Geetanjali Mukherjee

Monday, April 2, 2018

Making Time to Write

Time is the one resource that you can’t renew or get back, as the saying goes. We all have the same 24 hours in a day, its how you use it that counts. We have all heard these cliches about time, and yet that is because they are true. As anyone who falls in love will testify, no matter how busy you are, you make time to call or text the person, you plan fun things you want to do together, you daydream about them all the time. You make the time for what you care about essentially. 

In Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert said that your relationship to your art must be like that of a secret lover, you steal time away when you can, you think about them and look forward to the next time you see them. It's exciting and passionate. 

Time is also relative. The main reason we think that we probably don’t have time to write is because we think that we need to have “large swathes of uninterrupted time, like bolts of fabric” (Julia Cameron). The reality is that you can write in snatched or stole time, like meeting your lover in the stairwell for a spontaneous make-out session. I’m writing this chapter in longhand on a crowded bus on my morning commute to my day job. In fact, I once wrote half a book longhand on the back of one-sided printed paper during my daily commute to college on the bus, while juggling a full load of classes, a part-time job and several extracurricular actives including being the editor of my college law magazine. I was busy, but I had a commission from a publisher to write the book, and as a fledgling writer, that’s all I had ever wanted. How could I let my dream slip away? With the deadline looming, I spent every spare minute jotting down sentences and paragraphs, racing to get the book done in time. 

As I write this, I am on a bus passing by Singapore’s breathtaking skyline - a picturesque grouping of iconic buildings that feature in every tourist’s photograph album. And yet no one around me has looked up from their phones to give this view a passing glance. If pressed, most people would probably respond that they don’t have the time to enjoy the view. But they are on the bus, captive, which won’t go any faster or slower than it will. Maybe what they mean is not that they don’t have the time, but that it isn’t a priority, it is more important to check that email, send that text or watch that funny cat video. Or maybe its just a habit, to do those things on the bus instead of seeing the view. 

How we spend our time then is a matter of priorities and habits. If you want to write a book (or play or short story), you have to prioritize it, perhaps over other things, at least while you are writing the book. And you have to create good habits that support your writing. 

This post is an excerpt from a book I am working on about writing your first book. I will be posting more installments intermittently on this blog. I would love comments or questions!

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