When I was thinking about how to begin this article, I must admit I was feeling a little down about the weekend being over. It was one of those weekends that really flew by. I mentally scrolled back through the days, wondering where the time had gone. What had I done with my days off from work?
Do you ever have days or weekends like that? Where it feels like a giant Hoover vacuum has invaded your life and sucked up all your time and productivity?
Not that this weekend wasn’t "productive" — I graded student papers; read a book for a literature class I’m taking; cleaned the bathroom and wiped down the fridge; made cilantro-honey salmon and red velvet cupcakes; spent some quality movie-and-cuddle time with my sweetie.
But I still didn’t FEEL productive. Or, maybe I should say, I didn’t feel productive in a way that is hugely important to me: my writing.
When I first entered graduate school, I imagined having an infinite amount of time to write. I mean, that’s what I’m here to do — I’m getting my Master’s degree in fiction writing. You’d think all my time would be dedicated to writing fiction! And it’s true that I am extremely fortunate. I don’t have to worry about holding down a full-time job while squeezing in writing on the side. My position in the program came with a teaching position, a job I love that complements my own writing very well. Most of my homework assignments are things I would want to be doing anyway: reading books, writing stories. My biggest obligation this third-and-final year of the program is to write my Master’s thesis, in my case a novel. I have no excuse not to give writing the shining spotlight of my daily time and focus.
And yet … something I’ve learned is that no matter how much time you have to do what you really love, there are always things that will swoop in and take that time away if you let them. On the one hand, I should have no excuse not to write for hours upon hours every day; on the other hand, real life easily intrudes upon my to-do list: papers to grade, papers to write, books to review, slush-pile submissions to read for the literary magazine, emails to reply to, phone calls to return, errands to run.
It gradually dawned on me that if I don’t make writing a priority now, while my largest obligation is to get my thesis done by getting words on the page, how can I expect to make time to write after my program is over?
Simply put: how do you make time for what you love? If not now, when?
One of the greatest decisions I made for my writing life, and for my own happiness and sense of fulfillment, was when I made a promise to myself to write at least 400 words every single day, no excuses. Doesn’t matter how tired or uninspired I feel. Even if I am sick with the stomach flu I can manage to scrawl out 400 words over the course of a day and meet my commitment. I track my progress on this great, free motivational website Joe’s Goals , which may seem simple but has helped me enormously.
And you know what? Writing really has become a habit. My self-expectations have increased, so now I think of 400 words as the bare minimum. I want to write more than that each day, especially during these gloriously long summer days we’re blessed with right now. Which brings me to this weekend: yes, I wrote 400 words each day, but I still didn’t feel productive the way I hope to. I want to write more. I want to give even more time to doing what I love.
I think balance is the key, and also realizing that you’re probably never going to feel like you have enough time. There’s always going to be more that you want to do. But that’s a good thing, right? That’s part of why you love doing what you love doing so much. “Boredom” is a foreign concept when you feel full of ideas and inspiration, always wanting more time!
I have a sticky-note hanging above my desk, where I see it every day. It says “1/24.” It’s a reminder for myself that I get 24 hours every day; I owe it to myself to use at least 1 of those hours doing what I really love. For me, that means writing.
Can you carve out an hour out of your daily 24 to do what you love?