The story of my life. I think it is for anyone who writes, published or not. It seems that when the writing bug bites you, it holds on tight and never lets go. When a day goes by and I don't write, I feel unfinished. I feel like one of the most important things on my to-do list hasn't been crossed off. It nags at me as I fall asleep at night and remains a dull ache in the morning that I shake off with coffee and my children's sounds both wonderful and irritating depending on how the morning goes. Then it's another day and I get another lucky chance to complete myself. By the way, there are many days that I don't write. So I feel like this a lot. It's a state of being I'm trying to make peace with. I just don't know if that peace will come from writing every day rain or shine, or being more okay with not writing.
If I have a deadline, then I do write on a schedule hitting a daily word count and it takes a lot of unexpected chaos for me not to write. Deadlines are magic. So the short answer to the question of making time to write is to create a deadline if one is not imposed on you. Take a class or start a writing group. Or simply tell a trusted friend what your deadline is. Be accountable to others. It's harder to procrastinate in public.
When I have a contracted deadline, the fear of knowing I'm too old to pull all-nighters keeps me going at a steady pace. But when I don't have a deadline, sometimes I give myself a hiatus to take care of other things and sometimes I just get lazy, but either doesn't feel great.
This last month was a true test of my writing resolve. We just moved from an old, charming, quirky house that cost a bundle to heat to a bigger, old, charming, quirky house in a nicer and more convenient neighborhood that will cost even more to heat. But I love it. I love connecting with a new space. As far as I'm concerned, houses are living things. I've been lucky to deeply love every space I've lived in, from a tiny one-bedroom in the city over a subway station with only enough space in the kitchen for a dorm-sized fridge and no freezer, to this one--a hundred year-old, beautiful, and slightly ridiculous house. My house and I get to know each other a little more when I find out on the first cold morning that the hundred-year old living room windows are probably as energy efficient as plastic wrap and that I can actually see the twinkling of the GW Bridge from my bedroom at night. I'm falling in love with this house, with all it's flaws and delights. The flaws are actually where the pull is, as long as it's balanced by beauty. Beauty without flaws is air-brushing. It's fake. It doesn't even exist.
Even if you only move a mile a way, packing up your whole life in boxes, and moving with two kids who are fresh out of camp, a husband who has to work late hours, and a looming book deadline is not very, how shall I say this...relaxing? I didn't understand if we just moved into our "dream-house" why I was so stressed-out and miserable? First, I wasn't writing when I needed to be because of all the moving and child-care logistics. It also felt like I had time-travelled. That we became another family in the future. How could we be us in this new space? Like we were pretending and that our real lives continued somehow in the old house where everything was still unpacked and arranged into a home. But as more boxes got unpacked and the rooms started to define themselves and I cooked my family their first meal in our new kitchen, and I wrote my first words in my new office, I started to see it, our old lives and our new lives merging.
It was really the moment though when I plunked down my laptop at 5:00a.m. so I could get in a few writing hours before my husband went to work and the kids were up, on my newly cleared desk surrounded by cardboard boxes, that my house became real to me, that I became a full person inside it. Flawed beauty. My fingers played on the keyboard in the dawn and the inspiration finally started to drip like brewing coffee. My heartbeat slowed. I felt such peace afterwards (not during, mind you).
I will probably never write every day, but the secret to making time to write for me is propelled by two things: a deadline, or misery. So create a deadline for yourself or choose peace instead of misery, and write. Don't wait for inspiration or a muse or everything to be just right. You'll never write anything good if you do. Just write through it. Allow both the flaws and the beauty to show themselves. It works. Good coffee helps too.