Guest Post: To Find the Time to Write by Eric Rasmussen

Let’s all imagine a nice middle-America gal named Laura. Laura likes colorful sweaters, loves her daughters, and feels ambivalent about her job, maybe as a nutritionist. Plenty of things bring Laura joy: homemade marinara sauce, suggestive text messages from her husband, and occasional rainy weekend afternoons during which she introduces her kids to her favorite movies from her own childhood, like The Princess Bride or Labyrinth.

But nothing brings Laura as much satisfaction as gardening. She adds a few more feet to her plot every year, planning the following season’s layout as soon as she harvests the last of the vegetables in fall. Trips to the garden store feel like a pilgrimage. She reads gardening books and watches gardening shows, and every Christmas her family gives her gardening accessories because that’s exactly what she wants. Sometimes her husband and daughters roll their eyes when they can’t find her, but what can they do? She’s always in the backyard, because it’s her passion.

Here’s the interesting part about this character: for Laura, loving gardening is not work. She doesn’t have to schedule time to garden. When hanging out with green-thumbed friends, she doesn’t ask where they find the time to plant and weed. She doesn’t have to give up other beloved activities and hobbies, because gardening is what she loves. Sure, there are plenty of instances where she has to set aside the hose and trowel to fulfill her obligations to her job and her family. But finding opportunities to head outside doesn’t cause her any frustration. She just does it. She’d rather be kneeling in the dirt than doing much else.

Of all the writing-related questions I’m asked, the one I struggle with the most is, “Where do you find time to write?” Sometimes the question can sound like a subtle accusation. If I’m able to produce a healthy stream of stories and chapters and blog posts, I must be shirking some other part of my life, half-assing my job or ignoring my kids. But most of my discomfort comes from the fact that I don’t have an answer. I have no idea how I find the time to write.

WritingI write during my lunches, while my kids play with friends after school, and while they watch TV in the evenings. I write on Saturday mornings before the rest of the family is ready for whatever excursion we’ve planned, and on Sunday afternoons in between loads of laundry. As a high school teacher, the calendar definitely helps my efforts; holiday breaks and summer vacation are more conducive to writing than many other jobs, I’ll admit. But I never feel like I have to sacrifice the things I want to do or the things I have to do to write. When people ask the question, I assume they’re looking for solidarity and commiseration, and maybe some help or advice. I get the sense lots of would-be writers are trying to find a scheduling loophole that allows them to live the lives they’ve grown accustomed to, with all their obligations, responsibilities, distractions, and amusements, but also find chunks of time to write.

And look, I understand that I am at great risk here of sounding privileged and insensitive. In my pursuit of writing, I recognize I have many advantages. A supportive spouse. Kids who are (sometimes) capable of entertaining themselves. A comfortable job that allows occasional time off. If I could, I would share these factors. I would offer these things to people who ask where I find time to write. Unfortunately, that’s not possible.

But I can offer this.

If you are asking how to find time to write, perhaps you are asking the wrong question. If writing is your goal and your passion, then it won’t be the item on your to-do list that gets jettisoned during the busy times. Even the busiest people find time to do the things they need to do, out of obligation or desire. The trash gets taken out, the kids get fed. Football fans watch football. Fishermen fish. Gardeners garden.

The question, then, is not, “How do I find time to write,” but, “Do I love writing enough to make it the thing that I do?” Writers working other jobs still need to schedule, no doubt. Early mornings, late nights, sitting in the car while the kids are at gymnastics. But if writing is our thing, which takes precedence over other hobbies and distractions, then making time to write no longer feels like work. Like Laura’s gardening, it is simply what we do. And we do it whether time allows or not.

 

Eric RasmussenEric Rasmussen teaches high school English in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. He is pursuing an MFA from Augsburg College, and his work is featured or upcoming in Sundog Lit, Pithead Chapel, Black Fox Literary Magazine, Mulberry Fork Review, Forge, Chariton Review, and Volume One Magazine, among others. He serves as assistant fiction editor at The Indianola Review, and founded the regional literary journal Barstow & Grand. www.theotherericrasmussen.com <http://www.theotherericrasmussen.com/

 

2 comments to Guest Post: To Find the Time to Write by Eric Rasmussen

  • I love this piece! I get the same question all the time from my writing students, and I’m always equally baffled about how to answer it. I usually say something like, “I write because it saves my sanity,” which is true (and a variation on your answer, here, too), but sometimes it garners some strange looks.

  • Eric,
    I think many people feel that doing something with a spouse/partner/child has to be the first thing to fill free time. Sometimes jobs are either emotionally draining or very time consuming and people find sleep to be a priority. And then there are those of us who waste time on FB and doing many other unnecessary things and end up feeling that we don’t have enough time not because we don’t love writing but we’re really afraid of failing and it is satisfying and possibly less demoralizing to chat with a high school friend than write a story about them.

    I guess I have a lot of other thoughts about why people procrastinate and don’t do something they love to do.

    C2

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