As a writer, you can be sure that I often have a hard time trying to find time to write. So I am constantly on the lookout for things that will help me out in some way. Either by helping me manage my time, or write faster, or even manage some of my other responsibilities better so I'm free to write more. You wouldn't think there would be such a struggle, right? I mean, does the banker spend his or her entire day trying to figure out when he or she can bank? Does the doctor spend his or her entire day trying to figure out how to squeeze in a few more patients every day? No, of course not. That would be stupid. Yet for writers, the struggle is real. Just do a simple google search for “how to find time to write” and you'll find all sorts of answers. My problem is that most of the time, the answers include something along the lines of “If you want to write, just get up earlier and write before anyone else gets up.”
What kind of crap advice is that?
I cannot believe that writers, who should understand the struggle, are giving out this kind of advice. It needs to stop.
It marginalizes writing as a profession.
Every writer I know has been told at least once to “find a real job.” Arts and humanities programs are constantly under threat of losing funding in favor of other things. The message is pretty clear: society at large does not value creative jobs. They want books written, they just don't think people should be able to make a real living by writing books.
And writers are just helping them along by normalizing the idea that other responsibilities should come first. It gives the impression that everything else is more important.
Now, I'm not saying that other things aren't important. Of course they are. Eating, washing those dishes, feeding those kids — all important. But would you wake up earlier to get all your banking done and out of the way so you could be there to do all those things around the house? Would you get up earlier to get your accounting clients taken care of so they wouldn't interfere with your house?
No, you wouldn't. Because those things are jobs. And you don't treat your job as if it's a hobby or a side-job. You rank it's importance at least as high as other facets in your life (for some people, even higher). And if you're like most people nowadays, you sacrifice a bit of other things around the home so you can get to your job. You skip breakfast, miss the kids, go a week without vacuuming, maybe even let the dishes sit in the sink a little longer than normal. You don't sacrifice your job to take care of the home.
Yet people expect writers to treat their job like it's a hobby all the time. And writers keep telling other writers to do this. All. The. Time.
Yes, most writers need — and have — employment elsewhere. And most writers need to find a balance between the job that's paying the bills, the career they want, and their home life. But how they prioritize those things, and how they choose to find that balance should be up to them, not you. If waking up at 4:30 in the morning works for you, that's awesome. If it doesn't, you're not a failure just because someone said it was the best time to work.
Mornings don't work for everyone.
They just don't. I am one of the biggest bears in the morning. I hate waking up early. And my toddler doesn't exactly make it any easier. How easy do you think it is for me to try to beat my toddler up in the morning and hit the keyboard to churn out some pages before the rest of the house wakes up? Not to mention, I get an average of 2 hours of sleep a night. Most parents I know get under 5-6 hours of sleep a night. Waking up earlier, thereby depriving yourself of much needed and much lacking sleep, is more likely to lead to health problems than anything else.
Sure, some people can be awake, creative, and capable of stringing words together into coherent sentences at 4:30 in the morning on two hours of sleep and no coffee. I am not one of those people. In fact, most of the writers I know are not those people.
I don't know where the people handing out this advice find those people, but I am willing to bet they are in the minority.
Inspiration doesn't always strike on command.
Whether you're writing fiction or nonfiction, sometimes you rely on inspiration to come over and clobber you before you sit down and start hashing out what you're going to write. And it can happen just about anywhere: watching people while riding on the city bus, listening to your child tell you a funny story over breakfast, reading through a Twitter chat, or even just browsing through discussion forums. It can happen anywhere, at anytime, for any reason.
It rarely happens when you're sitting in front of the computer staring at a fresh, blank document waiting for the words to start flowing.
Which means, of course, that if you're out and about and taking care of other business when inspiration happens to strike, you have to find a way to be prepared for that. Not only that, but you have to be able to bring it back around early the next morning when you are in front of the computer staring at a blank document.
What should you do instead?
Writing at a set time every day is a good habit. By creating this type of routine, you train yourself to write more efficiently. You'll find it easier to get on a roll faster, and before you know it, you'll be able to churn out more words faster. However, that set time every day should be a time you choose because it works best for you and your schedule.
For some writers, that will mean getting up earlier and clacking away at the keyboard before anyone else wakes up. For others, it might mean staying up late. And for others, it might mean putting your foot down and setting hours of operation so people learn to stop bothering you while you work.
The truth is, it doesn't matter what time of day you choose to write. As long as it works for you and as long as you are meeting your goals.