Where does one find the time to write? Where do Mormons find the time to write? Over the years I’ve heard Mormons complain about this. The complaint usually goes like this: “I’d have a great novel to my credit if it wasn’t for the church. My family and my calling and scriptures and prayers and family home evening and genealogy—it’s all too much. That’s why I never write.” What they seem to be saying is, “It’s not my fault.”
At the risk of offending a lot of people, let me just say, “That’s bunk!”
If you really want to write, you will. You’ll turn off the TV, close your email program, tell your children to find their own rides to soccer practice. You’ll put off doing family history until you’re older. If you really want to write, you’ll give up trying to be all things to all people. (I will concede that it’s harder for mothers with children at home to find time to write, but many still do it, don’t they?)
Gail Sher, in her book One Continous Mistake: Four Noble Truths for Writers, says it like this: “Writers write.” That’s it. If you write, you’re a writer. If you don’t, your not. The time spent making excuses is time that could be spent on writing. I like Sher’s definition of the writer because is it takes the focus off of product and puts it onto process, where it belongs. Even if you do write, even if you write a lot, and even if you’re writing is great, you have no control over what others do with your writing. Choosing to write on any given day, at any given moment—that’s something you can choose. Getting published, having people love your writing, winning awards for your writing—those are choices made by someone else. That’s why writers should focus on what they can control, the writing process, and not the product. If you’re in the process, I promise you that the product will take care of itself in due time. (Keep in mind, however, that “due time” may not be the same as your time.)
There’s another implication of Sher’s adage that “Writers write.” This means that if you’re not a writer, that’s probably okay. I’m not sure the world needs more writers. Ah! But if you need to be a writer, that’s a whole ’nother matter. You might have things you need to say. You might think you’ll go crazy if you don’t say them. Maybe you can’t not write! If that’s the case, then write. By all means, skip your Facebook session today and write! The world still might not need your writing, but important thing is, you need it. And that’s reason enough.
Or is it?
Are all motivations for writing equal? Probably not.
When it comes to Mormon writers, I’d rather see writers motivated by some insistent need to process a deep and troubling internal conflict. By contrast, Mormon writers who seemingly have no internal conflict, who are wholly certain of themselves and the rightness of their positions on all matters, they might be more interested in lecturing than writing. Those writers need a soapbox. Interestingly, their audience is optional. In short, I’d rather see a Mormon writer who begins with a question, instead of an answer.
If you don’t have time to write, don’t make excuses. Ask yourself a couple of honest questions instead. First, would the world end, or would your life end, if you didn’t write? If the answer is no, let it go. Get yourself elected to the school board instead. Start a neighborhood recycling program. Who knows, you might change lives. Second, ask yourself why you want to write. If you want to write because you want to lecture people, then, please, for all our sake’s, let that go. (Or use it on your teenagers; see how much mileage you can get out of that.) No, we Mormons lecture each other enough already. Save the urge to lecture for the right moment: when you’re called of God by proper authority, and when you’re moved upon by the Holy Ghost.
If, however, your world would end if you couldn’t write, if you’re writing because you’re looking for genuine answers, and if you’re willing to find those answers no matter what the cost, then my bet is you’ll find time to write. I’ll bet another thing too. If you write because you have to and you need real answers, you won’t be one of those complaining about finding the time to write. Because you’ll make the time to write.