Unplug, Disconnect and Head For The Woods

Do you complain that you don’t have enough time to write?  Do days, Quill penweeks, and maybe even months go by without your having written a word? Do you frequently find yourself heading to bed bleary-eyed having spent the last two hours on Facebook when you just intended to just take a quick peek?

If you are a writer who says you have no time to write, you might want to keep track of how you spend your time over the period of a weekBelow I’ve suggested some ways of thinking about and of categorizing your activities.

Once you’ve read the descriptions, draw a circle on a piece of paper and divide it WHEEL OF LIFEinto pieces like a pie, with each piece representing the approximate amount of time you devote to different aspects of your life in a typical week.  You may be surprised at what you find. Are there activities you could minimize or eliminate? By reallocating your time, could you free up an extra 30 minutes to an hour a day?  That would represent 3.5 hours to 7 hours a week you could devote to your writing.

Essential Activities

These are activities that relate to basic survival. They are generally the most difficult to prune.DSC01480

  • eating, sleeping, personal hygiene, working, getting to and from work
  • taking care of family (especially children and elders) and pet members of the family
  • building and maintaining family relationships
  • sustaining good health through exercise and regular appointments with health professionals
  • maintaining a household, including shopping, cooking, cleaning, laundry, repairs

Important Activities

These activities enhance human happiness and life enjoyment.  They can generally be pre-planned and scheduled.DSCN1145

  • having a social life and connecting with friends and family
  • having time to relax and have fun. Included are activities such as meeting friends and participating in sports and hobbies

Non-essential Distractions

These are distractions that unchecked tend to eat up your free time and take you away from writing. They can sometimes be used as a means of avoiding writing.WOMAN WITH LOTS OF THOUGHTS

  • watching television and movies
  • spending a great deal of time on social media such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Skype
  • playing computer games
  • opening emails first thing in the morning, and responding immediately to all emails received throughout the day, the moment they arrive
  • undertaking tasks around the home that don’t necessarily have to be completed immediately such as cleaning the oven or reorganizing the shed

Unplug and Disconnect

After completing the “pie chart'” exercise, were you shocked by the results? Were you surprised by the number of hours you spend in any particular category.  Was social media your biggest time drain? It may be time to take drastic measures. By doing the following, you might just free up the time you need for writing. Consider:

  • going on a Facebook fast and staying off the program for a week
  • avoiding email first thing in the morning and checking it only once in the afternoon and once in the evening
  • turning your phone off, and only responding to calls once or twice a day
  • doing your writing on a device that isn’t connected to the internet

Writing-related Activities That Feed A Writer’s Soul

The following activities build skill, craft and confidence.  They also help you feel part of a broader writing community.  While they take time, it is time well spent. As you eliminate unnecessary distractions, you’ll free up more time for:PODIUM

  • attending a writing practice or critique group
  • participating in a poetry reading
  • participating in a writing workshop or an ongoing series of writing classes
  • attending a writing retreat
  • attending meetings of your local writing community

Over the past two weeks I fed my own writer’s soul. I attended an all-day Writers’ Sanctuary retreat led by Sue Reynolds, facilitated an evening of writing for Newmarket Freeflow Writers, read a new poem at Inkslingers downtown at the Black Swan Tavern, attended Vaughan Poets’ Circle in Thornhill for the first time (and read another new poem), participated in the Writers’ Community of York Region’s first fall meeting which featured author Robert Rotenberg, attended Dorothea Helms’ Inspired by Maud writing workshop held in the historic St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church in Leaskdale where Lucy Maud Montgomery’s husband preached, and started Allyson Latta’s Memories into Story: Life Writing online memoir course through the University of Toronto. I consider all of these activities to be worthwhile, enabling me to gain writing practice, develop my skills and connect with other writers.

Head for the Woods

Sometimes it’s not enough just to unplug for an hour or two.  If you’re going to 137drastically cut your involvement with social media, it may help to start doing this while on a short vacation in a natural setting. This is what I did recently when my husband and I headed north to spend a few days hiking in Algonquin Provincial Park.  We spent our days breathing fresh air and 103marvelling at the beauty that surrounded us. Mid-morning we’d find a quiet spot on a trail, pull out our thermos of coffee and muffins and dine in the midst of beauty. We didn’t miss the constant tug of email or social media.


108I feel a sense of completeness when I’m in nature. I move out of my head and inhabit my body; my senses take over as I listen to the sound of the wind high in the birches, smell the scent of pine needles, feel the roughness of the bark of a tall white pine that is over two hundred years old, marvel at how an old tree stump covered in moss and surrounded by mushrooms resembles a fairy castle, and swear I can taste the acrid odours the rise from a  dense bog. I return from a trip such as this feeling refreshed and eager to write, and less willing to let life’s distractions rob me of my writing time.

Next time you find yourself saying that you don’t have any time to write, consider that it may be time to unplug, disconnect and head for the woods.  What are the distractions that take you away from your writing? What strategies have you developed to deal with those distractions?  I’d love to hear about them.

Until next time,


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We hope you’ll consider joining us for a Day Away to Write on October 6, 2013. The leaves will be just starting to turn – a perfect time for a country drive. We’ve also posted our 2013-14 retreat dates on our home page.


















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