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Finding Time to Write

By Eva Bell

“No time to write,” is the eternal wail of housewives. “I have so many stories in my mind, but just no time to put them down on paper.”

Many good stories never get told because of this lackadaisical attitude. Many potential story tellers shrivel up and die for want of motivation.

Anyone who wants to write must stay focused. Merely wishing to write will take you nowhere. One must be passionate about it and keep experimenting until one acquires skills and discovers a distinctive style of writing.

A few years ago I read a short story about a woman who cherished the dream of becoming a writer. But soon after she completed her High School, she was married off to a clerk in a government office.

“He has a secure job,” said her father, “And he has no vices. I’m sure you will lack for nothing.”

But he was a dull and unexciting character, and Radha felt intellectually stifled within the four walls of her home. Children arrived with clock like regularity until she had half a dozen. With them came the never ending chores of Motherhood. However, Radha never lost her dream. Her mind was a veritable factory of ideas. By day, she spun stories for her children, studied their reactions and learned from their comments and criticisms. But at night, when the entire household was asleep, she transcribed them into notebooks, and hid them in her old tin trunk.

As the children grew older, she had more time on her hands. On her trips to the market or grocer’s shop she observed people and the sights, sounds, colours and odours around her. She listened to conversations, whispers, voices raised in anger. Everything was grist to her writer’s mill. In her free time, she let these sights, sounds and situations march back and forth through her mind, and gradually evolve into stories.

Then one day, she summoned enough courage to enter a short story competition held by a news paper. It was the story of a young woman who felt emotionally isolated in a marriage that lacked romance, tenderness or meaningful communication. The woman’s husband was snug in his belief that he was a good man who treated her well and provided for all her needs. The husband was shocked to discover that his quiet obedient wife looked elsewhere for fulfillment. The story was poignant with feeling. She submitted it under a pseudonym ‘Sampige.’

Radha’s story won the first prize which was a two-week writer’s course in Bombay, and the gift of a computer. When a reporter called for an interview, her husband turned him away saying no such person lived there, much less a writer. But Radha rushed out in the nick of time.

“I’m the person you want to interview,” she said, “I write under the pseudonym Sampige.”

Her husband stared at her dumbfounded.

“Not to worry dear,” she said, “I’m the wife you hardly know. This is the beginning of my new career. Be a good sport and let me live my dream…..”

This could be any housewife’s story. A person with a passion for writing will find the time to do so. One writer said, “I write stories for the same reason I breathe……Without either, I would die.”

Only if one has a definite schedule one can find the time to write. It involves a few basic rules.

  • Getting one’s priorities right. Anyone who wants to run a happy well balanced family will realise that there are some duties that cannot be shirked. But multitasking happens to be a woman’s forte. She must capitalize on her ability to do several things simultaneously. Brisk work can save time. There should be no dawdling over chores.
  • Delegating responsibilities wherever possible, to other members of the family, and seeking their cooperation. Claiming time for one’s self is not a shortcoming.
  • Cutting down on wasteful time pass, like watching TV endlessly, gossip with neighbours or excessive socializing, or even indulging in certain pleasures.
  • Saying “No” to people who distract and waste precious time. Unsolicited visits from neighbours and friends who merely want to gossip or kill time should be discouraged. Volunteering for tasks that other people can do is also a waste of time.
  • Fighting computer addiction. Hours wasted on e-mails, chats or net surfing can be pruned down to minimum, thus saving more time for writing. This will require will power and commitment to a strict schedule.
  • A quiet time allows thoughts to flow freely without interruptions. The best time to write would be either early in the morning before anyone awakes, or at night when everyone is asleep.
  • Be without Fear: Some people are afraid to write for fear that they might not be good enough and may therefore invite ridicule. This is a flimsy excuse. Practice makes perfect. Determination to keep writing is a sure way to win. Tolstoy was often discouraged when he re read what he wrote. But that didn’t stop him from writing such beautiful novels like Anna Karenina or War and Peace. Virginia Woolf wrote copiously everyday. Even when she was confined to bed she made it a point to write at least for an hour. She attributed her ease in professional writing to this practice of habitual writing. It loosened ‘the ligaments of her mind.’
  • No time for Guilt: Housewives should never feel guilty that time spent on writing could be put to better use for the good of the family. One should enjoy the thrill of writing and try to write at least 100-250 words a day.
  • Keeping a notebook and pen handy during the day and jotting down ideas as they come to mind is a good way of collecting material for future stories. Virginia Woolf compared this to a “deep old desk or a capacious hold all in which one flings a mass of odds and ends….. only to come back to them after a year or two and find that the collection of ideas has sorted itself out and refined itself,” inspiring new story ideas.
  • Reading: One must also be a voracious reader. Keeping abreast of current events, topics of interest, styles and vocabulary. This will improve one’s writing. “Info snacking” or accumulating bits of information will always be of use sometime.
  • Write from the heart. The exercise must bring joy and also enhance one’s creativity. It must validate one’s life. With practice it is possible to develop a unique style of one’s own. The more one writes, the more the brain becomes programmed to generate fresh ideas.
  • Take stock of the quality and quantity of work done over a period of time – say a month. It will serve as motivation to write more and turn out better stuff. 

“Writing is one of those things you want, and you want to have it bad,” says Robyn Carr. Make it your passion and write daily.

 As one wise woman said, “Jump at the sun. You might not land on the sun. But at least you’ll get off the ground.”


©Eva Bell. Reprinted with permission.

Dr. Eva Bell is a Fellow of Royal College of Obstetricians/Gynaecologists and has worked in India, UK, Iran, Brunei and Saudi Arabia. After retiring she has taken up freelance writing and specializes in short stories, articles of general interest, travel articles, children's stories, which are published in various magazines and newspapers.

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