Making Time to Write: The Egg Timer Method

work
I couldn’t even make time to draw a new comic for this post.

As a stay-at-home mom, one of the most difficult things in my life is time management. Then again, as a young woman with a job, one of the most difficult things in my life was time management. And as a college student. And in high school.

Time management is hard.

It’s especially hard when it concerns tasks that are completely self-driven. Writing, for example. Outside of school or a book deal, creative writing is rarely on a deadline. Even my agent doesn’t put much pressure on me the way I hoped she might; really, no one has much stake in my writing another word. So when I’m not super psyched about my work and itching to get to it (which is, unfortunately, somewhat rare these days), finding time to write is even harder. After all, if nobody cares about it, why bother?

But I do bother. Because I know that one day someone will care about my fiction, but even if that’s a delusion, deep down I care about it. Sometimes really deep down–under a pile of laundry and dishes and play dates and shopping trips and showers and beauty products and date nights and drawings and dresses and my seam ripper and several thousand cake recipes and my desire to go roller skating and wash the dog and learn how to juggle–but even under such weight, my love of writing fiction has never been crushed.

Still, when I do find time to write, if it isn’t coming easily it’s always tempting to jump into one of those other tasks. If I just stand up and fold laundry for ten minutes, I’ll have time to brainstorm–right? Or maybe just a peek at my email. And then writing goes to crap. But I recently read about a method that seemed worth a try. It was called the egg timer method. Or the kitchen timer method. I can’t remember where I read it or what it was called, but it went like this:

When you’re able to set aside time to write, set a timer for one hour (or thirty minutes–even fifteen if that’s all you have). Turn off the wi-fi on your computer. Make a deal with yourself that until that timer goes off, you’re going to write. If the creative work isn’t coming to you, switch to journaling. But you’re going to keep writing that entire time. And when the timer goes off, you’re off the hook. You can go do the laundry and check your email. And no matter what it looks like, you will have written something.

I’ve been working with this method for a while now, in hour bursts–that’s another thing the creator of this method said, if I recall: don’t push past an hour–and it’s interesting. At first it feels like a chore. And it feels strange to allow yourself to journal–I’ve spent whole hours just journaling. But I’m still putting my thoughts down on paper and trying to do it eloquently, so I suppose it’s like light exercise for my writing muscles. But after a few sessions, I found myself looking forward to my hour, and trying to cram as much in as possible because it set a limit for me and reminded me that I only have that hour. It helped me turn all that junk that buries my writing time into something I’m pushing against–something to battle. My writing time vs. the rest of my life. It reminds me that this is something I’d rather be doing than folding Paw Patrol t-shirts; those chores are just the steps I need to climb to get to my desk and start writing.

Of course, all this is in my head. I still don’t have anyone calling to know when my manuscript will be finished or a set day to turn in a story. But adjusting my attitude toward writing time, though the work is still not flowing freely, has helped. And telling myself I will write for one hour on a given day sometimes lengthens my writing stints but sometimes keeps me from staring at the computer, beating myself up for hours on end when the time is available. Because I do that sometimes. Because I’m hard on myself. Because I want to be and do so many things but above all I want to be a writer.

Anyhow. This here, this blog writing, doesn’t count, and I have some free time now, so I’m going to grab my egg timer, go up to my shed, and write.

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