Time, or lack thereof, is the biggest hurdle most writers seem to face. It’s also one of the biggest lies we tell ourselves. And look, as far as excuses go, I’m the queen of them. Homeschooling three kids, a farm, family commitments, blah, blah, blah. But here’s the thing, I mean, the dishes and the laundry have to get done, and feed your brood, sure, but what do you WANT to be doing?
You know, that story. The one that keeps niggling in the back of your mind when you’re scrubbing off your significant other’s ill-fated foray into barbecue. Your eyes glaze over, thicker than the residue coating that dang pan, and somehow, you’re there. Chapter one, that steamy scene, or the big dust-up. Your story. The one you keep promising yourself you’re going to write.
The dream. Your dream. Bubbling around in your head like dish soap gone wild—
Kid number two just stabbed kid number one, ironically with a No.2 pencil.
Reality reasserts itself. What the hell were you thinking? There’s no way—
Stop it. There is. It’s totally possible. Not only possible, inevitable, once you shift your mindset. How you ask, juggling iodine and Band-Aids — man, if you could see the shade you’re casting in my direction — right. Here it is. You ready?
You need to believe you, and your creative needs, are important.
Yep. Go ahead and throw your hands up, but be careful. Shout ain’t gonna get that iodine out. Sorry, I’m laughing, but I’m totally serious. Just think about it for a minute. All those little things you squeeze into your day. A second dinner for kid number two’s gluten intolerance. Planning to leave the house ten minutes sooner so your littlest can tie their shoes by themselves. An hour of your life sucked away on hold to sort out some insurance calamity, then when you finally get to a real person, another forty-five trying to patch your significant other into the convo, thank you very little, HIPPA. And yeah, that was super specific, with good reason.
“Hold up,” you say, “all of those things are important!”
No… not all of those things the people we do them for are. Now don’t get me wrong, I get that the wheels would totally fall off the bus if we weren’t driving, but there are rest stops for a reason. And if mama ain’t happy… well, you know how that goes, and apologies to the dudes out there reading this, but hey, I write what I know.
Look, the mindset shift that I’m talking about is that our needs as caregivers are just as important as those we love, and don’t get it twisted — I mean needs above and beyond showering regularly. It’s a sad fact that feeding our creative side is the first casualty in the war for sanity, but it shouldn’t be. We’re writers, and that creativity is essential to who we are. It’s a necessity, and it should be more satisfying than whatever leftovers you wolfed down from your kid’s plate standing in front of the sink.
How did we get back to the sink? I ask myself that all the time, along with why I walked into any given room. Not because I’m super old, but because of the distractions every freaking time I turn around. Someone’s texting, a phone rings, kids are, well, kids, and my husband can’t find the keys that are right in front of him—
Deep breath. This is your moment.
Think The Matrix. Bullets are flying, time slows, and Neo’s bent backwards. His priority? Well, not to get shot, duh. Do the same, and dodge, baby. Don’t let your creativity take a bullet if it doesn’t have to.
Yeah, it’s all about setting priorities and boundaries. Dodging those distractions that eat up your time (looking at you, social media) and give you zero back. The proverbial junk food in your life padding the clock worse than brownies on your hips. I’ll be honest, as a connoisseur of all things salty and sweet, this is a hard one, especially if you’re rocking the “it’s faster if I just do it myself,” mantra. I’ll tell you from experience the “teach a man to fish” mentality is a heck of a lot more effective. And seriously, stop with the guilt about it already. You’re allowed to have needs. You’re allowed to have time to yourself. Heck, you’re even allowed to enjoy it!
So where to start?
Whelp, I’ll let you in on a secret. Not everything in your life needs to take precedence. I’m talking about the noise. You’d be surprised how bizarrely satisfying it is to let the phone go to voicemail, or not answering that text / email right away. You know, those little distractions that end up with you indulging in your social media poison of choice, and an hour wasted. Seriously. Ignore the damned ping. Blow a raspberry at it, then repeat: “Nope. Me-time.” Yes, the raspberry is mandatory, and full disclosure, I always envision my voice sounds like Samuel L. Jackson’s. The me-time is also followed by a four-syllable explicative. But I digress. Try the raspberry protocol for yourself. The goal here’s two-fold. First, the me-time, which prioritizes your needs, and second, the smile you get from doing something silly. That smile is the first step in re-wiring your brain to derive pleasure from putting yourself, and your creative needs, first.
And here’s the thing.
When those around us see us prioritizing our creative needs, it becomes a priority for them too. “Shh, Mom’s working,” is stage-whispered in my house just as often as “Shh, Dad’s taking a nap.” Weird, right?
Not really. Prakash Joshi Pax said: “The way you treat yourself is how others will treat you.” That translates directly into your writing / life balance. When you stop reacting to the ping of technology like one of Pavlov’s dogs, and begin to treat yourselves and your creative needs as a priority, they become one. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m still scrubbing at barbecue remnants, and my kids are, well, kids. That’s life, and we each have our own special dumpster fire to tend. But by asserting your needs over the noise and embracing the importance of our creative side, it’s no longer about finding that rare, stolen moment. Those have always been there for what’s important to you.
Now it’s time to add yourself to the list.
AK Nevermore is an emerging author of science fiction and urban fantasy. Her books explore dark worlds, perversely irreverent and profound, and always entertaining. She enjoys operating heavy machinery, freebases coffee, and gives up sarcasm for Lent every year.
A Jane-of-all-trades, she’s a certified chef, restores antiques, and dabbles in beekeeping when she’s not reading voraciously or running down the dream in her beat-up camo Chucks. Unable to ignore the voices in her head, and unwilling to become medicated, she writes full-time. Her literary aspirations have led her to complete several writing courses, a smattering of mentorships, and has been long-listed by the Australian Writer’s Centre. She also belongs to the Author’s Guild, is a chapter secretary for the RWA, teaches creative writing, and on the rare occasion, sleeps.
You can find her on her website and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.