Scheduling Time for Creativity

ClockI’m a big believer in the idea that professional writers — or professional artists of any style — don’t sit around and wait for inspiration to strike in order to be creative. Certainly, there’s a need for inspiration when you’re creating something from nothing, but inspiration comes from doing not from waiting. As Stephen King says in his book On Writing:

“Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.”

But I admit, I’ve had a lot of trouble with that recently. And when I say “recently”, I mean “over the last 18 months”.

There’s a lot of reasons for this. Poor prioritising, perhaps. Or poor time management. Or, more likely, a lack of energy and focus. But in all fairness, it’s not easy to find energy and fairness when you’re the primary carer for an incredibly demanding child like 22 month old Little Brother.

For the last 18 months, he’s been waking me up anywhere between 3:45am and 4:30am. Every day. And every moment I’m not actively supervising him, he’s breaking something or emptying the contents of my cupboards all through the house.

By the time the boys are both in bed asleep (generally between 6:00pm and 7:00pm), I’m exhausted.

And so writing has happened when and if I could fit it in.

But this week, something amazing has happened.

When we were away on holidays last week, I didn’t have a cot in the hotel room. Little Brother is 91cm tall (3 foot) tall. He’s really too big for a fold-up cot. So I put a bedrail on a single bed, pushed it against the wall, and hoped for the best. And he was fine.

Next week, we’re visiting my parents for Christmas and have the same problem re: portable cots, so he’ll be sleeping in a single bed again.

It seemed silly to spend a week with him in a bed, then put him in a cot for a week and a half, and then back to a bed. So we decided to take the plunge and convert Little Brother’s cot into a junior bed.

Big Boy Bed!

Oh. My. Goodness.

All of a sudden, he’s not waking me up at 4:00 in the morning anymore. Yesterday, he slept until 6:45am. Today was 6:30am.

Do you have any idea how amazing it is to get to sleep in until 6:30 in the morning? Let me tell you: after months of 4:00am wake-ups, 6:30 is pure bliss.

Suddenly, I’m not so tired in the evenings.

Suddenly, I’ve got a chance to reclaim some time for myself.

My husband has his own projects that he’s working on, so we’ve decided to set aside time every evening for both of us to work on our own things, and then come back together to clean up, talk, and spend time together. To that end, I’m writing every night between 7:30 and 8:30. One hour a day. It doesn’t seem like much, when you think about it. But that’s seven hours every week. Thirty hours every month.

And since I can write 500 – 1000 words in an hour, that means I can theoretically finish my first draft within the next two months.

It feels good to have time scheduled for creativity. Thank you, Little Brother. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

How do you schedule time for writing into the rest of your life?

 

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30 Comments

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30 responses to “Scheduling Time for Creativity

  1. So glad for you! You’ve got the right mindset, you’ve got the goal, and now you have the precious hours/well-restedness in which to make it happen. All the best to you!

    P.S. Little brother is adorable 🙂

  2. mccannmags

    So important. I’ve been waiting for creativity to strike for a couple years now, and I finally challenged myself to DO IT. What a difference some scheduled time makes. Can’t imagine doing it with kids!

    • It definitely adds an extra challenge — and I often kick myself that I didn’t devote more time to writing and learning the craft back when I was foot-loose and child-free. So seize the opportunity while it presents itself. And remember — the hardest part is actually sitting down and starting every day. If you can achieve that part, the rest will come.

  3. I homeschool my youngest and, therefor have zero time to write. I also stay up with him till 4 AM, get his older brother off to school at 6:40 then MAYBE sleep if there’s no appointments durng that time. Youngest is in bed around 9 AM till 3 ish, sometimes as late as 8-9 PM so I get six hours of sleep then write, while eldest does his homework. You have to MAKE time or it won’t get done.

    That book isn’t going to write itself!!

  4. What a wonderful gift to suddenly be blessed with the energy to dedicate an hour a day to writing!! I am holding out for January… Year-end at work will be over (craziest time of the year for me!), the holidays will be behind us, and some long, dark months stretch ahead waiting to be filled with creative projects! 🙂

    • It is a gift — and I find myself wondering why I waited so long to schedule it into my day. I think I was so focused on trying to find “significant” time to write, I didn’t consider the possibility of adding in shorter time spans.

      Over the first three days of my evening creative hour, I’ve written:
      * 600 words (In between wrestling with Little Brother, who decided not to play ball and stay asleep.)
      * 1600 words
      * 1300 words

      So that’s 3500 words in three one-hour blocks. And I wonder if I could have found even half an hour a day a few months ago…

  5. Lack of time or energy are some of the biggest creativity killers for me and they always seem to come at the same time. I’ve realized that I’m most productive and creative early in the morning and so I schedule my most creative tasks at this time. It’s really worked–even when the rest of my day has gone completely off schedule.

    • Knowing the best time for your own creativity is such a great thing, isn’t it? I’m terrible in the mornings. Saying “I’m not a morning person” is an understatement. After my second coffee, I can usually talk in more than grunts and gestures. So writing is definitely better for me in the evening. 🙂

  6. Oh what bliss! But my 11-month-old is why my writing has lagged over, say, the last 11 months (not to mention starting a small press in my “free” time). This has been my least productive writing time since Big Sister’s first 18 months. Nights have been awful lately and I’ve been waking up in the morning at the same time as the kids, which means no morning writing time. And after dinner I’m mentally and physically too tired. Plus I have press releases to write and authors to contact and receipts to file for the business. Often that takes priority and my poor protagonist is left to his own devices, waiting in a file.

    I take heart from your story, hoping that we’ll get into a more manageable routine eventually.

    • I’m pretty sure all parents need to be presented with a plaque that reads: “It does get better.”

      I don’t know how you’ve been finding it, but I know I struggled a lot more with my second boy. It’s hard enough having a baby to look after, without also needing to be physically, emotionally, and mentally available for a small child. It’s exhausting. But take heart — the time will come when things will get easier, and your lovely protagonist isn’t going anywhere.

      Oh, and congrats on the small press. I’ve been reading your blog posts with interest. 🙂

      • This morning, while trying to get the baby back to sleep, I commented on a post by a mom who has a 2-month-old, saying it does get better! Where I am is more comfortable than where I was a few months ago. My first kiddo was really difficult, health-wise, and sleep-wise, so this second one is easier on that front. Big sister is dealing with the shifts in her life–a baby sister, starting kindergarten, etc., so that is definitely challenging. Having a business has been exciting because it challenges me to focus on that creative side of things “for work.” On the other hand, I spent what could have been novel writing time prepping posts for my Forest Avenue Press site. I thought baby would sleep longer!

      • In my experience, babies only sleep longer when you’re waiting for them to wake up so you can go grocery shopping.

        Or maybe that’s just my kids. 🙂

        Glad you’re in a better place than you were a few months ago. As I say to my husband: “Yes, it’s tough now. But soon they’ll go off to college.” 😉

      • It goes way too fast, doesn’t it? We have a one-year birthday coming up in a few days. While part of me wants more time to myself, the other part wants time to just slow down and stop for a while, right in this moment, because this moment is pretty amazing.

  7. Dude. That’s a super-huge win!! Yay for sleep. I’m a big fan of sleep. A big fan.

  8. You have been nominated for the Sunshine Award! http://wp.me/p2ppTK-cY
    If awards aren’t your thing, that’s okay. You are under no obligation to pass it on. Just know that your words have been an inspiration to me on my blogging journey.

  9. Awesome for you, I wish you all the best luck with your project!
    Happy hollidays 🙂

  10. I’m amazed you can write so much so fast. I struggle for hours over a single post. 🙂 Marsha Lee

    • The funny thing is, sometimes it can take me hours to write a 500 word post. Trying to get it “just right”, and refining what I want to say and how I want to say it. But when I remove all that pressure from myself and just focus on getting the story down (knowing that no one but me will ever read it), I can type quite quickly. I seem to be averaging around 1100 words an hour at the moment, although my record is 1650. (I wish I could do that every day! 😉 )

  11. Pingback: Mostly Random Musings | The Happy Logophile

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