have every waking moment packed with work and activities and socializing, we’re seen as slackers.
We run ourselves ragged with activities and responsibilities, all the while, we dream of having a day to ourselves, to do what we want to do. And yet when we do have a moment, an hour or two, or a day, to do those things we long to do, we turn on the television or have a nap.
What we tell ourselves is that we are too worn out, too stressed out, to be creative, so we’ll write later. We will write on our vacation. Except that when the vacation comes, it takes us almost the entire time to relax and shift focus so that we can be more creative. And then we tell ourselves that our vacation is almost over so it is too late to start.
All of that “Free Time” we dream of, is taken up with something else. In essence, then, there is no such thing as “Free Time.”
The Time that is given to us
Look, I don’t care if you tell people you don’t have time when they ask you to do something. Just promise me you won’t say it about writing. If you tell me you don’t have time to write, I will refuse to accept it.
Tell me it isn’t a priority right now. Tell me you don’t want to. I will happily accept that, and let you go on your merry way. More importantly, I’ll congratulate you on your honesty with me, and with yourself.
But if your deepest desire is to write and yet you still find yourself saying you don’t have the time, then we can do something about that and get you writing again.
What’s really going on
If you came to me saying that you haven’t written in several months, but you really want to, the first thing I would ask you is why? Why have you not written?
Assuming we’ve cut through the bullshit about how busy your life is, I would ask you what happened the last time you wrote? I want to know if you got stuck in your story, if something happened in your personal life, or if some other writing-related worry got in your way.
Because whatever happened that day, is the reason you started making excuses about not writing. You decided you don’t have time to write because you don’t want to take the minutes or hours to figure out a major plot problem, or moral dilemma your characters face. Netflix and Facebook are more important that addressing a harsh but accurate critique. Naps and cleaning takes precedence over writing because you don’t feel you have the support of your family and friends.
Get really honest with yourself. Not having enough time isn’t really the problem. If you don’t want to write, admit it. No one is going to judge you for it. Be free to pursue something you truly enjoy.
If you do want to write, figure out what happened the last time you wrote. Figure out why you stopped. Allow yourself to get honest about it all. What resources do you have available to help you overcome the problem? What resources do you need that you do not yet have?
Speaking of resources, I highly recommend checking out the Odyssey Writing Workshop. The main program offered through Odyssey is the six-week intensive writing workshop for Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Horror writers. They also offer a critiquing service, and amazing classes on writing.
Of course, I am always here for you as a coach. If you think coaching might be what you need, book a complementary discovery session with me, and we can talk about your writing goals, what is getting in your way, and if coaching is right for you. I’ve answered some of the key questions people ask me about coaching here.
What is really behind your excuse that you don’t have the time to write?