How to Avoid Writing Enemies

Let’s be honest. A lack of time really isn’t an enemy to writing. Literary masterpieces were written in the same amount of minutes in a day we have now. Poor use of the time is the real enemy. I am a master at finding all kinds of things to do instead of writing.

It’s amazing how much time is available to binge on Netflix reruns. It won’t matter if we just watch one more show. It would be irresponsible to stop watching now that we’re really into the plot. Let’s just keep watching to see what happens.

There is always something more demanding than writing. Projects on the house are endless. Errands requiring no more than thirty minutes turn into an afternoon after a trip through Starbucks, an unplanned stop at Home Depot, waiting at the train station long enough to catch a freight run-by, and deciding to pick up a few things at the grocery store. Once I’m finally headed home, I remember something I should have purchased so I turn around and go back.

Remember, poor use of time is the enemy. That’s not to say errands aren’t important and we shouldn’t spend any time watching a favorite show. It’s just amazing, however, how fast the time flies when we’re doing things that don’t produce good writing.

How do you stop wasting time? (C’mon, I know you do it too.) Start with a plan. Decide on a time and place during the day you will commit to writing, and only writing, and then stick to it. Don’t let a fleeting idea lead you to start scrolling the internet. Jot the idea down (on a real piece of paper with a pencil – remember those?) and don’t click away from the screen you’re working on.

If you work at it, you can get really creative with your writing opportunities.

Here are some options:

1. Early morning – a quiet house can be a writer’s best friend. Allow enough time to write without rushing.

2. Late at night. Same idea.

3. On your lunch break at work. Here’s where a real piece of paper and a pen might work for you. Pick up an inexpensive journal and use it when you only have a few moments of writing time between bites.

4. Use your phone. I have lists of writing topics in my reminders app. It’s easy to jot a line and come back to it later.

5. Dedicate a weekend to writing. If you have a busy family life, maybe a full morning or afternoon will work.

6. A writing get-away. Do you have a RV? A cottage? Do you have a friend with a cottage? Do you have a tent? Do you have a car? (I have spent many afternoons at the train depot with an iPad on my lap. And I’ve even been lucky enough to see several trains!) Do you have a garage? A yard? Do you have a closet? Is there a local library? You get the idea.

7. Your favorite coffee shop. Every writer’s idea of the perfect setting is the laptop on a table with a steaming brew close by. Coffee is the universal inspiration for fantastic writing.

8. A doctor appointment. Really. Do you have any idea how many hours you have wasted waiting? Waiting rooms should be called writing rooms. Then patients might begin to understand they are not required to handle magazines that have been fingered through by very sick person within fifty miles. Writing while waiting is a great idea!

9. A dentist appointment. It’s the same idea as the doctor’s office with a few variables. At the doctor’s office you don’t have the option of breathing that wonderful mixture of novocaine, formaldehyde, alcohol, polycarbonates, cleanser, and sweat. Fear can be an incredible writing motivator.

10. Church. If you go to church, maybe go back to what we used to do as kids. Draw during the sermon. Instead of drawing, write. (Just a caveat, it probably wouldn’t be a great idea to laugh out loud at your own whit when you write a brilliant line.) It might be a little bit like when the preacher was being all fake humble and said, “Now, folks, I know you have heard preachers who were much better than I.” And an old woman in the back said, “Amen!” (That really happened at our church when I was a kid. Remember it like yesterday! (Wait a minute, I can’t remember anything about yesterday.) I remember it like it was over fifty years ago!

11. If you’re a student, write at school. Your teachers will think there’s something wrong with you. When I was a middle school counselor, I loved encouraging students in their writing. There were a few that were actually brilliant, at least I thought so. It was worth every minute to read and then watch the glow on their face as approval washed over them.

12. The car wash. What do you do while you’re sitting in your car being pulled through the whale’s mouth, swallowed, digested, then spewed out the other end? See? You could use those few moments of solitude to write!

13. Family reunions. NO ONE likes family reunions. If someone tells you they do, they’re lying. “You look just like your father!” “I remember changing your diaper once when it was running all down your leg! What a mess!” “You don’t remember throwing up on Uncle Elmer, do you?” “I once thought you stole money out of my purse! I’m so sorry, I know you didn’t really do it. It was your brother!” Hearing Aunt Mable fart during the saying of grace was worth it. And the time a calf was born during the prayer. That was a classic. Family reunions are only meaningful to grocery store owners. More pineapple chunks, cottage cheese, Jello, potatoes, mustard, celery, and baloney are sold during family reunion season than at any other time of year. Use the family reunion to sneak into the haymow and write. (Alone.)

14. The bathroom. C’mon, seriously. What if, instead of scrolling, reading news, deleting emails, rereading texts, checking bank accounts, writing grocery lists, looking up the definition of “fart”, or sorting photos, why not write?

Our lives are full of opportunities to write if we just look.

Do you have a treehouse? What a great place to write!

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