A dear friend asked me an interesting question today and it didn’t strike me until almost an hour later that I had given her maybe the wrong answer. We talked about times and places and how I write, but the truth is that I don’t FIND time at all. I MAKE time. There’s a distinct difference. If you try and fit writing time into your current life as is, you’ll take years to write your book.
I think that’s why a lot of people with words in their souls never make it to the end of novels. Writing is about sacrifice. You really have to want to do it, to be committed to it and to ignore other things in your life in favour of it. It extends past the writing process too – you have to take constructive criticism on the chin and be prepared to slash so many of the words that you spent all those borrowed hours crafting. Then there are all the hours of marketing and discussing with readers. As much as that’s my favourite part of it, hearing from readers, it’s still something I have to make time for.
If I wasn’t writing, I’d be spending more time crafting, designing and/or cooking. Maybe I’d have a boyfriend!! I’d certainly be spending more time with friends and out and about.
That’s not to say my life isn’t complete. I live to write. It’s what’s fulfilling to me. There’d be a gaping void in my soul if I was forced to give it up, and I don’t sleep properly if I’m not ripping my demons from my psyche into fiction. I’m just trying to prove the point that my life wouldn’t be any less full without writing. Writing and all its accompanying bumf is what takes the place of crafting, design, socialising and (probably) men. I don’t feel like I’m sacrificing. I’m happy this way, but it’s a choice of lifestyle.
I’m lucky in the way that I write. I write at speed and have a good enough memory that I can snatch ten minutes here or there without impacting too much on my focus. I’m a rarity in that sense. Most people need at least half an hour to catch up with where they were and get in the zone. Many need an hour or more. There are always tips and tricks you can use. My necessity is making sure I leave a note of what day it is in the story at the end of each writing session so I can come back to it and start writing straight away without having to work backwards to know where I am.
I’ve spoken to a lot of successful authors and they’re fairly consistent in their attitude towards writing time. It’s always structured and designated time. It may only be for 3 – 6 months of the year, but they write to the exclusion of all else.
So my advice to writers would be this – commit to it. Designate a time and be dedicated to it. It could be an hour or two hours a day. It could be an hour a week on a Saturday morning, or a Monday afternoon, or a Thursday lunch time when everyone else is out of the house. Maybe you want a weekend away once a month at a friend’s house or a caravan you own somewhere. Maybe you should only write in the summer in a tent or at a quiet cafe. Whatever you do – commit to it. Be disciplined, form the habit, do it on a regular basis. Go for week long writing retreats at a friend’s house while they’re on holiday twice a year.
And your writing time needs to be writing time. Disconnect the internet, ignore the housework, put your phone on silent. Don’t allow anyone or anything to distract you. Don’t let your parents/kids/partner/pet/friends/housemates take up the time you’ve given yourself to write in. That’s why going away is often easier.
If you want to write and produce books on a regular basis, you can’t find time to do it. You have to make time.