Yesterday most of North America set their clocks forward an hour as part of Daylight Saving Time (DST). We, in Arizona, are one of two states that never change our clocks. Thus half the year we are on Mountain Time and the other half we are on Pacific Time.
Those of you who lost an hour yesterday either went to church an hour early or showed up bleary eyed for losing that extra hour of sleep.
The history of daylight saving time is quite fascinating. The best book on the topic is Seize the Daylight by David Prerau. Many years ago I met a lady who lived in a county outside Indianapolis that did not follow DST either (that has since changed). Her husband worked in another county 20 minutes away which did follow DST. This mean that he would gain and lose an hour each morning and evening during his commute. She had one child in a school in her own county and another in the neighboring one. She wore two watches on her wrist!
Of course many states are asking why the country still must follow the Federal law and are trying to pass laws to join the smart people in Arizona and Hawaii who are just fine with the amount of sun we have all year round. (By the way, it’s a myth that DST was instituted to help farmers.)
This all got me to thinking about time and the seeming lack of it.
For most writers, it is hard to find the rhythm in life to free up the concentrated time necessary to write quality work. I know one author who got up at 5 am every morning and wrote until 7 am when the rest of the house woke up for school and the rest of the day. He completed more than a dozen nonfiction books this way.
Another novelist I know set aside three Saturday mornings a month for writing time. He started early, like a work day, and wrote until 1 pm. By then his teenagers decided it was time to get up, and he was able to be “dad” the rest of the day. He wrote a half dozen novels this way.
My question for readers is this, if you are willing to share: What do you do to schedule the amount of time needed to pursue your writing? Please comment below with tips and tricks that you use.
Remember that everyone is at a different stage of life. Some have toddlers who only rest briefly each day. Others have regular jobs that demand all their energy. Others are retired or have an empty nest and have extra time on their hands. No matter the circumstance, the discipline to write must find its way onto the mental calendar.
Meanwhile, enjoy some trivia about Daylight Saving Time:
- It is not plural as in Daylight Saving(s) Time. It is singular, Daylight Saving Time.
- In Arizona the Navajo Reservation observes Daylight Saving Time; the Hopi Reservation does not. However, the Hopi Reservation is completely inside the boundaries of the Navajo Reservation, which stretches across three states (see this map). Thus, if you drive across the northern section of Arizona to New Mexico, your clock will change four times!
- More than 70 countries observe DTS. (NATO Europe does; Russia does not.) Follow this link to a world map that shows in blue all the countries that observe it.
- China may geographically cover five time zones, but it only recognizes one: Beijing Time. Ostensibly, it is to promote national unity. Imagine being in West China where the sun might not officially set until midnight.
- The U.S. first adopted “Fast Time” in Spring 1918 as part of the World War I effort. Seven months later they officially stopped observing DST, but some parts of the country continued to observe it.
- Your pets do not appreciate being fed an hour later; they notice these things. I think Fluffy is in the corner sharpening her claws.
Lori Stanley Roeleveld
When my children were still home and I was a homeschooling, stay-at-home mom, I learned to “write first.” Initially, I saved writing until “everything else was done,” but that left writing mostly undone. Once I learned that I can run errands when I’m weary, clean the house when my mind is fried, and make phone calls exhausted, I prioritized writing to be the first thing I did after my time with God, before the household was too active. This provided me a sense of writing accomplishment early in my day and strengthened my resolve to keep writing. I also learned to redeem all the snatches of time in my day. I would break writing projects into 10 minute tasks such as, “describe the setting in the coffee shop,” “write the argument between Tom and his wife,” “research location for scene 3,” “create the hook for magazine article.” I kept this list in a notebook with me at all times so when I was waiting in a doctor’s office, or for a child to finish a chore or sitting in the car at the karate studio, I could keep my head in my writing and redeem those quick moments. This habit serves me now that I work full-time and write full-time now that my children are grown.
More than making more time, my challenge is better utilizing the time I have (24 hours, like everyone else). My best writing days begin before the rest of the world wakes up, around 6. Prayer and Bible reading provide direction and inspiration. My best writing happens at the beginning of the day, so I do that first. I can respond to email, post on social media, and handle other tasks later when my creativity is spent. Or in the 15-minute pauses between writing hours.
Damon J. Gray
Finding (carving out) time to write on a consistent basis is a terribly difficult thing to accomplish. As you noted, I work full-time at a rather mentally demanding job (I write software). By the time I get home, I am often mentally spent, but my wife and granddaughter want time and attention.
Nonetheless, I do try to devote about 90 to 120 minutes of focused time after dinner (we eat early), and then at least two Saturdays a month, I devote about six hours to writing.
One key, however, is that I always – and I mean ALWAYS – ask my wife if it is okay to go work in the office for a bit. She has absolute veto power.
The malignancies that rule my life
rule my writing, too.
more compelling than dogs or wife;
my writing hours are few.
In the times I’m forced to rest
or attend to other things
my mind is on a vision-quest
to give my words their wings.
I have to write about the pain,
but prefer to write of joy
that rebels against cancer’s reign
and works in my employ
to spread the word of God’s bright grace
outshining the dark of this cold fell place.
I am a homeschooling mom with a five-year-old and a three-year-old. It’s tough at times.
Even though they no longer nap, we still have quiet time in the afternoons. That’s when I write. They are still young so sometimes that time is interrupted.
I also write in the evenings once they’re in bed. My brain is always wired at night so that’s when I do my best writing. I’m not a morning person.
This year, I’ve made my writing a priority. Not over my kids, but just made it important. I guard that writing time as much as possible. Sometimes my kids are sick, and then writing takes a back-burner. My husband is very supportive, and often we switch when he gets home so I can still get some writing time in.
I’m in the stay-at-home-mom, homeschooling, 4 young kids stage. We have a small house and my desk is in the living room because there’s nowhere else for it to go. I’ve learned to write in the midst of chaos because there really is no “quiet time.” Some day, when the kids are grown, I’ll probably struggle to write in the silence!
My time is highly limited with two young boys. One is almost 2 and the other is 6. My best window is after they go to bed. Early morning would be great, but our youngest is a light sleeper. I work it in somewhere between 9-11pm est. If I am in the zone, I’ll squeeze in more time. On weekends, I’ll set my laptop on the kitchen counter, and work a little throughout the morning. Through the workday, I spend some of my lunch and breaks devising a plan of attack on the current or coming scene. It helps with motivation as well because as soon as I start, I’m ready to go.
Here in Flagstaff I go every Tuesday morning to Jitters Lunchbox, a local sandwich/coffee shop. I’ve gone so long they all know my name and what I want to order. I get too distracted at home, and Jitters isn’t too busy until noon so all morning it’s quiet. They have music, but it’s not too loud and provides just the ambiance I need.
It’s taken years to find a good writing schedule that works for my rebellious creative brain. My first four novels were written most consistently from 10PM to midnight, when my newborn daughter would actually sleep.
Now that she’s four years old and in Pre-K, I write every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday from 9AM-2PM. Mondays are for client work and marketing my existing books, and Thursdays are for around-the-house work.
I have to get out of the house to ensure that I won’t goof off during writing time, so I visit local parks and coffee shops. On Fridays I’m lucky enough to write alongside a group of other authors in our own little weekly ‘writing retreat.’ Our highest-ranking veteran author has an assistant who’ll crack the whip if she catches us chatting instead of writing!
Greetings to all the other SAH and home schooling moms!
I am an incurable pantser. Even at the best of times, my writing method is disorganized and intuitive. My mind is the kitchen sink.
This is a real advantage when writing fiction in these circumstances. Once an intense scene is coming up, my mind will go after it like a dog with a bone … While I’m washing dishes, vacuuming, whatever. It will give me no rest … And work out the bones & key lines of a scene. The as soon as I get a chance, I write it down, usually during lunch break or after bedtime. And usually in the process of writing it down, I uncover a few more springs that start welling up while I’m doing some mindless task.
Not a method that would work for everyone, but it’s the only one I know.
Regarding Daylight SAVING time (not SavingS … Thank you, Steve!) …
It makes me uncomfortable when a national government tries to tinker with time in the name of efficiency or “unity” (read: control). I love those details about the Navajo and Hopi accepting or rejecting the time change. (Local control! Yay!) And I’m dismayed but not surprised by the news about China.
Someone once told me that the Roman Empire tried briefly to implement a 10-day workweek but was forced to abandon it. Anyone know anything about that?
I’m more positive. It is more a matter of standardization than control.
For example, there was a real problem with “trains running on time” back in the 19th century. There was a grand wrestling with clocks when going from city to city and state to state. One incident caused trains to collide when trainmasters had different times on their watches.
(By the way, it is a myth that trains ran on time in Italy due to fascism under Mussolini: https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/loco-motive/)
The history of time and the calendar is rather fascinating if you like trivia.
As for the 10 day week? I found this interesting article online:
Interesting articles, Steve. Thank you.
The issue with trains points up how space and time are one thing. When better transportation technology shrinks the spaces between us, suddenly it becomes necessary to standardize time among communities that are scattered over what used to be a large area, but now – thanks to technology – isn’t. Makes me think of how important very precise timing is at airports.
These are great responses!
Note the similarities. Finding time is akin to Making time. It is intentional and disciplined as much as possible.
You all impress me!
I once lived in that Indiana county that did not observe DST, and people who worked in Illinois had some interesting schedules.
As to my time to write, like to wrote about changing periods of life, that’s been true for me. When on staff for a magazine, I wrote mostly on the job. Now that I’m retired and living in a three-generation home, our daughter prepares most of our meals. So it’s her gift that I have time to write. Mornings are spent reading; afternoons spent editing and writing. Because my husband (with AD) wants me by his side in the evenings, we generally watch TV. I color or sew, keeping my commitment to be creative. My theory is that one creative act helps refine others.
Regarding Daylight Saving Time:
My husband grew up on a dairy farm in Wisconsin. The farmers needed to get the milk to the hauler by a certain time. But then, the ground was still damp. So they needed to find other things to do until they could work in the fields.
I also wonder how DST affects a person’s sleep schedule. Any thoughts?
Sheri Dean Parmelee
Steve, I keep two watches, one works just fine for six months and then, when the time changes, the other one is on my wrist. That way, I save time by not having to spring ahead or fall back, as far as my wrist jewelry is concerned. I also bought clocks that automatically change the time themselves…..so, if we ever give us the time changes, I will need to buy new clocks and trash or change one of my watches….food for thought.
Great post, and fun.
I waiver. I like Fall DST but Spring, not so much.
My daily writing workout: First and foremost is the Word with coffee and prayer. I don’t care who calls, what needs to be done, without that scheduled I won’t do it or I will rush through prayer, reading and later, chastise myself for missing my mornings dedicated to the Lord. If ever I am hooked to machines in some ICU the plan is to have my hubby or son read to me. Probably sounds hokey.
The second: I rush through email and other social media. I get up and walk, sometimes the acreage, sometimes not as much. I have stopped checking it twice a day. Just the one and since that’s my share-ability with the Word and others, that is my go-to after a bagel or banana.
Last, I start writing/reading at 4 pm. Seems late… but I am an insomniac and will remain awake until 2 a.m. no matter where–laying my head down or continuing to write/read.
Being retired does have its perks.
Kristen Joy Wilks
When my kids were at home, I wrote from 4:00am until they woke up. Now that they are all in school, I write during the day, but do pull out the 4:00am trick when I know that I will have other responsibilities during the day.
Thanks for informing us about the saving-verses-savings time. There used to be a joke going around about a farmer who complained that the extra hour of daylight was burning up his crops!
I remember reading about the Roman ten-day work week several years ago, as a college student. The book claimed that the horses broke down under the ten-day system. God really did know best, eh?
Schedule for writing? I work part-time and usually don’t know until just before getting called in, when I’m going to work. So my schedule shifts around quite a bit. The best time, however, is early in the morning, after Bible reading and prayer. Oh, and in the middle of the night if I wake and can’t go back to sleep, it’s a perfect time to ruminate and write.
Brennan S. McPherson
I have a full-time job and a two-year old toddler, and am very involved with taking care of her. When I come home from work, I help take care of her until she goes to bed around 7:30. Then I write until I’m tired (though I definitely don’t write every-day, it’s just not practical, or many times even healthy). I wake up the next morning at either 5:00 – 6:00am and read the Bible and pray until I need to go to work. Rinse and repeat. Weekends are a productive time for me, but it’s in-between helping take care of my daughter and being with my wife. I prioritize being with my family over writing, yet in the past year, I put together a multi-author novella series (which I contributed to and published), wrote a full-length novel (now in my editor’s hands), narrated four audiobooks (three of those were the novellas), and wrote and edited a screenplay for a production company.
One thing that’s been helpful for me since having my daughter is just refusing to be dramatic about writing. When I sit down to write, my finger’s had better be hitting the keys. I have to bury my fear of writing something stupid and instead find a way to be excited to write something stupid, because that’s the process of how I get to write something great.
Steve, one trick I have learned that really helps push things along in terms of productivity involves recapturing the lost time in the day. My big three wins:
* Reclaiming travel time – when I have meetings in the city, instead of driving in, having my blood pressure percolate in traffic and then pay a fortune for a car park, I now catch the train, giving me 45 minutes on my laptop where I can write. Return trips now give me back 1:30 per day in writing time. This is a big one for me.
* Dictating rather than writing – when I do drive, I dictate sections of my WIP or brainstorm rather than listen to the radio with my brain in neutral. I just leave my iPhone to record everything and transcribe it later, giving me the chance to evaluate what I came up. It’s a first-and-a-half draft rather than simply a first, and if it’s bad, I now know how NOT to write that section. And I delete what I recorded.
* Breaking my book marketing down into chunks of single activity. If I need to take a break from other things, I’ll get one thing done – schedule a social media post, add 1 page to my web site, come up with three marketing ideas and then get back to what I was doing.
Possibly not ideas for everyone, but I’ve found significant benefit in these.
Rather than trying to write a novel, my emphasis for now is simply to write something, to satisfy my creative desire.
I work part-time, the days and hours vary weekly, and the schedule can change quickly.
Until I find a job which offers a regular schedule, I satisfy myself by writing whenever I can, however I can. I take a notebook wherever I go. I’ve written notes for blog posts on breaks at work, as well as ideas for differences in characters for a possible story/novel. One day at a restaurant while waiting for a friend I wrote about a picture on the restaurant’s wall. While waiting for my mother to finish her grocery shopping Friday afternoon, I started writing about my reaction to something at the store. By the time she finished shopping, I finished writing. I realized it could be a blog piece. I transferred it to the computer and scheduled it to post today. That was a triple win for me: expressed some emotions, made use of time and thereby avoided impatience, and got a blog piece out of it!