“They say that time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.” ~ Andy Warhol
That’s the quote I have at the top of my time management matrix. I’m not a big fan of Andy Warhol in general, but those words are truer than I’d like to admit. I spent years thinking I would write when my proverbial and ethereal ship came in. I would write when I was able to stay at home with the kids, when I had my own writing space so I could concentrate, when I wasn’t exhausted from putting in my eight-to-five (see my post on perfectionism and procrastination!). Most of all, I would write when I had time.
Maybe you’re like that. If so, I have tough news for both of us. We’ll only have time when we find time.
Notice that I don’t say “make” time. We each start out with the same golden 24 hours in our day. Some of us have the balance reduced right from the opening flag by work, school, kids, parents and other unmoving commitments. That doesn’t mean it’s time to put it off and wait until we have More Time. That’s a death knell for a writing career. We will always have commitments pulling at us like a creative rip current, tugging us into the depths of “someday.” And as the Steve Miller Band said, “Time keeps on slippin’, slippin’ into the future…” (Thanks to Lobug for reminding me of that song!)
I was vaguely aware of this concept at the beginning of the year, when I promised myself, “No excuses.” It really hit me in the gut when I heard Jane Kirkpatrick speak at the beginning of April. Jane began her first novel when she was still working full-time with a significant commute and a working ranch on the side. She wanted to write the book, but when did she have time? She ended up asking herself, “What am I doing between four and seven [A.M.]? Nothing.” So, Jane began setting her alarm and getting to her computer by five each morning.
I couldn’t possibly, I thought.
A couple of weeks and a little more desperation later, I heard my own alarm go off at 5:30. (No, I haven't quite found Jane's commitment level yet.) I told myself I was crazy, but I got up and rattled off a couple of pages in longhand. A month and a half later, I’ve written several thousand words in that same tired longhand. I haven’t written as much as I would have liked. I certainly haven’t finished the book. I have, though, written several thousand words more than I would have if I hadn’t jumped in with both feet kicking and arms flailing.
“They say that time changes things…” Time changes nuthin'. The only thing that changes with the mere passage of time—time without any activity or effort—is that you have a lower total of time left on your lifetime balance sheet.
“…but you really have to change them yourself.” If you want to see progress over time, you need to take that balance of time and wring every available moment from it. Maybe you already get up so early that an earlier alarm is impractical, but where else can you wring silver minutes from your day? During lunch? Kids’ nap times? Right after dinner? Right before lights-out? If you look hard enough, there will most likely be some window of opportunity where writing can really happen. It may not be my hour-and-a-half; it may be a half an hour or fifteen minutes, but it exists. Grab it today and GO!