02 Sep

Stealing Time

Posted in DIY MFA, Process

OK, today I know I’m going to get smacked for what I’m going to say, but it needs to be said.

There will be moments when the people and things you care about most will sabotage your writing.  This is a fact, so no point trying to rationalize their actions.  Of course, they don’t try to do this, it just happens.

“Hey Mom, where are my socks?”
“Yo roomie, it’s your turn to take out the trash.”
“Honey, what’s for dinner?”
“Meow, meow, meowmeowmeow.”
Any of these sound familiar?  This is just a small sample of the tactics that our loved ones use to separate us from our time and our writing.

And don’t even get me started on things like gainful employment, grocery shopping, and getting the car fixed.  These alone already make finding time to write a challenge, but then add on all our social and familial obligations and… wham!  Sometimes it seems like everything in our lives are out to get in the way of us doing any writing.

But this post is not meant to be a rant on how life has hijacked my writing time.  On the contrary, this post is about fighting back.  The fact is,  it’s easy for writers to become the victims.  “Poor-writer-me, I never have time to write.  Life always gets in the way.”  Get over it.  I don’t believe in being a victim, I believe in taking action.  If someone tries to steal my writing time, there’s only one thing I can do:

I steal it back.

And it feels great.

What do I mean by stealing time?  Stealing time is when you grab a chunk of time that normally would be used for something else and you steal it for your own purposes.  Most people call this “multi-tasking” but I think “stealing time” sounds more deliciously subversive and sneaky.  I am a chronic time thief myself and I steal time to use for my writing.  For instance, on the trip to Ireland, I carried my notebook with me everywhere and wrote several of these posts while standing in line at the Book of Kells, or over afternoon tea.  Those of you with small children are probably already experts at stealing time, because you have to be if you want to write and have a family.

Over my years of temporal kleptomania, I’ve happily discovered that I’m more productive during a stolen block of time than if I just had a spare chunk of time lolling around waiting for me to grab it.

Why is stealing time so effective?  It gives your writing a sense of urgency.  If you know you only have a short span of time before your responsibilities tackle you back into submission, you’re more likely to be efficient with what time you do have.  For some people, short writing spurts can actually lead to more progress than if they had smushed those short chunks together into a long writing spree.

Today’s Task: Plot a Time Heist.  Steal a chunk of time today and use it for your writing.  Don’t worry if it’s not much (it can be as little as 5 or 10 minutes).  The point isn’t how much time that you steal but that you actually steal the time.  No fair taking a chunk of time you already had free–that isn’t “stealing time,” that’s just “not being lazy.”  So search out a chunk of time that life has taken from you and steal it back.  As with all heists, start small and build to bigger targets with practice.  Pretty soon you’ll be a pro and you’ll be thieving time left and right.


Comments on this post

  1. just-cassie.com says:

    I love stealing time, and combine it with stealth writing *if no-one knows I'm writing, they might not interrupt*. One of my fav stolen writing times is when I'm cooking dinner, if I don't have helpers anyway….

    1. Kerryn Angell says:

      The life demands on my time at the moment are fairly minimal. I have a husband, a day job, gym classes, a small number of friends since I moved half way across the world and travels. Okay, maybe it's not that minimal. The benefit of these types of distractions is that they do leave me large chunks of time in the evenings and most weekends to do what I like. This means I'm more subject to the just plain lazy problem. I've instigated The Writing Hour for me each day complete with countdown timer to keep me focused and allow me to pause if hubby does interrupt. I feel incredibly lucky to say that right now I don't need to steal time, I need to use my time more effectively.

      1. Janice says:

        I'm trying to evalute my day – I'll work out a time table tomorrow and see where I can take time back. I know I waste a lot of time day dreaming and reading blogs…

        Gabi – Where did you visit in Ireland? I live in Dublin 🙂 I hope you had a wonderful time and enjoyed the craic 😉

        1. kathanink says:

          Now that I have my mini-netbook, I am stealing time everywhere! LOL Just the other day I did it while waiting for an oil change. 🙂

          1. DLCurran says:

            I tried this during the past week – but it was out of desperation because I hadn't read this yet. And boy do I wish HAD read this sooner… or been smart enough to figure it out sooner! Ah, when I think of all that wasted time. 😉 But it's working now and I've gotten a little more accomplished. Yay me!

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