This week I went back to school. Some time back in August I got a little panicky about money, and after brainstorming what I might do for $$$ while waiting to be discovered as the next Anne Tyler (sell courses on my blog, work at Edmonds Bookshop, read books aloud for Audible), I thought, “I can teach a couple classes.” Easy peasy, right?
So I emailed my old college, and sure enough they had a couple of composition courses lying around, unclaimed. (They had several, but I wisely took only 2.)
I turned in my book order. I started working on my syllabus. The opening of the quarter was looming. (Meanwhile, the college had more classes available–and were begging adjunct teachers to take another; I did not.)
And then my mother had another stroke. And then we called in Hospice. And then the family visits began. And then I had an itty bitty breakdown (and canceled my readings for Body My House, which was dumb, but felt absolutely necessary last week). I called the college and someone helped me come up with a plan, should I not be able to meet my classes the first few days.
And then, Mom got a tiny bit better, and the good Hospice people stopped saying she would die any minute.
So I took my hand off the panic button, and I pulled on my big girl panties, and I trudged off to the college yesterday morning.
If you want to write, if you want to be the writer you dream of being, then you have to write. And yes, you, too, have a life. So how do you carve writing time from that busy life?
- Write first thing in the morning, before everything else gets in the way.
- Write for a short, doable amount of time. Decide how much time that is, and if it’s only 15 minutes or 5, don’t fret about it. Set a timer and write.
- Write an email to yourself (or to your mother), but instead of “Hello, how are you / I am fine,” write a few lines for a poem, or a character sketch or a summary of the greatest blog post ever. (I find that I dash off emails, and within that framework I can sometimes circumvent what’s keeping me from writing.)
- Write ONE great 140-character line and Tweet it. Apply this principle (see #3) to whatever sort of writing you find easiest–just hijack it and go.
- Write in your car (parked of course, preferably in a very safe park, but a parking lot will do). Five or even fifteen minutes of writing in your car will not make you (too) late to dinner.
- Write during meetings. If nothing else, write a character description of the person leading the meeting. (I have a very interesting poem in which my former boss morphs into a dragon.)
- When you feel blocked–try writing out someone else’s words (attribute them clearly, of course) as a way to kick start your own words. Try following up with a close imitation, but with your own subject matter.
If you’re a teacher–here’s one more suggestions: WRITE WHILE YOUR STUDENTS WRITE.
If you want to write, then writing will be one of those things that fills the well of your being, enabling you to give to others.
No matter who’s dying. No matter whose paper is waiting to be read. You need that well filled. You must write.