Becoming a Free Time Ninja

Yesterday morning my friend Dan sent me this message, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at 6:15am, his time:


Good morning! What are you working on this week? Any new blog posts coming?

(That’s Dan speak for, it’s time for another effing blog post, Jenny.)

Dan is one of my very best writing compadres. Along with being a writer who produces entertaining prose faster than Agatha Christie on speed, he’s a critique partner that gives me grief whenever I take too long to email an edited chapter. He’s always sure to tell me what works, and what needs work. He encourages me to step out of my comfort zone. He’s a republican that calls me a commie. And, to be honest, being called a commie by Dan makes me laugh out loud, Every. Single. Time.

I responded to his message with a pretty standard J. A. Allen reply:

13686538_316709032000883_4678767774587559035_n  I don’t have time.

Because I don’t have time.

These days, I hardly have time for anything. I’ve devoted three days a week while the kids are in school to my writerly endeavors. Of my last six “writing days,” only ONE was actually spent writing. It’s man-cold season in the Allen house, and everyone afflicted needs their mawmmy. The oldest hellion just celebrated his eleventh birthday, resulting in a slew of preparation and general chaos clean-up. And, every second day the teachers seem to be partaking in professional development, resulting in about a bazillion days off school and practically eliminating my designated writing days.

Working as a manager in hospitality, I am often outnumbered by a younger subset of humans, ranging in age between eighteen and, ohhhh, twenty-three. selfiesSome of these people don’t go to school. Some of these people still live with their parents. None have kids. And yet, they still complain about doing laundry. One person’s laundry. Not FIVE people’s laundry, like there is in my house. These are people who spend their free time on Netflix, Snapchat, and Buzzfeed, getting their eyelashes extended, going to the gym, and taking selfies.

Every day, I ask these free-time squanderers, “What did you do today?” Mostly to torture myself. Because I don’t have time to do any of that. Because the last time I had time for ANY of that malarkey was when I was twenty-three, and said eleven-year-old turned my previous affinity for the smell of cooking chicken into a dastardly trigger for morning sickness. Not that I don’t love my life as mother of hellions. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I’m just very busy. When I’m not at work, my day is spent cleaning the kitchen, breaking up fights, putting away laundry, watching futsal and basketball, helping with homework, and (lovingly) swearing under my breath at little-boy-aim as I wash the floor beside the toilets.

It begs the question: how the hell does any human with offspring AND full-time employment find the time to learn to write well/produce a book/blog/participate in a web show/tackle social media/apply to be a member of the Florida Writers Conference?

And why the hell would they torture themselves by trying?

(Just joking about the writer’s conference. Because, Florida.)

But then, about half an hour after messaging with Dan yesterday–while perusing my Instagram feed–I came across this little image, posted by none other than my favorite republican: Untitled.png

Sweet baby Jesus. Why the hell was I scrolling through Instagram when I could be writing  the blog he just bugged me about?

I was spending what little free-time I had as a squanderer.

Every now and then I need these reminders to get my butt in gear. There is never going to be time if we simply try to find it. There isn’t going to be time to write if we wait for it to fall from the sky like manna from the pearly gates. There isn’t going to be time if we wait for Ryan Gosling to hand it to us on a chocolate platter.

There is only going to be time to write if we MAKE IT. If we put our phones down. If we unplug from Instagram and Facebook and focus on the writerly endeavors in what little time we have.

In truth, operating Scribble on Cocktail Napkins is one of my guilty pleasures. I do it for me more than anyone else, so within reason, I can write whatever I want. Interacting with readers fuels my fire.jhv The people who leave comments give me all the feels that can be missed while writing a book—because novel writing can be a long and solitary endeavor, similar to telling a joke and waiting in a vacuum for two years to find out if anyone laughed.

So, as per my friend’s direct and indirect cajoling, I woke up early for the sake of writing this blog, and that was easy because A: it’s probably going to get Dan off my back for five minutes, and B: it’s going to bring me a little instant gratification.

Finding time to edit Old Souls can be harder. And maybe that has less to do with not having time, and more to do with procrastination than I’d like to admit. Finding time to write is a never ending battle. Sometimes I win. 1jd7whSometimes I’m defeated before I even bother to try. I go through periods of protecting my writing time with the tenacity of a momma bear protecting her cubs, and periods of handing my writing time to any task that wants it.

And that’s not how anyone anywhere completes a book. If you want something, whether it’s to write a book, further your education, pick up a new skill . . . chances are you’re going to have to be uncomfortable. You’re going to have to fight for it, and protect the time to work on it with every fiber of your being.

It’s about focusing on the dream.

My dream is to see my book on a bloody bookshelf in a bloody book store. And then the sequel. One day I want to earn my living writing on a beach in Aruba. Because who doesn’t want to earn a living by writing on a beach in Aruba?

So, I’m going to post this blog for anyone who, like Dan, has been wondering what I’ve been up to lately. Then, I’m going to daydream about Aruba and shovel my driveway, ‘cause last night a pretty layering of fluffy clouds dumped six feet of snow in front of my garage. And THEN, I’m going to cut chapter thirty-six out of my manuscript, paste it into a new document, and make it better, ninja style.

48 thoughts on “Becoming a Free Time Ninja

  1. Perfect timing for this post. I’ve been recently waking up to how badly I’ve been squandering my free time too, and working up the motivation to change some of those habits and become more efficient. Maybe what I needed was a good motto. Managing my time ninja-style: I like it!

    Liked by 5 people

  2. “…because novel writing can be a long and solitary endeavor, similar to telling a joke and waiting in a vacuum for two years to find out if anyone laughed”. (many times I wonder why I´m not sunbathing in Aruba, selling calendars or hot dogs by the beach) But… “It’s about focusing on the dream.”
    Thanks, Jen. And thanks God (or whoever) we all have a Dan in our lives 😉

    Liked by 4 people

  3. When we were young, my love and I both had full time jobs, full time brats, full time school. I had to research and write a dissertation (which got published–brag). That last one taught me procrastination. Aruba never showed. Better jobs showed. More brats showed. Free time showed–which we squandered camping on PEI instead of Aruba.
    You’ll somehow get the book done, like my dissertation somehow got done. If it’s a cleaned-up version of what I saw, it will get published because you write so well.
    But we’re in it for the long haul, if we’re granted a long haul. Like ours, your hellions will go off to do their hell thing elsewhere.Tiny mounds of mammon will grow imperceptibly, like heat in a compost pile, so your need to pursue more will get less desperate. More time to be with writer friends on blogs and social media (like I’m doing now) will give you new reasons not to write.
    When you publish, you get no Aruba. You get the internal pressure to publish again. And if you try to keep up with Dan, you get rehab from your addictions to ritalin and meth.
    Italians believe it’s bad luck to wish good luck, like theater people who say “break a leg.”
    So my in-laws say, “in bocca al lupo”–“into the mouth of the wolf.” May the wolf get you good.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Well, I have never thanked anyone for wishing me into the mouth of a wolf before. But, thank you, Casey!
      I still have a hard time not calling you Ken.
      Your dedication to your work is nothing short of inspiring.


  4. It’s funny when you say I write a lot or write fast. I think I’m slow as molasses.

    I do enjoy your blog posts. Well, Your writing, too. So maybe I’m just selfish when I want more. Ever think of that?

    Now, break times over. Back to writing.

    * cracks whip again *

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I can identify with the struggle to find writing time, even if my situation if somewhat fast-forwarded in time from yours. My three hellions are grown, and even sprouted grand-hellions; yet this morning writing will be delayed because my thirty-five year-old son needs my help. I hate to tell you this, but they never really grow up.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Laughed so much reading your blog coz I saw me. Yep I am guilty of all you said and presently tortoise crawling through editing my romance novel.
    Working full time as a live-in-carer for the elderly with dementia and babysitting my grandchildren when I am home.
    Writing is my escape, but lately my get up and go has gone stage left. My muse has gone walk about so here I am reading your blog which has really lifted my spirits.
    It is nice to know I am not alone in the “no time” syndrome.

    Liked by 2 people

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