As a freelance writer, the thing that bothers me the most is my inability to find the time to write. But let me clarify: the majority of my time is spent doing client work, with non-working time divided up between spending time with my husband and daughter, and slaying the messy beast I lovingly refer to as my house. I love what I do, but I honestly can’t remember the last time I was able to sit down and write something for the fun of it. Sure, I can write award-winning ad copy and crank out blogs for clients, but notice the date of the last entry on this blog. I rest my case.
I’ve been doing some research on the subject of how to find more free time, and have decided to road test those ideas. So here goes.
Theory #1: If you have time to watch TV, you have time to do something productive.
I admit it – I’m a TV junkie, but, in my defense, I think it’s actually an asset to my profession. My husband is dismayed by my passion for morally reprehensible reality TV, and, really, the more offensive,the better. The way I see it is simple—as a writer, particularly as someone who frequent write highly technical copy—there are times when I just need to get outside of my head and tune out, in order to decompress and trashy TV works for me. Sue me.
But, for the sake of research, I gave it a try. I came home from work and had some family time, per usual. Once we put our daughter to bed, I tried turning off the TV. I fired up our ancient and wheezy PC, sure that this was all I needed to finally get started on that e-book I’ve been meaning to write. With fingers hovering over the keyboard, I found myself staring at the blank screen, wondering what to write. My thoughts began to ping-pong between the stack of laundry waiting to be folded, my neglected twitter feed, and my mental inventory of things I needed to do that weekend. After 15 minutes, I started squirming, wondering what was going on during that night’s episode of Hell’s Kitchen. At least I tried.
Now that I think about it, why should I give up TV? I’m more than willing to give up housework for the sake of my craft.
Theory #2: Prioritize and only do those projects you find meaningful. This will free up time for you to do the things you want to do.
Obviously, this strategy was created by someone who’s never met me. I am extremely Type-A—you know the type: driven—plus, I love to dabble. My career is a perfect example of that. Currently, in addition to freelancing for an agency, I am also doing side projects that include web content for one client and a number of blogs each week for another client. This is in addition to other writing commitments for projects I find interesting. Where to cut?
I gave this idea a spin. I came home one night and sat on the couch, notepad in hand, determined to prioritize my projects and eliminate the ones that I don’t find meaningful. I started with my client work—nope, they pay me and I happen to enjoy eating, so cutting clients isn’t going to work. I looked at my side projects—I’ve already let a few go by the wayside, but I finally had the opportunity to recognize that I’m not doing them anymore. Crossing them off of my list was strangely cathartic because it enabled me to let go of the guilt. Lack of time has a lot in common with Natural Selection, now that I think about it. You learn to let go of the things that aren’t that meaningful—letting go of the guilt is the hard part.
Theory #3: Be more selective about what client work you take on.
Sure, this idea looks great on paper, but so did Spandex, communism, and New Coke at one time or another. I think that, as a freelancer, work tends to come and go in waves, and I’m not about to turn away income, especially when it’s hard to predict where the next project will come. And, really, I’m already pretty selective about what clients I work with, so this theory doesn’t help me at all.
Theory #4: Don’t worry about it. You’ll write when you’re inspired.
This is probably my favorite idea. Think about it: guilt is to creativity what hurrying is to cooking. Yes, they both work in a pinch, but the end result will suck a lot less if you let these happen on their own.