Writer’s Toolbox

Ask The Writer

Your most pressing and perplexing questions about writing answered here by Gotham teacher Brandi Reissenweber.

I want to write, but something else always seems to come up. It's not an issue of desire. I genuinely want to write. With a full-time job, family, and other obligations, am I just not cut out for this?

You're not alone; most writers struggle to find a balance. However, success doesn't start with a day planner to organize obligations. It starts with an attitude. You have to want to write and you have to approach it professionally. Treat writing time the same way you would a meeting with a client: value it and commit to it. Until you do that, writing time will be the first thing cut out when the schedule gets too tight. You may also be facing fears or insecurities. Roles you've had for a while—at home and at work—can feel familiar and there's security in that. Following through on this interest comes with risks. But it's worth giving yourself the opportunity to embrace the possibilities. You might find it helpful to think about why writing is important to you. It may not pay the bills, but if you're compelled to do it, then it's certainly providing something essential. Consider what that is for you and then use that information as a way to solidify your attitude toward writing time.

Even with a strong commitment and a willingness to take the risk, there's the challenge of finding time in a day that's already booked. Take a hard look at where and how you spend your time. Is there a lost hour at lunch when you're chatting away with co-workers just to pass the time? Do you endure rush hour traffic to the city two hours a day when you could be sitting on the train writing? There may even be appointments on your calendar that you don't value as much as writing. Are there any you can eliminate? Also, look at your morning. Can you wake up a half an hour or even an hour earlier? If so, you've gained a good chunk of time. When it's the first thing you do, you've made it a priority. And for those writers who have full houses, getting up before others can be a nice guarantee you won't be disturbed.

Don't be afraid to ask for help. Often, people feel stuck in certain routines because that's how things were established. But you can initiate change. And the people in your life are bound to be open to this—and supportive of your interest—if they know how important it is to you. If you're the cook in the family and always make dinner, perhaps your spouse or older children will take on the task twice a week, freeing up time to write. Sometimes changes can come in simply re-assessing how you've done tasks in the past. Maybe you don't need to cut the grass every week. Perhaps it can be done every other week. There you have it: another hour or two to write.

Once you find pockets of time, put them on your calendar as appointments. Then keep those appointments. If you leave your writing time up to the vague notion of "when I find the time," you're bound to let anything get in the way. If you plan on a specific time and stay consistent—whether it's every day, twice a week, or once a week on Saturday mornings—writing will become a part of your routine.