how to write when there’s no time to write

Have poems and pain reliever, will travel (public domain).

  1. Write while watching the Ken Burns documentary on the dust bowl. Interrupt writing while watching the Ken Burns documentary on the dust bowl only to go fetch ice cream. Resume writing, while watching the Ken Burns documentary on the dust bowl, while eating ice cream.
  2. Keep writing supplies everywhere: kitchen, bathroom, bedside table, laundry shelf, purse, dining room table. Realize you aren’t using the writing supplies. Keep them everywhere anyway.
  3. Consider writing on son’s gauze-wrapped arm when an idea comes suddenly during PICC line maintenance. Think twice. Tell child: DON’T MOVE I have to go get a post-it note. DON’T MOVE. And DON’T TOUCH IT. !!DON’T!! Then remember: there are writing supplies on the bedside table. Feel yourself washed in relief. Use them.
  4. Leave the house on Sunday afternoon for some writing time. Worry the whole time about said child, said PICC line, and whether or not Husband is losing his mind. Write a little bit anyway. Come home and apologize for leaving the house for some writing time. Ask husband if he lost his mind. Realize he did not. Retract apology.
  5. Wake up at 5 a.m. for some writing time. Realize said child with said PICC line is already awake. Regret waking up at 5 a.m. for some writing time.
  6. Realize you have way more writing time than people trying to survive in the dust bowl.

But seriously. Here’s how I’ve staked my claim as a writer during trips to doctors offices and ERs, during said child’s hospital stay, and during the last week of learning how to be a part-time nurse and teacher:

have an emergency kit  The moment I realized we were heading to the hospital, I grabbed my Emergency Kit. We all have our own Emergency Kits, right? Mine includes ibuprofen and Emily Dickinson (well, not Emily herself, but her poems). I know if I have those two things I can manage almost anything. I would also recommend snacks. Yeah, I wish I would’ve thought of that.

have one project  When it became clear that said child’s treatment and recovery could take a while, I immediately let go of all writing goals and projects. Except one. I’m working on a fellowship application that’s due December 1. This has become my only writing priority. Amazing how times of trial can help us to prioritize.

work in scraps  I’ve been grabbing what time I can: 5 minutes here, 10 there. During one “writing session” I decided the ordering of the first four poems in the manuscript for the fellowship application. During another, I wrote down a couple phrases that were ringing in my ear. Yet another: the other day I paged through an art book and wrote down whatever came to mind. None of it is really writing per se, but I’m taking what I can get.

read READ, I say, READ! Did you know that reading is basically writing? In that it seeds all writing? So, read. And if you are super-motivated and have an extra 10 seconds, take notes: words you like, ideas, anything that strikes you.

it’s all the work  Any creative life has its bleak seasons, either because the well is running a bit dry, or because of, ahem, circumstances. I’ve been reminding myself that all of life, plus paying good attention, prepares the ground for writing (or any creative act).

And now, Reader, the Ken Burns documentary on the dust bowl is over and it’s past my bed time. May you always have time to write, even when there’s no time to write.

22 thoughts on “how to write when there’s no time to write

  1. i believe i just sent you an email asking “how do you find the time?” and now it all makes sense and i feel like one of those patronizing jerks who say, “I don’t know how she does it!”

    you do it because you’re a writer and you must. LOVE the Emergency Kit idea!!! I’m so making one of those.

    • I didn’t receive your questions as patronizing in the least. We all do what we have to do — and I’m just motivated for my own sake to keep the writing iron in the fire. I highly recommend an Emergency Kit (with snacks).

  2. I love how your blog always talks to my real, actual life and helps me make (and be excited about making) real, actual (good!) things happen in it. Thank you! Here’s wishing Kid Who’s Been Sick a continually speedy recovery and you some rest time, some writing time, some ice cream time and a total fellowship WIN. And now, to make sure my books, notebooks and Aleve are all where I left them….:)

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