Jeff O'Handley, Author

Jeff O'Handley

The Doubting Writer Finds His Voice

Squeezing Time

Last week was one of those weeks.

Each year, the organization I work for runs a garage sale. The purpose of said sale is for people to find new homes for old items that would otherwise either go moldy in a basement or garage or end up in a landfill. It also helps raise a little money for us. It’s pretty popular. So I spent about 90% of my work week in a dusty garage (because our garage sale is literally in an old garage), hauling old furniture and boxes getting things set up. It’s physical, and dirty, and tiring, and in the back of my head I’m always worrying about the office things that are maybe not getting done while I’m not there.

On Saturday, on the first day of the sale, I actually spent my day with a group of college students doing some trail cleanup and maintenance in a local state forest. This was also physical, dirty, tiring work, but I came out of that, not exactly refreshed, but with a little more pep. It’s the difference, I guess, between working in a rather dingy garage sale space and working in the great outdoors.

Yesterday was my day of “rest.” I worked on the revisions to my current project, which I’ve been working on steadily all week. Yesterday I managed to put in three good chunks of time on it, probably totaling six or seven hours over the course of the day and evening. It’s not dirty work, but it is tiring and it does take a toll on the body as well.

I’m coming into a stretch where I’ll be working part of just about every weekend for several weeks, and where I may not be able to get a day off in the week for a while. I also may have to put in some extra hours during the work week here and there, as I’m temporarily filling two positions at once. Both girls will be coming home in the next week-and-a-half, which means there will be more squeezing of time. I won’t let that cut into my writing time.

Back when I used to hang out on Absolute Write, people would regularly start up threads with titles like “How do you find the time to write?” And they would start the thread talking about all the demands on their time that kept them from writing. When I responded (after a while, I stopped, but my reasons for quitting AW are a post for another day), my answer was always pretty much the same: “I want to be published. For me to be published, I have to finish what I start. Therefore, I find the time.” It’s not always easy, but it’s how it has to be.

How about some music from the Tedeschi Trucks Band?

7 Responses

  1. Yeah, it's called "making time" and it can be hard because you have to prioritize. I remember years ago teaching young women a class. One thing that struck me in the lesson material was this–you can do anything you want in life, but you can't do everything. You must prioritize.

  2. How do I find the time to write? Well… I don't clean my house! 🙂 Seriously, I gave up stuff that wasn't as important. When I had the day job, I gave up television. Now I'm home all day and I still don't write more (I should, but I don't), but I write during the day, freeing up my nights and allowing me to watch television again.

  3. I see it from both sides. If you start feeling beaten down and aren't enjoying life, then it's time for a break. A happy relaxed writer writes better than a grumpy one. Putting an end to the break and going back to writing/revising again is the difference between getting published or not. I often allow myself breaks, or get so overwhelmed with real life stuff that I HAVE to take a break. But the work I do when I come back is always better than the stuff I'd have written if I were forcing myself to write. And just because you aren't writing doesn't mean you aren't thinking about the project and milling over new ideas. Good luck with the revisions — but enjoy your daughters' homecoming too. 🙂

  4. -Lexa–I don't disagree that breaks are needed, or that "head writing" isn't as valuable as "physical writing"–I do a lot of "head writing"). At some point, however, you have to make time to get the words down.
    -Donna–Thanks. It was another busy week/weekend!

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