You’re Not Too Busy to Write, Part 2

“I’d love to write, but I don’t have time.”

“I’ve got a book in me, I know it, but when would I write it?”

“I used to write all the time when I was [fill in nostalgia-laced reflection on previous writing life] but then I [fill in excuse here: grew up, started a family, got a real job, etc.], and it ate up all my time.”

What’s your excuse for not writing? Go ahead, say it out loud. I’m listening.

Many would-be (or used-to-be) poets, bloggers, memoirists, or fictionists count “not enough time” as their number one barrier to writing.

Let me speak my response to this excuse plainly: Bull. Shit.

As a poet, memoirist, essayist, journalist, and blogger who has coached writers for twenty-plus years, I’d like to state for the record: The problem is not lack of time. The problem is lack of commitment.

Okay, come at me. Tell me how time really is your problem.

Be forewarned, though, you’re talking to someone who wrote a memoir, over the course of four years, while raising toddlers. You’re talking to a former solo mom who finished a book of poems while navigating a divorce, upping her career game, and nurturing her kids through the biggest change of their lives. You’re talking to someone who gets up before the sun all summer long to write for a couple hours before her kids get out of bed, who insists on making time to write what matters to me — whether I get paid for it or not — while also writing to pay the bills.

How do you do it?” people ask, some of whom have way more “free time” on their hands than I do.

“I’m too tired to write when I get home from work,” they say.

“By the time I get the kids to bed, I’ve got nothing left,” they say.

“I write best in the morning, but I work the morning shift,” they say.

To all this, I say, “Stop looking for the time, and start looking for the commitment.”

Are you truly committed to writing? As committed as you are to other aspects of your life — wage-earning, care-taking, household-managing, Facebooking, Instagramming, Netflix-and-chill-ing?

Try this experiment: pay attention to the ways you spend your time, over the course of twenty-four hours. Notice not only to the big chunks of time — the ten-hour work shift, or the two-hour get-the-kids-ready-for-bed shift, but also to the smaller pieces of time — twenty-minutes waiting for soccer practice to wrap up, thirty-five-minute train commute, first ten minutes after you wake up or last ten minutes before you go to bed.

Do this twenty-four-hour time-tracking experiment for five days in a row. Then ask yourself, how many of your daily activities receive more of your time and attention — more of your commitment — than writing does?

Do these activities really deserve to be ranked above writing?

Do they do as much for you as writing will?

Do they feed your soul or move you closer to a life goal, like writing will?

To some extent, yes, writing requires creative time management. But more so writing requires unwavering commitment to yourself and your craft.

When you’re ready to make that commitment, you will find the time. You’ll realize that any time spent writing — a mere twenty minutes on your lunch break, three times a week — can effect profound changes in your daily life. You’ll see that feeding even the tiniest scraps of time to your creative self will, over the course of a few weeks, strengthen you.

I’m not saying it’ll be easy; I’m saying it’s possible.

Maybe you’re ready for the fundamental shifts that writing regularly will make in your life, or maybe you’re not. But until you’re ready, at least be honest. Next time you hear yourself saying, “I don’t have the time to write,” do yourself a favor: change the word “time” to “commitment.” It’s a firm reminder that the choice to write or not to write ultimately belongs to you.