The Art of Never Making Time: A Cautionary Excuse

Most days, I don’t make time for writing.

I can’t write fiction during the day. I mean, I can. Under the right circumstances, if its calm and I have a chunk of time to myself. I know, I know — write even if you only have five minutes, but its just not me, especially when I’m rewriting and I have to both read and write. So, most often, I write at night, after Miles has gone to bed.

I have all these fantasies of kicking the nocturnal habit and being productive when Miles goes off to school. I could get my work done in half the time it takes now. I could spend the rest of the day being social and active and writing fiction. Maybe I’ll also bake all day and my house will be clean and I will be effortlessly gorgeous. You know what, its my fantasy, let me have it.

Ashley & Miles

I’ve lost feeling in my left side.

I’ve now been writing this post for over an hour. 250 words, because I had to help Miles unlock the bathroom door, get his breakfast together, help him make some toast, make myself some coffee — and then there was a tantrum, which has lead to him clinging to my entire left side crying, “Mommy, I’m scared of the ghosts, I’m scared of the owls, I’m scared of the scary trees, I’m scared of the spooky animals outside!”

Now he’s decided that we’re not friends and I need to go to my room because I won’t let him play with my coffee. When I’ve ignored that long enough — yup. Imaginary injury, right on schedule. Apparently a Backyardigan hurt his foot.

So, by the time my husband gets home from work between five and six, I’m frazzled; I’ve been on the computer for five hours trying to get my daily intended amount of work done. On a good day, I’m two-thirds of the way done. On a bad day, I’m not even done with the first task yet. Nothing has been cleaned. I haven’t even figured out what we’re having for dinner yet.

And I should say that this isn’t exclusively because I’m child-wrangling all day. I also make stops on Twitter and Facebook throughout the day, which adds up over time. I stop to have lunch at some point. I usually exercise for about an hour in the morning. I get sidetracked by other projects. (Ooh, this is an interesting Web design concept — I should try it! Hey, I should fix all the things in the house with my four tools! Oooh, I should blog about how music I listened to in my teens reminds me that my teens sucked!)

I am a problem too.

Its probably about six when I’ve started dinner. I haven’t even finished my day’s work yet, but dear god, I’m hungry and when Miles helps with dinner, I even like him a little bit.  Its okay. I can work after dinner and still do some fiction after he goes to bed.

Wait, what day is it? Monday? Oh, that’s our weekly TV night with August, so I’m not likely to get much done until ten. Thursday? Gaming — out the door by six and gone until midnight. Friday or Saturday? Drunk pretty much the whole time.

(What I like about me, is that you can pretty much track that exact progression on my Twitter feed.)

Sundays are good, actually. There’s usually some sort of social writing event on Sunday afternoon, whether its just a couple of us or the whole group. Usually by then, I’ve spent all week intending to work on some project without ever opening the file.

So, if I do get any fiction work done, its at night. Usually very late at night. And if I get on a roll while working — if I hit that zone and suddenly fall into my story, I guarantee that one minute it will be midnight (Not so late; I can get some work done and be asleep by one) and the next it will be four (May as well just keep writing). I’m sluggish the next day. Rinse, repeat cycle, mourn lack of willpower or management skills.

A few weeks ago I read an article called Why Programmers Work at Night. In fact, this is such a normal phenomenon that the Google damn near exploded when I searched for it. (I didn’t want to dig through my twitter feed to find the link; I had to anyway.)

Google: Why Programmers Work at Night

Down that path lies madness.

Anyway, the article I actually read makes pretty much the same point, and sums the whole phenomenon up thusly:

To conclude, programmers work at night because it doesn’t impose a time limit on when you have to stop working, which gives you a more relaxed approach, your brain doesn’t keep looking for distractions and a bright screen keeps you awake.

I don’t see how that’s much different for writers. I just wish it were an easier cycle to break.

Ashley M. Hill found her voice in science fiction when her curiosity about technology coupled with the lifelong urge to tell stories. Her interest in social and feminist issues shapes how she approaches the genre. She's pursuing computer and network repair for her day job.

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