The “free time” fallacy

There is an old fallacy out there: it’s easier to write when we have “free time,” that mythical future of vacations and retirements. Having survived the two “free time”-heavy months — November and December — and accomplishing very little writing (note the date of the last blog post), I’m more convinced that successful writing is connected to structure. Most of us need routines to make us work.

Today marks the return to structure. The kids (two of my three) are back in school, the university quarter is gearing up, and fantasy football season is, mercifully, over. Today also marks a successful spree of cleaning and organizing, the prerequisites to construction. Writing requires discipline and this discipline comes easiest when it piggy-backs on normal disciplines. If we’re already awake and dressed for school, then waking a little earlier is easier. If we have sixteen hours of flexibility then procrastination and amusement take over. Guilt usually follows: “I can’t believe how late it is,” “How did I waste the day?”

My longest and most productive writing stretches generally coincide with structured periods and deadlines. This is perhaps why I’ve had such success in school — an environment full of small tasks, deadlines, and structure. The tools that make for successful grades are similar to those that make successful writing. Deadlines and feedback. Small goals and accountability. Organization.

I have often wondered what I would do if ever finding financial success through writing. I do fantasize about the multiple novels, theologies, and screenplays I’d write. Financial freedom will buy writing “free time” and I’ll be a writing factory. Not likely. The reality is that I’ll need structure: taking classes, working a part-time job, or publisher-delegated deadlines that force me away from ESPN. So if you see me greeting Wal-Mart shoppers someday, don’t pity me. I may have just landed a Grisham-size book deal.


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