How to find time for writing

I haven’t done much writing lately, because of various events – two conferences, family health problems, house guests from overseas – all coming together in the same few weeks. Some of these happenings are predominantly pleasant, others more stressful, but all of them have altered the usual rhythm of domestic life and taken time and energy away from writing. This has prompted me to revisit some principles from my life coaching days – simple basic advice, but so easy to neglect.

Prioritise what is important: Besides writing, there are various activities – for example exercise, social contact, some form of relaxation – which it is good to carry out every day to promote health and well-being. In contrast, anything which is being done out of habit or a sense of duty but is not really pleasurable or worthwhile, could perhaps be set aside.

Set personal boundaries: being able to devote adequate time to the important things may require setting boundaries against those of lesser importance. This means learning to say ‘No’ to unwelcome requests from other people, as discussed in a previous post, and perhaps also being firmer with yourself if you are prone to be distracted by trivia like checking for emails too often or staying too long in coffee shops. Focusing on one activity at once is more efficient than multi-tasking.

Organise your schedule: although some people prefer to write only when they feel inspired, or when conditions happen to be right, many serious writers find it best to set aside a regular time and place for their daily work. If you are disciplined about keeping to this schedule, family and friends will usually respect your commitment and understand that you do not wish to be disturbed.

Accept what cannot be changed: some events, difficulties and distractions are beyond personal control. It is a waste of energy to get frustrated and complain about them, but better to be flexible and accept them with a good grace. In the words of the ‘Serenity prayer’:

Lord, grant me the strength to change the things I can, the serenity to deal with the things I cannot change, and the wisdom to know the difference.

After all, a temporary disruption to the writing schedule will probably not matter very much in the long term; and even unwanted experiences form part of ‘life’s rich tapestry’ and may provide material for a new piece of writing at some later date.

Incidentally – three of my ebooks are on a Smashwords promotion this week, 2-8 March, for just $1.50 USD each. Here’s the link.

If you never say ‘No’ …

If you never say ‘no’, what is your ‘yes’ worth? I heard this wise saying from one of my first teachers in the art of holistic healing, and have often passed it on to clients who find it hard to protect themselves against unwelcome demands and intrusions. 

Problems which arise from this inability to set personal boundaries can include neglect of personal needs and desires, tiredness from overwork, and feelings of victimhood, martyrdom or resentment often concealed by a polite facade.

Some people who cannot say ‘No’ to the demands of others hold the belief that being ill is the only valid reason to claim care and attention for themselves. There is even a theory that illness can develop primarily for this reason. Whether or not that is true, such a mindset can certainly prolong recovery. This would happen through unconscious mind-body mechanisms and is not deliberate malingering.

Two key Bach flower remedies to be considered for the ‘yes-person’ are Centaury and Walnut. Centaury is for those so eager to please others that they agree to each and every request. Walnut is for those who are unduly sensitive to outside influences and therefore easily distracted from their chosen path in life. Other flowers might be indicated for the secondary consequences, such as Elm for feeling overburdened with responsibilites, Olive for exhaustion, Willow for self-pity, or Holly for hostility towards others.
Practical aids to setting boundaries include such simple steps as shutting your door or turning off your phone when you do not want interruptions, and limiting the period you are willing to spend on certain activities. You may also need to practice techniques for saying ‘No’ without causing offence, or being worried about doing so. This can be done firmly and politely without having to give detailed reasons or apologies.