When your writing is always taking a backseat

backseat of car in evening time

When writers tell me their biggest struggle when it comes to their writing is actually finding time to write, I like to probe a little bit, and narrow down what the core issue really is. I talked about the first issue here: when your writing needs to take a backseat.

In this post, I’m going to address the second issue: when you find it difficult to prioritize your writing, no matter what phase of life you’re in; when your writing is always taking a backseat.

It’s easy to dismiss the struggle many writers face and just say: “If you really want to write, you’ll make time to write.” It’s easy to give them examples of famous writers who lead busy lives but still made time to write: “They woke up at 5am!” “They wrote after everyone went to bed!” “They skipped outings with friends and chose to write!”

There is some truth to that, I think. Which is that sometimes in our life, we need to prioritize writing. Which means, in order to say yes to writing, we need to say no to other things.

We all have limited hours in the day and what we do with those hours accumulates and builds a writing life, or it doesn’t. But only you can take stock of your life and truthfully assess whether you’re in a phase where your writing needs to take a backseat, or whether it’s time to sit with yourself and honestly ask yourself: why am I not writing? 

Here’s another way to look at it: What are you prioritizing when you’re not prioritizing your writing?

I know it can be a very difficult decision to make to choose writing. I’ve been there. So many of us struggle with saying “no” because the value of sacrifice and service has been ingrained in us, especially as Muslims, and especially as Muslim women. 

I worked with a writer once who had a long list of volunteer activities that she was involved in. That was in addition to working and taking care of her kids and family. I was amazed by how much she did, MashaAllah! But she always struggled to make time for her writing. And when she did manage to sit down and write, those sessions frequently got interrupted by one thing or the other. 

In the course of our conversations, we got to the heart of the issue. It wasn’t so much that she struggled to make time for her writing, it was that she struggled to say “no” whenever anyone asked her to do something. It felt selfish and inconsiderate.

In my work as a writing coach, I’ve realized that so many of the issues that come up with our writing trace back to bigger issues we might be struggling with — issues of self-worth, of people-pleasing, of letting our lives be guided by the fear of what others might say.

So perhaps the real question isn’t “How do I find time to write?” Perhaps what we need to be asking ourselves is: Am I worthy of my own time and giving to myself? Am I going to honour and explore my creative potential? Am I going to write even if the people around me think it’s frivolous and a waste of time?

It’s hard to take an honest look at ourselves and assess why we’re not writing. But if you don’t want to find yourself several years down the road filled with regret because you never made time for your writing, it’s important to do this work, to figure out why you always say no to writing, and how to find your way back. 

Here are some journaling prompts that I hope will help you dig deeper if you find yourself saying no to your writing again and again:

  • I want to write, but…
  • When I think of saying yes to my writing, what gets in the way is…
  • When I’m avoiding my writing, what I’m really avoiding is…
  • The real reason I never make time for my writing is…

When you can push past the surface of “I have no time” and uncover the true reason behind why you’re never able to make time for your writing, that’s when you can begin to address the issues that are holding you back from making writing a priority.

That’s when you can finally find your way back to writing.

If you want to feel supported in your writing, I invite you to come write with us! The Writers Lounge is a monthly membership where we have deep conversations about writing, where you’ll find a community of Muslim women who support you and gives you a space where you belong as a writer. Registration will be opening soon and I’d love to have you! Join the waitlist below.

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