You’ve prioritized. You’ve communicated your goal to others in your life to negotiate more writing time. You’ve shown at least some discipline!
But if you haven’t committed to measures that feel a little bit crazy, you may be missing opportunities to become a more productive writer. I say this based on my experience of never getting anywhere with my writing for far too long. It feels good to finally be getting some traction on my writing discipline, so I thought I’d ramble about it today.
The more I’ve circulated among other writers, the more I’ve noticed that those who get things done often have a streak of writer-crazy. In fact, it’s very possible that Seal got it right:
“We’re never gonna survive unless we get a little bit crazy…” – Seal, classic 90s song, you’re welcome!
Some writers employ their creativity toward getting things done as if they were an interesting character in a novel–one you’d want to read about!
I want to be like those writers, not a dud. Duds don’t solve their own problems and stay in victim mode too long.
Often, they’re also unwilling to commit to significant sacrifice.
Which is not to imply that we have control over all results and conditions in our lives. But my point is that by even trying to solve our problems, we are happier than just deciding we are victims of whatever is going on.
The First Thing to Sacrifice
…is your excuses! I’m no poster child for all this, but I’ve created more time to write than many writers I know. I write creatively for 5 or 6 hours a day and usually get 9,000 words in.
To do so, I’ve had to stop feeding my internal excuses and commit to uncomfortable but rewarding innovation. I could easily not have the writing time or word count rate that I do (see my crazy dictation lady bullet below for more on how I do this). I know that for certain, because it took me a decade to get going with this writing seriously thing!
Before, I was simply not committed. I always had some thrift store that needed visiting, some tv show that needed watching “for inspiration”, or some aspect of my apartment that needed decorating.
Yet, if you asked me what my primary interest was I would quickly affirm that it was writing!
Really? Is that why I hardly ever, I don’t know, wrote?!
It’s evidence that we can be in love with something without being committed to it. At first, I’d write an hour here or there when I was in the mood. Gag!! This is the single most classic way artists trips themselves up!
To get more traction, I had to pry my excuses and lower-tier life luxuries or interests as if out of my clenched hands. I’ve had to consistently choose to write when I don’t feel like it.
11 Examples: What I’ve Sacrificed So Far
A lot of sacrifices I’ve made pivot around my decision to do without the security of a full-time job. That was scary for me because I support myself but it’s worked out fine.
I’m quick to say that I am single and without kids so I was able to commit to this decision without affecting anyone else. And yet! You know what? A lot of single, non-parental people don’t make this decision. Some of the things married, be-childed people benefit from, I surely don’t. My point is, it’s probably all sixes in the end. I had to learn to not let anyone else’s situation be an excuse for why they get to write and I don’t.
Not working full-time does not have to be something you choose. It’s just an example of doing what it takes to work it out, like these other things I’ve found useful to sacrifice:
- I limit my eating out. This was pretty hard for a foodie like me. I make my own breakfast, lunch, and dinner to save money. This has actually become pretty fun. But nearly every night I have friends I could meet up with at a restaurant and I rarely join, so it’s a sacrifice!
- I live in a small, old place. While many of my friends are buying houses or other worthy dwellings, my digs are cheap and small and similar to a college student’s.
- I limit and economize travel. This is what I used to sacrifice for! I love seeing new places. Now that’s part of what I limit so I can be a writer. When I’ve needed to travel for research, I do so in ways which maximize adventure but not comfort. I sleep in tents, rental cars, or usually nasty hostels. This was romantic when I was 18. It’s not anymore. But it’s a sacrifice that allows me to learn and see what I want to and still be a writer!
Maybe instead of saving money you’re in the opposite situation where you should spend some money–hire that maid or personal chef!
Sacrifices of Ego
- I say unabashedly, “Sorry, I can’t afford to do that. I’m a writer!” After years of getting a salary, I felt weird telling people I couldn’t join in for financial reasons. But the more I just said this, the more I found people were super supportive. Most cool people admire that you’re reigning in your spending to accomplish a goal or follow a dream.
- I became the crazy dictation lady. It took me two months of practicing a couple hours a day but I trained myself to write using the Dragon dictation app. It’s uncomfortable. It uses a different part of your brain, I swear! But it tripled my hourly word count because you can talk faster than type. This means I’ve learned to ‘write’ via speaking, while walking. Despite the discomfort of people on the walking trail laughing at what I’m saying (and they do, because rambling about elves or time portals isn’t a typical cellphone conversation and people do notice). I’ve learned to have a thick skin and just smile when someone stares.
Sacrifices of Time
- I limit my cleaning. Yup, I’m gross. Sure, I’d love to live in a cleaner place but I love being a writer more. My place is a wreck most of the time. I’m not innately disgusting, I just realize that in a given day I can either clean my floor or write a chapter. And the floor’s just going to get dirty again.
- I limit or merge my socializing. In years past I’ve definitely tried to be at every social event, for every hour possible, even after it stopped being all that fun. Now I go to stuff I enjoy for just long enough to actually enjoy it. I also merge socializing with exercise like going on a walk, cooking dinner, or running an errand–stuff I would have to do anyway.
- I merge reading and exercising. I go on walks while listening to audio books. I hate swimming but it’s good exercise so I bought a waterproof iPod. I get my daily laps in while listening to audio books rather than sitting around reading.
- I limit my reading altogether. I know, this is pure blasphemy to most writers! My take on it is, that reading others’ writing is important but if you’re reading more than you’re writing, you might be more of a reader (not a writer). There comes a point where you’re consuming not producing. It’s harder to write than it is to read. That’s why we would rather read! Very few writers agree with me. But by not reading so indulgently, I create more time to write.
- Same with tv shows. Same with movies. And I really hate it sometimes. There’s so much more I would love to watch!
- I limit my time with other writers. Also controversial. Like many writers, I love the energy, camaraderie, perspective, and feedback from writer communities. This was a really hard one for me to reduce and nothing at all personal about anyone I’ve worked with. I just had to take a hard look at the time investment and decide to spend more of my writing time actually writing.
I totally acknowledge that even if some writers sacrificed to the hilt they would not be able to find five to six hours a day for writing. But if I’m being honest, I don’t think you or I or hardly anyone qualifies as a person with nothing else to give up. I think it’s likely that those who want to write more can find more to sacrifice without infringing on priorities like family.
Maybe not five to six hours. Maybe two. But every hour is gold to a writer, so fight for it!
How Can You Get a Little Bit Crazy? 9 More Ideas
We resist trying things that feel crazy because why? I guess it’s because we’re scared. The only remedy I’ve found is to take significant action anyway. My experience is that courage rarely feels courageous. It feels scary.
But it’s also invigorating to get a little crazy. Not irresponsible, just zany. What do you still have to sacrifice, reconsider, or rearrange, even if it feels weird at first?
Maybe not grooming yourself so much. 🙂
Maybe writing with a collaborator who does half the writing!
Maybe sacrificing even one hour of precious sleep every other day.
Maybe standing up for yourself more in a professional or personal relationship.
Maybe trying to involve your kids or significant other in your writing process (I’m sure that’s a trick), but who knows?
Maybe not working your current job.
Maybe working your current job but negotiating fewer hours for less pay.
Maybe taking the bus or train so you can write while you commute.
Maybe asking to telecommute, saving yourself a couple hours a day.
Some of those things might feel like crazy things to ask of your employer but you just never know until you try.
I don’t see myself as done sacrificing for writing. I keep finding more to trim back, more crazy to challenge myself with. So if you’ve figured out other writing productivity tricks, do share so I can up my commitment!