How We Write

Hi all! Today’s the last GPF for the next four weeks, since arranging for guest posts that suit the A to Z Challenge would be too much of a pain. GPF will continue in May, however, and the first two Fridays are open. So if you want to become one of the illustrious people who post on my blog, please read this post and contact me so that we can arrange it.

In the mean time, I want to welcome one of my favorite and most talented blogging friends (and I know, because I critted his work recently), Allan from Publish or Perish. Thanks so much for taking the time to write this post, Al. 

How We Write

When I volunteered to write this post for Misha I thought to myself that I would knock something together in half an hour or so. I imagined I would write about something related to the creative process. That I would write about something like plot development, or characterisation, or perhaps editing.
Then Misha reminded me of the deadline she had for submitting this post. I realised that I had not thought about composing this post, let alone put finger to keyboard (I use pen and paper for almost nothing these days). The reason is of course like so many people today I am time poor. I suspect that most of us who write do so by snatching moments.

That fact made me think about how we find the time (let alone the mental space) to write. 

Writing seriously takes time. Be it poetry, non-fiction, biography, pulp or literary fiction completing works is time intensive. My best estimate for the time it took me to complete my first novel was the equivalent of six months full-time work. That does not include the time other people spent on it for me. 

That time was spread out over years. During that period I was working full time at a day job and being a parent, husband, etc, etc. This is something that is common to the vast majority of writers I know. Almost none of the writers I know (either in the real world or cyberspace) have had enough success to allow them to write professionally. 

I won’t fall into the trap of assuming things are necessarily rosy for that group. Writing as a career is going to have all sorts of its own pressures. 

So where am I going with this ramble? Time for writing. 

My first novel Veiled in Shadows took years to get from idea to print. Most of the time it did little more than languish. Then something changed. I changed jobs. I was working in the community sector in mental health and disabilities; I stayed in the sector but shifted to a program for homeless people. I was managing a set of programs that provided meals and other services (information, showers, laundry and a string of other things) in the heart of Melbourne. Most “soup kitchens” focus on the evening. Our focus was making sure people got breakfast. We started before dawn, so we closed early, my staff finished by 12:30 and I was usually out the door by 2:00 pm. What that meant was a few hours in the afternoon to myself.

Guess what I did?

Not hard was it? I usually spent that time writing, in mere months I finished off my first book (already mostly done). Then began on the second. 

Then I changed jobs again. I shifted out of the community sector into government. I am still in the homeless sector, but now I coordinate some state wide programs and provide policy advice. That left me a problem; I was going to lose my writing time. My commute time would double because I would be travelling in the rush and I would get home at the same time as the rest of the family.

Losing my writing time was not something I could bear. So I had to find a solution.

I switched from driving to catching the train.

So my commute has morphed into writing time. 

My WIP is still progressing (about 5-10 times quicker than my first book).

So the moral of my rather convoluted tale is one key to writing as a non-professional is to set aside time. Time to write. In my experience fifteen minutes set aside for writing on a daily basis makes all the difference. 

Maybe your active day (like mine does at the moment) begins before dawn and finishes only an hour or two before you hit the sack. But maybe your writing does not have to halt. Get creative with time. Perhaps there is something you can do differently to carve yourself a few minutes. I was lucky; I found a solution that gives me an hour or two each day. But it wouldn’t have happened if I had not taken the time to think about it.

Good luck!

16 thoughts on “How We Write

  1. Good for you! I'm the same way…my commute is an hour by train to the city one way. Lots and lots of writing time for me then. An hour back gives me two whole hours of uninterrupted writing time to get my WIP in shape! Amazing what a good ol' fashion train can do for the creativity! 🙂

  2. Hi Misha and Allan, Whenever I am not near my computer I jot down random scenes (two to three lines about each scene) on pieces of paper. My purse is filled with such notes.

    Train journeys are good time to catch up with writing, but I find my handwriting on trains is not very legible.

  3. I use my iPad to take notes on scenes that I think of while sitting in front of the television. I guess my biggest challenge is not that I don't have enough time, it's focusing on things that I need to get right. I think I suffer from undiagnosed ADD and that causes a lot of issues with my writing.

  4. Hi Rachna,
    It is great to grab any opportunity as you are. Those little ideas can lead to whole new directions if you capture them.
    My handwriting is illegible at the best of times 🙂
    That's why I use a computer!
    Publish or Perish

  5. Hi Alex,
    Finding those moments is what it is all about.
    Of course it can be easier said than done 🙂
    I guess you must be managing it at least sometimes, from what I see you manage to be a pretty prolific writer!

    Publish or Perish

  6. Hi Michael,
    Writing can be hard enough to do with out having problems staying focused.
    But it sounds like you are on the way to finding some solutions.
    I guess I am blessed in that If I can find the time I can usually get the focus I need for writing.
    Publish or Perish

  7. Hi Angela,
    yes we can go on getting more and more frustrated with a solution right in front of our nose. All it often takes is taking a moment to think about a different way of approaching things.

  8. Apart from finding time, I find it's getting that necessary oomph to get me started! I may have 10 minutes to spare but more often than not I'm distracted doing something else instead of writing! Argh!! I can't win! 🙂

    Hello Al, hello Misha! Take care

  9. Hi Kitty,
    oomph is a whole other problem.
    You'll just have to get Charlie to look at you disdainfully and get you toeing the line. Or is he the distraction?

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