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On Finding Time to Write

Updated: Oct 11, 2023

In another life (no, not reincarnation, but the one left in the cupboard that pays the bills) I face the same dramas every other working person does. In particular, that nasty, pervasive, nefarious task of juggling chainsaws.

"Juggling WHAT?" I hear you ask.


A chainsaw is, as horror and wood-chop fans will tell you, quite a dangerous piece of equipment. Take your eyes off it for a second, put a hand in the wrong place, and you can do yourself serious, instant, damage. Even when it's turned off it can injure quite easily; sharp chain teeth, heavy weight, (and for y'all in SoCal) full of carcinogenic liquids. Only an idiot would juggle chainsaws, and only a complete idiot would do it with the chainsaws running.

But guess what? We all do it.

At work you've got competing demands, any one of which can do your job serious damage if you neglect them. If you can do ten things in a day, it's a dead cert you have at least twelve competing demands, and twelve loud voices screaming at you to do them, AND DO THEM NOW!!!! More demands than you can handle? You're juggling chainsaws.

At work you can see the chainsaws, know what damage they could do. And make some choices. The boss. The disgruntled customer. The pissed-off colleague. The nearly overdue report. Let's be honest about it; at work we're willing to let a chainsaw or two fall if we have to, just to make sure the others don't drop on our heads. The boss can't wait, she pays my bills. The customer can't wait, he pays my boss's bills. The report, no one reads them anyway, so why bother? And my colleague? He's an idiot, forget him.

As an author, it's harder.

As an author some chainsaws are invisible. Fine, your publisher and social media are visible, but what about your family? Or the little things that chew into your writing time "just this once" that keep happening? Or that USB backup drive you've promised to get yourself for the past two years? Or the pain in your back you get from sitting down for those "rare, extended" writing sessions? See what I mean? They're just there, out of sight, where you can't put a hand on them; but they can do you big damage if they go awry.

And even when we see them, even when we know, we don't choose, we tend to think we can keep all of the chainsaws in the air all of the time. It seems to be the author's millstone. It's impossible, but we get sidetracked, pulled away into thinking everything MUST be done, that everything matters as much as every other thing; and that we're invincible. Remember Meatloaf's song "Everything louder than everything else"? Utter bullsh, as we say down here.

If you only get eight hours a week away from your job, family, and all the other things we all have to do, is spending four hours a week on Twitter as important as four hours a week writing? Which one will do you more damage if you let it go?

So, this is my advice on finding time to write: get back to what is at the core of you as an author, and as a person. You have to choose your chainsaws - which ones to juggle, which ones to let fall and do a little damage, which ones to just throw away and never pick up again.

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