The Write Time: Being Creative In A Busy Life
March 17, 2016
Throughout many years of talking to writers at talks, seminars, pitching sessions etc one thing that has come up more than any other is the question of how to fit writing into an already hectic life. “It’s ok for them,” begins one jaded writer, the ‘them’ being whichever famous or successful author is being discussed, “they have nothing else to do but write. I’d like to see them write a book a year whilst holding down a full time job / walking the dogs/ taking the kids to karate practice…”
There is so much wrong with that way of thinking. Firstly, notice how it conveys some sort of special status of those deemed successful. It’s ok for ‘them’ because ‘they’ don’t have it as hard as I do. It really should go without saying that although it is obviously easier to find time to write when you don’t have another job demanding your time and energy, the ‘they’ were all like you once upon a time. What’s more, by implying that ‘they’ have it easy whilst you don’t, you are subconsciously giving yourself permission to fail. This is the first line of excuse making. ‘I didn’t finish the book because there wasn’t time’.
In reality, time is the great equaliser. Every single person in the world has exactly the same amount in every day. The difference lies in what we choose to do with it. Whilst there is no magical formula to increase the number of hours in a day, below are a few thoughts on how to find the time to write.
Set specific time to write
We’ve all been in the position where we wake up with great plans for the day / weekend / month only to crawl into bed exhausted at the end of the period having been permanently busy yet leaving most of the to-do list un-done. Time, as they say, flies. So it’s important to be specific about when you are going to write. Simply saying ‘I’ll do some writing later’ won’t cut it because all the other things in your life will take over.
Many professional writers, even the ones who ‘only’ have to write, i.e. that is their only job, still stick to a rigid writing schedule which is deviated from only in the most urgent of circumstances.
For me, the best time is as soon as I get home from work because I know that once I relax in front of the TV for the evening I won’t be motivated. For others it could be once the children are in bed or, to use the example from earlier, while they are at karate class. If that is the only free hour you have, use it to your advantage. The important thing is routine. Writing should be something you actively do rather than what you end up doing once everything else is done.
Prioritise your writing
There’s no way to sugar coat this. If you want to write seriously then you have to get things finished. No ifs or buts. Get it done. Sometimes that might mean spending less time doing other things you enjoy. Remember that three hour Game Of Thrones marathon? Be honest, there’s no reason that couldn’t have been a two hour marathon and an hour’s writing, is there?
The point is, you might be right to say you don’t have time to write and do all the other things you are currently doing. So it is about prioritising. If it’s more important to you to catch up on a box set, that’s fine. But then you don’t get to say you have no time to write.
Don’t wait to be inspired
Often when the point about prioritising is made, someone replies that they are too tired to write or don’t ‘feel like it’ after a day at work. Sorry, but professional writers don’t only write when they ‘feel like it’. That is why they finish things and others don’t. Writing isn’t all inspiration and wonder. Sure, it’s great when the words are pouring onto the page but anyone can write when the inspiration strikes. You need to write even when you don’t want to because it reinforces the habit and routine.
If you genuinely can’t find the time to write within the spare time you already have, then consider changing the pattern of your day or week. For example, could you get up an hour earlier or go to bed an hour later and use this extra time to write? Obviously I’m not saying make yourself exhausted, but just as many people get up earlier to hit the gym or go for a run before work, maybe you could do so and hit the laptop.
Alternatively, could you take your laptop to work and get half an hour done on your lunch break? It might mean forgoing your usual gossip in the canteen, but again it is about priorities. And remember, this does not have to be every day. Even a couple of times a week will greatly improve your writing output.
Preparation not procrastination
Another recurring problem is when a writer spends so long getting ready to write that they end up with no time left to actually do so. For example, there is nothing wrong with tidying your office before you write – I personally cannot sit down to work amongst clutter – but any tidying time should be factored in outside of your writing time. Take a day before starting to write to tidy up, gather your notes / pens / scene cards etc and take an hour to deal with any pressing matters in your inbox. Then when you sit down to write, don’t even open your email. A live tab will only distract. Very little will be so urgent that it cannot wait until you’ve written the next chapter.
I hope at least some of my thoughts were helpful. Remember that literally every writer in the world has the same things to deal with as you. Don’t give yourself permission to fail by making excuses. Set out a plan and stick to it. treat your writing as important. If you don’t value it, no-one else will. Thank you for reading. Now, shouldn’t you be writing?