Why Everyone Has Time To Write

Many of the students I meet at writers' conferences complain that they don't have enough time to write. These men and women have full-time jobs, marriages, children, hobbies, parties to attend and favorite television shows to follow. How in an already full life are they expected find one or two hours a day to write a book?

It's a good question, and the simple, honest, but ultimately unhelpful answer is this: every writer who has ever written a book has had a full life within which that book was written. If you need "more time," get up an hour earlier every day. That's what a lot of writers do. Or they go to bed an hour later. But usually they get up earlier. There. Problem solved.

Except this really solves nothing, just as telling a smoker to simply stop smoking solves nothing. The question most writers are really asking isn't, "How do I find time to write?" but, "Is writing a waste of time?" Going to college probably didn't feel like a waste of time because it would, in theory, lead to a career. And going to work probably doesn't feel like a waste of time because it provides an income and a social network and a bit of an identity. Even crashing in front of the TV doesn't feel like a waste of time because everyone needs some downtime.

But is writing a waste of time? It is relatively easy for the imagination to perceive the connection between enrolling in college and a successful career in, say, high tech, even though many years and many choices and many unplanned turns and reversals wait between one and the other. The path one walks for this career, has, in many ways, been cleared by those who walked it before you, like a paint-by-number life. How comforting. Do this and that and then this and then that and you will be safe and fed and housed and respected and have health care and a time-share in Maui.

As soon as we sit down to write, we understand how blank our canvas really is. Not only do we not know if that book will ever be published, we don't even know what that book will like when it's done. All we can really perceive is what is directly before us: that blank canvas called a page. And so we sit alone with this simple question, "What would I most like to put here?" That's the writer's first and last guarantee, that we will get to answer that question as often as we ask it.

That may not seem like much at first compared to the apparent security of a color-coded life, but the moment a writer decides that getting up an hour earlier every day just to ask and answer that question, he or she has discovered the holy secret to writing and publishing success. I will never get up an hour earlier to ask, "Why bother?" I would sooner sleep the entire day. At least then I could dream. So if you feel you need time to write, don't begin by trying to clear away an hour of clutter from your day's schedule. Instead, clear space within your mind; clear away all the useless questions of talent and money and comparison, and you will find the blank space that has always belonged to you.

You can learn more about William at williamkenower.com.