By far the most common question I am asked when people find out that I'm an author is: "how do you find time to write?"
The short answer is: I don't find the time, I make it.
The long answer, however, is a little more complicated.
Most people seem satisfied enough with the short answer and I don't typically have to explain any further.
I don't generally like to talk too much about my writing, especially face-to-face. I'm a bit introverted and private. I'm also terrible at taking compliments or promoting myself (which perhaps is why I've sold nearly enough books to pay for maybe one or two of the many boxes of Yorkshire Tea I consume while writing) and it feels a bit pretentious or conceited to talk about my work too much.
Recently, however, someone really pressed me on the subject. Because the questions were coming so quickly and intensely, I didn't really have time to drift into my normal space of self-conscious avoidance. The person seemed to be truly interested in my process.
The conversation really got me thinking and I realized that these were the sorts of questions that I would have for an author about how to get started writing as well. I also realized that I do have some thoughts to share on the subject, even though my writing career is in its infancy.
Making Time can be hard.
As a full-time middle-school teacher, my job is demanding and time consuming. I never want to be the sort of teacher who phones it in. If I'm not going to be fully committed to my students, I shouldn't be there at all. If I do ever catch myself getting to the burned-out stage that some teachers reach; if I ever notice that I just don't have the energy to care about the students, I have always told myself that I will leave and find a job that matters a little less.
This means a lot of extra hours. I'm involved in putting on productions, events and performances. I have to attend weekly staff meetings, team meetings, parent meetings, student meetings, committee meetings, professional development meetings... I can't even begin to tell you how many meetings...
When I'm not doing that, I'm often thinking over my lesson plans, looking ahead to the next month, the next term, the next year, assessing students, and most importantly, caring about students.
I think about their problems. I think about the difficult things they've shared with me about what is going on in their lives. I think about their worries, concerns, beliefs, fears, hopes and dreams. I think about the support I can offer and I research places to find more support when I find myself under-qualified or out of my league (which I often am).
Often, my job is all-consuming. I wouldn't have it any other way, but it doesn't often leave a lot of time for the writing and music careers that I've built.
If I gave myself permission to find the time to write rather than make it I could never have completed even the first chapter of a novel.
I'm not trying for sympathy, here, nor am I glorifying excessive busyness the way so many people do these days. I'm simply trying to show that if I can make time to be creative, anyone can.
Work Smarter, Not Harder
What is required more than time is commitment, effort and focus. I've found that I do most of my best work when I'm busy; when I've got a lot on the go. My best writing often happens not when I'm on break from school, but when I'm moonlighting. When holidays come its often harder for me to get into a good creative routine than when I'm writing in the evenings after work or writing in airports and hotels on weekends.
To be honest, I'm having a tough time refocussing myself even now, which is probably why I'm writing this blog post instead of the chapter I'm currently stuck on.
With that in mind, here are a few strategies I've found to focus myself so that I use what time I have more effectively and efficiently.