Thursday, 1 May 2014

Writing - A Juggling Act

So here you are, you just get your laptop set up, when the phone rings, there’s a pile of washing that’s starting to look like Everest, work’s just e-mailed and needs a reply, and the dog’s looking at you, wagging his tail, for his morning walk. Sound familiar? Not to mention demands from the kids, your parents, your partner. And so it goes on… life just keeps getting in the way. So how the hell do you get time to write a whole novel? Well, that very much depends on how much you want to.

Life is demanding and often seems to conspire to get in the way of our dreams and ambitions. But if you want to write that book, short story, or whatever it is in life you’ve set your heart on achieving, you have to steal back some time. And most of all, you have to really want to do it.

For many years now, I have wanted to a) Write a novel, and b) Get a novel published. I’ve managed the first, three times in fact, and I’m still working away at getting published (that’s been harder than writing the novels, honestly). So how have I got this far? Juggling! Realising that I had to let some non-essential things slip – sorry Mum, the house probably has a layer of dust, and to organise my time better. Multi-tasking is a great way to snatch some writing time, like when you’re waiting to pick up the kids, take a pen and paper or your laptop with you. Today, I’m writing this blog in a coffee shop whilst waiting for the car to get serviced.

 So if you’re a new writer struggling to find time too, here’s a few tips and suggestions on how to steal back writing time:

Find what works for you:

I’m not an early bird, but I know writers who’ll get up at the crack of dawn to write before they go to work, and then there’s the late owls, scribbling away past midnight – not me either. I work best between about 9 and 1pm and I can write several thousand words when I’m in full flow. I tend to block my writing like this. It won’t be every day, and that suits me. The “day job” days, I just don’t have the energy or the right mind set when I get back in. So find what works for you. Many authors do feel the need to write every day, and like that commitment. We’re all different.

Beware the Time Stealers:

The phone: It really is okay to turn it off or put it on answerphone for an hour or two.

Social Media: Twitter, Facebook and the like. Helpful as they may be to promote your writing, and for networking – you can easily find yourself drifting off to other websites/blogs and feel you’re doing something productive but an hour (or two) can soon go by. Allow yourself time to develop your social media, but after you’ve written a set target of time/words.

Family/friends: (Sorry guys!) Treat your writing as though you are going to work. Set aside time to do this and let your friends/family know. You don’t have to ignore them forever – we’re not talking neglect here! Just make some writing time, so they know this is important to you, and that they are not to disturb you – especially for older children (oh, and husbands!).

Don’t be too hard on yourself/Allow yourself “Time Out” - just not too much!:

When life gets really hectic, I’ve learnt not to over pressure myself. For me, having time out for family/work commitments means I’m eager when I do get time to write and I don’t tend to waste that time. So don’t guilt trip yourself, that just ends up stifling your energy and creativity. When my kids are back from university, I know the house’ll be noisy and hectic and I’ll want to spend time with them. I know I’ll not get much done creatively, as I need a quiet atmosphere to write. So I’ll make the most of having them around, maybe do some research, jot down ideas, but not expect to write much at all, and then I’ll get back to it with renewed energy as soon as I get the chance.

What if you get stuck? You’ve got the time and it’s just not happening?

I think this happens when we expect every word we write to be perfect. It won’t be. So either do a bit of brainstorming; write down (just as single words/headings/jottings) anything that comes to mind about that next scene you’re on, or the dialogue you’re trying to write, letting you mind wander freely and it’s amazing what it comes up with.

Or just try and write the next few lines to get you started, and if they’re no good edit them later. Sometimes I even jump to a scene I really want to write, even if it’s not the next in the book. I can fill in the gaps later. A writer friend’s favourite quote: “Don’t get it Right, get it Written!”
Also, it's wonderful how chocolate and a cup of coffee can really get you in the right frame of mind! I'm in the mood for writing.... delighting. Has to be sung as per the Nolan's anthem.

Most of all Keep the Faith, and Enjoy it!

Writing a novel can feel a bit like a Marathon. You’ll never be able to keep it up unless you enjoy what you’re writing. So get enthused by your subject, write about what you love, and write because you love doing it, then your writing time will seem like a special “Me Time”, not a chore. And hopefully, that positivity will rub off on the agent/publisher you want to impress, and your book will shine.

Do you have any tips you can share on how you manage your writing time? I’d love to hear from you?

Good luck! Happy juggling!

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