In today’s Book and Brew takeover, Jennifer Wilson talks about the struggle to find time to write when your life and job get in the way.
I love writing. I love reading (quite often about writing). But in between these, I find myself rather partial to food, clothes, a roof over my head and central heating to keep me warm.
In order to satisfy these urges, I feel honour-bound to put in the effort, Monday to Friday, 9-5, for the nice people who pay me a salary. I can still read on the train to/from the office each day, but it does rather get in the way of the writing.
This is hardly a unique problem, I know that, but I thought I would write about it anyway, share what has worked for me, and hopefully, through the comments section, get some new ideas and hints from you too.
Make a plan
I’m a planner, an absolute list-aholic. Half the actions on my to-do list come with sub-lists, but with so many things to balance, if it doesn’t go on a list, it doesn’t get done. There is nothing more satisfying than lots of little ticks appearing down the side of a sheet of paper to show progress really has been happening.
I’ve also become serious about using my evenings more effectively. At Swanwick Writers’ School in August (a very worthwhile experience), and twice since on Facebook, I’ve been told that the best way to get the most out of what free time you do have, is to plan.
And, switch off that time-drain in the corner of most living rooms. Now, I’m committed to my writing, but I cannot go fully cold-turkey on television – I love my murder mysteries too much. However, I’ve definitely watched significantly less lately and, as a result, have written significantly more. This can only be a good thing.
Make writing a job
To help even more, I’ve started treating writing like a job. Not to the extent that I start to see it as duty, not fun, of course, but trying to bring that professional work ethic to writing can really be a boost.
You hear plenty of stories of writers who get to their desk at the same time each day, or some who even hire an office somewhere so they can physically ‘go to work’; a bit extreme perhaps, but hey, if it works.
For me though, before all these nice, sensible ideas about planning and balance came about, I went for the ultimate. If you truly cannot strike a balance on a daily basis, build up all the craziness and throw it at a single month.
Every November across the globe, thousands of writers give up the non-critical things such as sleep, personal hygiene and caring for partners/children/pets (alright, not pets, that’s going too far, they need us) for a whole 30 days. An awful lot of them come out having ‘won’ National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and written 50,000 words.
With Inner Editors firmly switched off, there’s definitely the risk that some (alright, a lot, sometimes most) of those 50,000 words aren’t the best words, but they’re certainly better than no words. And whether you start working on it straight away, or leave it alone for a couple of months, just knowing that they’re on file/in the drawer, is a great confidence boost and motivation to find the time to keep going.
Make it to the other side
In 2013, I came out the other side of NaNoWriMo bleary-eyed but ecstatic, clutching my USB proudly, containing those magic 50,000 words. Granted, it took me eighteen months to get it knocked into better shape, but it turned out to be the start of what (when heavily edited) would eventually become my debut novel, Kindred Spirits: Tower of London. It was certainly worth the effort, but going forwards, I’m definitely more in favour of balancing methods which include more sleep!
Last week, I started a ‘homework planner’, matching lists to free evenings, in the hope that this will increase my productivity. I finished this on time, and successfully entered a short story competition, so it’s working so far – fingers crossed that I can carry on!