Finding time to write is always a struggle. The question of time is the No. 1 issue that comes up in workshops and classes: “I just don’t have time to write!” I’m sympathetic because I don’t have time either. Yesterday, I had email notifications popping up so quickly and what should have been the occasional ‘ping’ sounded like a continuous (ear-jarring) symphony. I’m teaching, collecting data, writing a major grant proposal, supervising many masters and doctoral students, chairing comittees… Just listing all this makes me feel exhausted. But alongside the busyness, I have a growing frustration about not being able to engage with writing as much as I would like to. So finding time to write is a ongoing struggle. I’m sure you can relate to this litany of woes. So what to do?
I mentioned in my book Productive Writing that in research we conducted with research-writing workshop participants, three groups of writers emerged. The first group were those people who identified as writers. These were faculty and graduate students who saw themselves as writers. They kept regular journals, wrote poetry, research articles, blogs, published on teaching, and generally wrote about anything. These writers would prioritize writing because they saw the world through writing. The second group were scholar-writers. These were writers who only wrote to publish and communicate their research. For these writers, research was the focus and writing the mechanism. This group also prioritised writing since it was a way to access further grants and to be part of the scholarly conversation in their areas. For both these groups, they used the tools provided in the workshops to springboard them out of whatever stuck place they found themselves in.
The third group we called the ‘I have no time‘ writers. These writers wanted to write but could not and lack of time became the reason. I was fascinated by this group (having been there myself at one point) and have my own theories about procrastination and writing in academic contexts. If you identify with this group, you can read my views and possible strategies here and here. Here’s a video as well.
Of course, these identities are not fixed – people change – and there may well be other identities but I think it’s useful to think of your writing identity, then to think about time and what you value in the time that you have. The point is not to beat yourself up about it (“I’m the worst person on earth because I can’t find time to write”) but to think about where you can make time to write if it really is important to you. And if you can’t, perhaps other things are more important at this point in your life, and that’s ok.
If you do want to make time to write, listen to the podcast below. I found it helpful and encouraging – she has sensible, do-able and kind ideas (no bootcamps here!):
Mary Allen — Harnessing Time: The Key to Writing podcast