Too Much Time on my Hands

I worked at J. Walter Thompson when James Patterson was the Executive Creative Director. Word around the agency was he sat at his desk at 5 am every day, writing his mystery novels. Whether you’re a fan of his work or not, you have to admire his dedication, his strict schedule, his consistency.

I’m not so disciplined. In fact, I’m lazy. And the less I have on my plate, the lazier and less motivated I get. I find myself sinking into a morass of boredom and lack of inspiration. If I force myself to write during these times, everything I hammer out sounds stupid and trite. So I end up not bothering. I may scratch out a line or two and if I’m on a roll, a paragraph, but then I fizzle out.

During the time I was working on my MFA, I handled an overload of freelance work, all the reading and writing required of the degree program, in addition to all the responsibilities and commitments of simply living. I pulled more all-nighters in those two and a half years than I ever did working full time in advertising. My brain, on overdrive, thrived. Stories seemed to spark everywhere. I realized, though the stress was enormous, I liked fitting it all in. I grew to enjoy writing at crazy hours. When most people were getting up, ready to face their day at the office, I was just stumbling up to bed. I bitched a lot. I wrote a lot.

These days, not so much. For me, sometimes having the time to write is actually detrimental. I fall into the trap of thinking too much rather than sitting the ample butt in the cushy chair and taking the risk of screwing up—or the risk of creating something decent, good or even brilliant. When turns into “Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow,” to quote some famous English dude.

In her post on this blog, guest writer, poet Dominique Traverse Locke wrote, “…the failure of writing something terrible is never as bad as writing nothing at all.”  So true. I know that every day I don’t set aside even a few minutes to write, I feel awful. I feel guilty. I eat way too many chips.

Also, I find that being around other writers, who are committed to the craft, encourages me to write. Not in a competitive way, but instead, as a boost, a renewal. That’s why I love workshops and hanging out in the company of writers at readings or coffee shops or anywhere creative types convene. The other day a few of my blog-mates here chatted online for about an hour or so. Just hearing their voices, taking part in the back and forth banter, talking about writing energized me. When am I going to write? Right after I post this entry. Besides there’s not much on TV tonight. :-)

I promise to stay off facebook (for a little while, at least!) and spend a good chunk of time pounding the keyboard, writing whatever appears on my computer screen. Even if it’s dreadful, it’ll be a good day.

If you’re a writer or any kind of artist, how do you carve out the time to create? Are you putting your protagonist in mortal danger a few hours before your morning commute? Are you revising the third verse of your song for the twentieth time during a coffee break at the office? Do you wake up in the middle of the night, ignore your heavy eyes and scribble dialogue for that crucial scene of your play? Share your tales, tips and thoughts on making time for making art.

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  1. #1 by jpgirl27 on August 28, 2012 - 8:00 pm

    Oh Darlene, how I love your insight! I agree that too much time almost always turns into a minefield of excuses to NOT write. When there isn’t any time, then the artist inside panics and gets out whatever it can. Shame on us for having “free” time!

  2. #2 by wordimprovisor177 on August 28, 2012 - 9:03 pm

    Thanks for commenting, Jennie. I’m getting a small freelance job tomorrow, so I’ll be freaking out around 3 am or so, trying to squeeze in a flash story or revision. :-) I think I need serious help. LOL!

  3. #3 by My Rite of Passage on August 29, 2012 - 7:30 am

    I’ve learned that when I get frustrated about my actions, or lack thereof, it helps to step back to take in the big picture, which usually means trying to appreciate the phase I’m in rather than how I’m responding to it. Right now I’m in a marketing phase, which is a ‘must’ rather than a ‘want.’ But I’m really beginning to miss the writing, even though a small part of me is a bit nervous…wondering if I can still do it. Thanks for the inspiration, Darlene!

    • #4 by wordimprovisor177 on August 29, 2012 - 10:57 am

      That’s so true, Belinda. There are phases we have to go through as writers. I believe, though we’re not writing during those admin phases such as marketing and submitting, we’re still churning ideas and stories somewhere in our brains. Those ideas will see daylight at some point or be lost like last week’s grocery list. LOL! How cheerful am I? :-) Happy marketing! Go out there and sell it!

      • #5 by My Rite of Passage on August 29, 2012 - 5:14 pm

        I can relate – to the ‘churning’ and the ‘grocery list.’ LOL!

  4. #6 by talesfromahungrylife on August 31, 2012 - 9:50 pm

    Great post as always, Darlene. I have no real set schedule for my writing. If I wake up and there’s a story in my head, I feel compelled to write. It’s like that for me throughout the day. I suppose I would be a lot more successful if I was like James Patterson (if only) but being forced to do anything doesn’t work for me! I do have to write down the stories as they come though, or risk losing them forever…even if it means getting up in the middle of the night. :)

  5. #7 by virgowriter on September 10, 2012 - 9:44 pm

    Awesome post. My mom now wants to touch you because you knew James Patterson =). Sidenote: how did you do those tags? I would like to be able to do that.

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