Friday, 15 March 2013

A Time to Write

A short post this week, because I'm suffering from a bit of a time crunch. Work has suddenly revved up, and I'm juggling several projects at once, often with no clear priorities. The SCBWI Words and Pictures relaunch is imminent (more on that next week), and I'm very aware that I have a load of outstanding tasks still to do. There's also my SCBWI Webmaster stuff, which has been receiving less than my full attention of late. On top of all this, we're in the midst of renovations at home, so last weekend was spent moving out the entire contents of our living room so we could decorate, and this weekend will doubtless be spent moving everything back again.

With all of this going on, I suppose I shouldn't feel too surprised or guilty that my fiction writing is losing out. But yet, I do feel guilty about it, probably more so than failing at any of the other activities. How strange that the thing I do supposedly "for fun" is the one that gives me the most heartache (the irony that I'm here writing a blog post, rather than working on my novel, is not lost on me). I know I should be enjoying the period when I'm still writing entirely for myself, with no deadline pressures, but I'm having trouble doing that.

I try not to measure myself against other writers, but in truth, that's very difficult to avoid. Watching others speed through their first drafts or rewrite a whole book in six weeks, I feel impossibly slow. Have I been trapped on chapter 18 forever or does it just feel like that? Of course, the answer to why I'm not able to speed through a first draft is simply that I'm not making enough time in my week for writing. But how can I rearrange my life to make that time available?

So this is where you come in – tell me your tricks for making that precious time for writing or simply not feeling bad about the fact you're unable to do it. All ideas gratefully received.



  1. Phew! So it's not just me, then?
    No tricks or tips, I'm afraid. Like you, I juggle work, an enjoyable, exercise friendly, but time-consuming allotment, an elderly mother increasingly reliant upon me, outside interests which I enjoy (dance classes, choir, Reiki) before I even add the couple of writing groups I go to. I write at them, of course, but NOT my picture books/MG novel.
    I did spot that there's a place near(ish) to me that holds a 'Write Day' once a month - food & drinks provided, plug-in for laptop etc & NO interruptions. Maybe I should try it. Though, on the grounds that I think my re-write of the novel will take a good 20 full days of uninterrupted work, that will mean it'll be the end of 2014 by the time I reach the end! Looking forward to reading others tips and, no, the irony of me reading your blog and then writing a comment isn't lost on me either!

  2. I am an incredibly slow writer as well, Nick. So far the book I'm working on has taken me about 3 years, but to be honest I've stopped keeping track as it's just too depressing!

    One tip for you, which I just read in James Scott Bell's book 'The Art of War for Writers' (very good book). Paraphrased, it is: Become a 'snatcher of time' i.e. don't assume you have to have long stretches of time to write in. If you have a spare 15 minutes you can sit down and write some words. I've been adopting this over the past few days and it has already made a difference!

  3. I'm going to try Miriam's trick. I usually leave writing until the very end of the day because I tell myself I need to have everything else out of the way so I can write for as long as I want but then tiredness gets me instead. Time snatching sounds like a complete change of philosophy that's got to be worth a try!

  4. Hi Nick, I think invisible writing is the answer. That's not just me being weird, honest! What I mean is, when you can't physically write, on the train, in the car, in a queue, even in bed at night - write your next chapter in your head. Play around with it until you have it close to what you want then when you do manage to snatch a few minutes (as Miriam suggested) you can jump straight in instead of staring at the keyboard and feeling depressed.
    My other suggestion is to start ignoring your family - they'll understand when you're rich and famous. Probably;)

  5. Erm, I don't think I'm the right person to ask...

  6. It is not surprising that with a job, family and a redecorating project, you are finding it difficult to make time to write. I've switched to artwork from writing, but the time issues are the same. I like the ideas of snatching time and writing in your head - I remember Tim Bowler saying he often did that. While he was working full time he also got up every morning at 4.00 or 5.00 am and worked for a couple of hours before going in to work. (God, he must have had a lot of stamina!) My own tips are: cut out all non essential jobs; delegate as much as poss; work to a time-table and set up a routine - have a regular writing session at the same time each day and make sure you stick to it. Do not accept invitations or start doing household chores during your writing time. Shut yourself in your study and set your timer while you're in there. During that time you will write, no matter what. Do not allow other people to interrupt you. If you have a tendency to day-dream, set your timer for 10 or 15 mins at a time and just write as fast as you can during that time, preferably a scene or character notes or something relevant to the novel. Do not worry about quality - you often come up with something lively this way and it can be edited later. Get your renovations behind you as soon as possible, they are a serious drain on the creative resources. Don't despair: the children will grow up faster than you can imagine. When they go to uni, you'll have much more time to write, but you will miss them.

  7. If I'm stuck for time I just steal other people's blog posts and change a few words. Then get on with the novel.

    Also, at work, tell everyone that you can't be disturbed as you're working on a new business plan that will revolutionise the world of whatever. Then write.

    Obviously the second one requires your book to be published and a success so it doesn't matter when you get sacked.