Denise Tyler ~
Writing is easy – you just sit down with a laptop or a notebook and get on with it. Ten thousand words by teatime, right? Well, that might work if you are on a desert island with literally nothing else to do, but even there you’d need to go foraging for dinner. Berries don’t pick themselves after all.
So what’s the secret to finding time to write when all around you life is being demanding? I’ve read plenty of author interviews where they wrote their first book on the commute to work or in the early morning before anyone else is awake. Being neither a regular commuter nor an early riser, neither of those has ever worked for me but it is definitely a good idea to find time rather than wait for it to appear.
It’s not necessarily about finding a space in your day that is completely clear (how often does that realistically happen?) but finding a space in your day that could be dual purpose, like train time, while the kids are at swimming lessons, or while dinner is cooking.
Personally, I find the key to this is to ALWAYS have a notebook on you or the ability to make notes on your phone or tablet (and for the love of your own sanity, remember to hit save – been there, done that). I have written many a character sketch based on people on the same bus as me simply by imagining what they’re off to do or going home from. Even describing your surroundings can be a really helpful writing exercise and you never know when you’re going to need a place for your characters to be. What’s the light like where you are right now? Is it a loud place? Dirty? Tidy? A good writer doesn’t just write, they notice, and doing this is a great way to keep your hand in. It doesn’t have to make any sense; it’s about keeping yourself tuned in to writing and squirrelling away snippets that will be useful later on.
While this is good for off-the-cuff writing, a serious chunk of time allows you to get more done. You might think that’s obvious but here I add a cautionary note: more time doesn’t mean fill it with more bits and pieces. Plan ahead – pick a scene from your manuscript that you’ve been putting off, do that chunk of research you need to move your plot on in a realistic way – but don’t start changing single words. That can wait for your final edit unless you’ve written ‘editing’ against the time, in which case, go for it.
Finding a chunk of time can be trickier though, so you have to be a little more structured for this one. For instance, I’ll have a look at my diary for the next week and see where all the fixed things are like meetings, the school run, the food shop, deadlines, and where there is some flexible time, I write it in my diary that that is for writing – sometimes even with specific times against it. That way it becomes part of the week, not an addition. A friend of mine made it a regular evening as if she was going out to a class and put it on the family calendar so everyone would know she was ‘out’, even though she was in the spare room. You’ll have to be firm with yourself as well, or our old friend procrastination will have a field day. An hour in the diary empty? You know, we could always just clear the bathroom cupboard out; it needs doing…
Even if you sit there for five minutes, just reading over old notes until you’re in the right place, do that. But don’t wait forever for inspiration to strike while you sit looking at your computer. As Jane Austen said, ‘I am not at all in a humour for writing; I must write on till I am.’ There really is no substitute for just getting on with it when you have that precious time marked out. Remember, berries don’t pick themselves and writing doesn’t happen by itself.
Obviously, if you can literally get out of the house in the evening or your workplace during the daytime, then all the better. It’s remarkable how much you can free up headspace by simply changing your physical situation. Maybe there’s a writing group that meets near you? Finding a like-minded group of individuals who will be happy to work for an hour or two and discuss any issues can be really galvanising. Just being in the same room as other people writing makes it easier to slot into that mindset. I’m part of a group who meet once a week in a co-working space here in Brighton. We set a timer for an hour, write – break for a chat for ten minutes, then repeat. It works for us, however little time we have there. Just touching base with other writers is great as it can be a lonely process.
However you find the time, make the most of it and happy writing!
Denise Tyler is a journalist and public relations expert with over 20 years’ experience in handling international campaigns and press offices. Having travelled the world with work and lived in several countries, Denise now lives in Brighton, is married, and has a daughter about to leave her with an empty nest when she goes to university to study forensic science. She also has a dog named Bob who is now quite old and quite a bit smelly but she loves him all the same. Forward Press commissioned Denise to write ‘Working Mothers: The Essential Guide’ based on her successful website, mother@work, which she edited for ten years. Broken Wand is her first novel.
You can purchase Broken Wand here.