If you can’t find time to write, then MAKE time — or I swear I’ll send you a fruitcake!

image Because this week’s Nickel’s Worth on Writing happens to fall on Friday the 13th, and because undisputed Master of Horror STEPHEN KING was kind enough to send in a special accolade, we’re totally skipping my normal introduction about offering writing tips based on my 15 years as a columnist (stop yawning) so we can get right to Mr. King’s unsolicited accolade regarding the value of my weekly NWOW and how a run-on sentence can get people to read an entire opening paragraph before they even know it!

Comment from THE Stephen King:

“Ned, I visit your Nickel’s Worth quiet often. And so does my LAWYER. We’ll be in touch.”

— Sincerely, Stephen King (Undisputed Master of Horror)


With that kind of affirmation, I could end this post right there — and my lawyer agrees I probably should. But my weekly NWOW isn’t about me; it isn’t about flaunting the adoration I receive from literary giants; and it isn’t about receiving accolades. It’s about… uh…

Oh Yeah! Writing tips! Which brings us to this week’s topic:

Find Make time to write — or I swear I’ll send you a fruitcake!

Before we begin, I feel the need to apologize for the title of this column. I don’t advocate bullying or violence in any way, and my threat of sending a fruitcake to those who don’t make time to write was — in the words of an ex-CIA interrogator friend — “a bit extreme.” So please accept my apology. At the same time it illustrates an aspect of being a writer that, although just as important as developing your voice and technique, is easily overlooked because it’s not as tangible as a well-written description, engaging dialogue or delicious apple fritter. If I’m being honest, few things seem important when I’m in the presence of a delicious apple fritter — which may sound like I skipped breakfast but actually has a point:

Much like claiming the last apple fritter, you need to lay claim to your writing time, even if it means everyone else gets stuck eating fruitcake for a little while each day or week.

Once you begin taking your writing seriously, so will others. And, more importantly, so will YOU. I know that sounds redundant, but the fact is that the development of your writing — whether for pleasure or pursuing a career — truly begins and ends with YOU. Sure, unless you have an editor breathing down your neck like mine is at this moment (seriously, I think she had pizza for breakfast), chances are no one may notice if you don’t finish that book chapter or blog entry today, right?

WRONG! (Sorry, I actually did skip breakfast so I’m a little edgy.) I will notice because, thanks to my ex-CIA friend, I am keeping track of your writing productivity. In fact, Michelle and Victoria — I expect a new post from each of you by Monday or I am sending Father Robert of the fruitcake making Trappist Monks to your homes with a surprise. And it won’t be apple fritters.

But even without the possibility of an 80-year-old toothless monk showing up on your doorstep with a food product that could be used to shore up that sagging foundation under your home, when it comes to noticing what you do or don’t write, there’s only one person who matters:

Father Robert.

But not as much as it should matter to you. In the same way you make time for other aspects of daily life, whether it’s going to the gym, doing laundry, family movie night or pretending to audition for role in 50 Shades of Grey, it’s important to make writing a part of your life — daily, nightly or weekly. And to clarify, I’m talking about the writing, not role playing. And if you can’t stop thinking about it, then think of Father Robert.

Welcome back.

Writers, particularly those with families, can find themselves feeling guilty about the time they spend at the keyboard, as though they are “wasting” time that could be used for something more “constructive.” Such as building a house. It goes back to something I said in a previous NWOW about how, as a society, we automatically equate payment as validation, i.e., if you aren’t getting paid to write, then it doesn’t have value. That’s where the guilt starts. But let me ask you this: Does anyone question the value of playing golf (aside from me)? How about volunteering at school? Or making dinner? Or cleaning the house? Chances are, you don’t get paid for these things — yet no one questions their value.

Writing is no different.

Unless you’re writing about golf.

So as we approach the New Year, take a serious look at your schedule. Somewhere between work, laundry and your other commitments determine where your writing fits in and commit to it. Your writing is an extension of you; for that reason alone, it has value. Mark your writing time on the calendar. If necessary, post a note for everyone to see, without guilt, and with validation.

I will be watching.

And so will Father Robert.

(Ned Hickson is a syndicated columnist with News Media Corporation. His first book, Humor at the Speed of Life, is available here from Port Hole Publications.)

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Ned's Blog

I was a journalist, humor columnist, writer and editor at Siuslaw News for 23 years. The next chapter in my own writer’s journey is helping other writers prepare their manuscript for the road ahead. I'm married to the perfect woman, have four great kids, and a tenuous grip on my sanity...

91 thoughts on “If you can’t find time to write, then MAKE time — or I swear I’ll send you a fruitcake!”

  1. What are you going to send to someone who writes about golf but has gotten lazy about posting? Like, Fruitcake AND some of that rock-solid “holiday crunch popcorn” that keeps the dental business in the black for the month of December? I just don’t think fruitcake alone would be an adequate threat.

  2. …But I blame you Ned. As soon as I sit at the keyboard… ding… another notification that funny and engaging has just arrived.

    Thanks for this. Really, you are right, and we could all use a kick in the fruitcake storage areas now and then. I will post tonight, whether my mother/fan is ready to read or not!!!

    Cheers and Merry Christmas.

  3. Well…guess what I was doing when the email came in for this post? If you guessed something constructive that I’m getting paid for, BUZZZT! Wrong! I was…wait for it…writing! And making pretty good progress, considering I’m sitting here with a garland of poinsettias draped only halfway across the bookshelves, and yet another box of ornaments and collectibles waiting to be put out. But was I finishing up the decorating project that has taken up the last ten days of my life? Oh, no. I was writing.

    And then a loud ” HoHoHo” from my Santa email notifier stopped me cold by announcing that Ned Hickson had posted an article on how I should drop everything and make time for my writing.

    Oh, the irony!!


    PS…where’s my fruitcake?

          1. Me, channeling the little lady from the Swiffer commercial: “There ya go. Morty just summed it up!”

            (Substitute “Ned” for “Morty.” And exchange my heavy southern accent for an even heavier one from somewhere above the Mason-Dixon line.)

  4. I don’t know where to start…as far as I can remember this is the funniest and cleverest piece I’ve read from you so far. Congratulations on raising the bar for yourself to a nigh unreachable high.

    1. Wow, thanks Arend! I really appreciate that. To be honest, I kind of pulled this post out of my…

      Well, that doesn’t really matter. But I’ve had to eat a lot of fruitcake the last few days.

      Nonetheless, I truly appreciate the kind words 😉

      1. Well, you’re welcome…but it’s a compliment as much as it is a challenge. Call me greedy, but I’m expecting more of this stuff!
        I think this post changed me from an avid follower into a fan. Sorry, fans tend to be a bit more demanding…

  5. I get away with taking time to write — my family’s pretty good about it. (Finding a quiet space, that’s another matter.) But I often work things out in my head prior to the actual writing. So my question is: how do I make them see value in my appearing aloof and disinterested?

  6. It can be so easy to talk ourselves out of something that we enjoy just because it won’t pay the Visa bill. I missed my first post several weeks ago, and some of my followers let me know. It was wonderful to realize people actually enjoy what I see as a stress release. Thanks for the encouragement your post offered!

  7. Seriously, there’s so much to love here…where do I start?

    LOVED the message and rolled over laughing as I read the responses. I’ve been blogging since September and had post topics scheduled for every Tuesday and Friday on the calendar through November 11. I wrote every day from 5-7 a.m. before my “real” work day started. ( I play an anal retentive dietitian and clinical disease manager in my real life) Fast forward to now. The part where you called me and Victoria out with our Monday assignment.
    Even though the ideas for subjects come spontaneously all of the time, the ability to put them to words falters if I don’t “practice” every day. I haven’t written anything since yesterday morning and I can tell.
    In fact, it’s on the horrible ‘writer’s block’ days that I reach out to folks like you. Read your words, comment and participate. As you know, responding and replying takes thought, dedication and is a great way to get the wheels turning if the ole compartments are full of fruitcake. Which mine often are. Thank you Ned!!!

    1. So glad you liked it, Michelle! I had no idea what I was going to write for my Nickel’s Worth yesterday, but as always I started my morning answering comments which, as you said, gets the wheels rolling. Your link to the fruitcake monks was just what I needed 😉

      And I’m sorry, but I had to laugh at what I’m sure were your unintentional (?) references to being an “anal retentive dietician” and “writer’s block.”

      Fruitcake does that to me, too 😉

    2. Michelle, I tend to do better when I write spontaneously, without much planning or pressure. Perhaps that’s the amateur showing its true colors. The one post that was the most spontaneous was the one that was FP’d. Go figure. The words flowed and I didn’t have any expectations, nor did I put pressure on myself to write. I wrote from my core being and that doesn’t always come so easily, not yet, anyway. I appreciate Ned’s advise that once you begin taking your writing seriously, so will others. I need to remember that.

      Love ya.

      1. Right there with you Victoria! My last post about my daughter was the easiest to write and took only about 20 minutes to get it down–didn’t even know I was going to write it until I started typed.
        I’ve tried both ways–spontaneous and planned. Spontaneous seems to give the best first draft and planned provides the most consistency with better drafts emerging with each edit.
        But, here it is 7:45 on a Monday morning and the only thing I can think about are the 5 meetings waiting for me on in my real job. Perhaps if I’d had a “planned post” the natural task master in me would be working on that instead of dreading the day ahead. The only way writing will become my real job is if, like you’ve both said, I take it seriously. More to come! Let me take care of my co-workers first today and that should help clear my mind for the fun stuff to come later in the week!

        1. *smiles*

          Michelle, I have an eye-opening post coming soon and I suspect you will be able to relate. 😉


          Sorry Ned, I may not be able to live up to your expectations of me publishing a post today. I’m not a quantity kind of person. It might happen, it might not. I remain true to myself. 😀

          Hope you both have a fantastical week. ღ

          1. No worries, Victoria! I understand the difficult balance you have to strike. Father Robert, though… 😉

            Seriously, yours are the only expectations you need to live up to 😉

            Have a fantastic week as well!

  8. Ned, you’re right (as usual) and I think I’ve found that timeslot to write regularly but, umm, it’s seems to be stuck under the fruitcake anthere’s no wayes I’m going anywhere near it…back to the daily planner I guess. Rd

  9. great post ned, but could you rethink the the water boarding next year? some of the writers have been complaining about it being a bit aggressive. all i need is a reader or two and a cold cup of coffee, and i’m motivated.

    1. Yeah, in retrospect the threat of fruitcake was uncalled for. It was a rough morning and I unfairly took it out on everyone. Please accept my apologies, and know I never, EVER would have followed through with something that diabolical.

  10. I’m planning a post about fruitcake. The complaints about it are legion, but it keeps appearing on store shelves and in friends’ homes – why is that?? I remember yours from last year – still a star in the fruitcake writers’ pantheon. 🙂

    1. I can’t wait! For your post, not the fruitcake. During my book reading last night, I chose the fruitcake piece as one of the excerpts. It became clear that I had chosen the wrong crowd. I think the most frightening thing about fruitcake people is that they appear to be just like us…

  11. Late again, but I have good reason, I swear, and it has nothing to do with my dog. Internet out yesterday, and today I was — wait for it — writing a post! I find it hard to force the creative fiction, but I did it yesterday and I’ve made a commitment to just two lousy stinkin’ pages a day. Lousy and stinkin’ I can do with my hands tied behind my back. IF I can turn off the internal impatient editor.
    As for Victoria, I know that she had trouble with her Internet connection recently, but I’m sure she will be posting another thought provoking piece soon. Plus, I think she hates fruitcake 🙂

    1. Excuses, excuses… wait, these were actually legitimate. Unlike “the dog ate my parents” excuse I tried in seventh grade.

      And two pages a day is terrific, especially with fiction — so my hat’s off to you. And that’s saying something, because I didn’t brush my hair; so me taking my hat off is a big deal 😉

  12. 1- There are people who like fruitcake, you know. At least two or three. God no, not me, but my house does have a sagging foundation. Or at least, if I had a house, its foundation would be sagging, of this I’m sure.

    2- I do personally question the value of cleaning house and making dinner. That’s why the dust in my apartment is half an inch thick and my ribs are sticking out. But I write. Now that I know you and Father Robert are watching though, I have to dim the lights to make sure you don’t notice the half-inch dust.

    1. I figured someone had to like fruitcake; I’ve just never met them. If you ever do have a home with sagging foundation, let me know — I’ll be happy to send you some fruitcake loaves.

      And I think the value of a clean home is overrated. Think of the dust as insulation for those cold winter months. It’s almost irresponsible NOT to have a one-inch dust layer to cut down on energy consumption, right?

  13. ” In fact, Michelle and Victoria — I expect a new post from each of you by Monday or I am sending Father Robert of the fruitcake making Trappist Monks to your homes with a surprise. And it won’t be apple fritters.

    OMGawd, I’m laughing so hard right now. No pressure there. lol

    Colleen just sent me a email asking if I’d read your Friday post. Umm, it must have been subconscious intuition which caused me to overlook this post. 😛

    As Michelle said — thanks for the love. Seriously. Btw, I was actually planning a post for Monday, but now I think I’ll delay it just to annoy you. Your Trappist Fruitcake Monks don’t scare me one bit, nono. 😀

    Ned, you Rock!

  14. Gret story Ned!

    I have to say things were easy when it was just my blog I wrote on but the time I have been spending on my book has really began to piss off the wife. She is still being supportive but i just cant seem to write with one hand as I carry my guilt upstairs with the other. It has been a real balancing act, but i think i will make it.

    1. You WILL make it, Tom. As I told you the other night, you’re writing something important and unique that others have already recognized. I’m sure your wife does, too. Just remember to surprise her every so often by shutting down the computer for an evening to show her she’s important. It’ll be good for you, too — it can remind you that the book comes from you, not the other way around.

      I am speaking from experience… 😉

  15. I read the entire blog but I can’t find where you tell us how to make time. I thought the 24 hours was set, but if I can make more it would be wonderful.

  16. I just wrote that I don’t mind an occasional fruitcake, but did you know they have definitely gone up in price? Considering that most people would consider them a serious threat and they would rather die than eat one, I am amazed they are still selling! Smiles for the whole post, a hoot and a half!

      1. Luckily, I’ve had very little fruitcake exposure. My mother is the only person I’ve known to eat it, although I’ve never seen her do so. I’m wondering if it’s the case where only one was ever made, but it gets passed around.

  17. Ned, I should let you know that you have put a curse on me. Yes — I did not make ‘your’ deadline yesterday. Yesterday, a box was delivered by UPS, addressed to me, just before 5PM.

    Inside were several wrapped presents and — wait for it —

    Fruitcake. Unfreakingbelievable!

No one is watching, I swear...

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