Making Time to Write (Even When Time’s the LAST Thing You Have!)
Picture this. Somewhere near the summit of a snow-capped mountain in Colorado, say, Pike’s Peak, I’m bundled up in front of a roaring fire, sipping cocoa from my favorite oversized mug, and so consumed with creativity I forget to wipe the wisp of whipped cream from my upper lip.
Powerful songs, lyrics, and melodies like I’ve never written or even heard before are surging through me as if I am plugged into a 220-volt socket and loving it. The flow seems endless. Before I realize it, I’ve written nonstop for days and filled up reams of paper with songs better than Tomlin, better than Crowder, better than Morgan Reuben or Mia Fieldes, or anyone else for that matter. I’m in that magical zone every writer dreams of, that mystical place where writing is easy, effortless, and endless and I have that deep inner knowing that these songs are going to change the world.
Okay, dream over.
That never happened and never will. It’s pure fantasy. I’ve been to Pike’s Peak. I’ve sipped cocoa and forgotten to wipe my mouth. But the part about the fire and the songs I made up. Truth is, I’m just like you when it comes to making time to write. It’s hard. I’m busy. I’ve got other things to do, too. I mean, maybe we get to go on a few writing retreats in our lives, but the rest of the time we’re all trying to squeeze even a little writing time out of a super-packed lifestyle.
Are there ways to overcome the busyness and overwhelm long enough to develop a hook, or finish a verse or chorus? Is there a strategy I can use to get the songs written I’m working on without giving up everything else? While the answer to these questions isn’t cut and dry, I want to share with you three things that have helped me stay creatively engaged with my writing, even during terribly busy seasons of my life.
First, I remember that songs are more assembled than written. It’s tempting to think that all songs should flow seamlessly from your pen or on the laptop in one sitting, but they really don’t. Most songs are assembled piecemeal, fitted together one line and section at a time like a jigsaw puzzle you leave on the dining room table for whenever you have a minute to stick another piece in. Remembering that gives me permission to check in and out of the song I’m working on, knowing it’s always on the table when I can get back to it.
Second, I keep my inner radar searching for the missing parts of my song. Even when I’m not sitting with my guitar or at the keyboard, my subconscious and even conscious mind is still working on the song. There may be a hundred things packed into my day, but I can still be mulling over the missing pieces I need for the song and make notes to explore a certain angle on it when I get back to it. Sometimes getting away from the song is the best way to finish it.
Third, I prioritize special times to write during the week. Since setting aside a special time each day doesn’t really work for me, I will often block off one or two-hour blocks every other day to write. If that means I shift a social activity, dinner with friends or an outing with my wife, they usually understand and accommodate me. Making time to write means doing just that. Making time. My writing is important to me and I want to develop this discipline in order to reap the rewards. Most people around me understand and have no issue with me working an hour or two here or there, while meeting their needs, as well.
Like my triathlete friend told me years ago, we make time to do the things we really want to do. If you really want to write great songs, you’ll find yourself making time to write even in the midst of all the busyness of life. Sometimes it just takes a little thought and effort to get there.