When Do You Write?
Writing advice may vary from person to person – everyone has their own particular style, preferences and techniques. But, if there’s one thing that comes up again and again when writers talk about writing, it’s that you need to find a way to get your backside firmly planted in your chair and just do it.
Except it’s not. We lead busy lives, with multiple distractions that are infinitely more appealing than battling through writer’s block. There are days when I’m so busy, when I finally get five minutes to sit down and bash out a few words, I’m that mentally and physically exhausted that I end up in strange corners of the internet looking at pictures of cats. I don’t even like cats.
Barriers to Writing Time
Nice and easy to work round if you do a 9-5 with a set lunch hour. If, like many people, you’re on a rotating shift pattern, not so much. Then there’s jobs where you work 12 hour shifts, four days on four days off, jobs like teaching where you work all day every day until you fall into a blissful coma in your ‘holidays’ and all the other complicated, time and energy consuming variations of work. Work takes up a massive proportion of our time, and usually the last thing you want to do when you get home is more work.
Family can be great. A supportive family will understand your need for writing time, and with a bit of luck help you out with chores and other house duties to help free that time up for you. But a lot of families don’t understand. It’s not as important as other things, you’re not making any money, you aren’t spending time with us. My boyfriend is entirely supportive of my ambitions, but not so supportive of what it takes to realise them. He comes at me with puppy dog eyes and I feel so guilty for not spending what time we have together.
Other Hobbies/Social Commitments
i.e. The multitude of other things that are competing for your valuable time. Tennis lessons, art classes, that University friend you’ve been neglecting for several years now… There are not enough hours in the day to do everything we want to.
Getting up early can be a great way to create a bit of extra writing time. It’s probably time you would have spent dozing in bed, so it’s genuine ‘extra’ time that isn’t going to take away from anything else. Apart from sleeping. I tend to do this in summer, when I’m naturally awake a little earlier because of the earlier sunrise.
Pros: You’re fresh, energised (maybe!) you haven’t already worn down your brain with everything else you’ve done in the day. Your family may not be awake and distracting. Also, you probably have a limited amount of time before you have to go to work/get kids up or whatever else. Knowing you’ve only got a certain number of minutes might help you stay off Twitter.
Cons: It’s early. Not everyone is a morning person.
I used to take review books to work when I worked in a supermarket. Every break I had, from fifteen minutes to an hour, I would spend eating a stale sandwich and reading. Take a note pad, or your smart phone/tablet and you could spend that time writing.
Pros: It’s time you probably weren’t spending in a productive fashion. You aren’t spending it with family and you won’t have many other options for things to do.
Cons: You might find it just as draining to be writing as working, which could lead to increased fatigue in the second half of your day. There’s also the social element to lunch breaks; forgoing this could impact on your work life. It may be difficult to concentrate.
Late at Night
Opposite to morning writing time, you reserve that time just before you go to bed for writing, perhaps trading out a television show for an hour or two in front of the computer.
Pros: Again, family may have gone to bed. There are likely fewer distractions. If you’re a bit of a night owl, this could be your optimum time.
Cons: You’ve probably already got a hard day’s work under your belt, which could leave you feeling drained. You may need caffeine to energise yourself, which could muck with your sleep patterns.
For the shift worker or family person, this could be your only option – snatching the time when you can. In the advert breaks for your favourite soaps, while the kids are occupied eating dinner, while you’re waiting for the bathroom in the morning.
Pros: Flexibility means you can fit your writing in around other things without having to forgo important events, like social gatherings, sports fixtures and parent’s evenings.
Cons: Not having a set time means it can be easy to forget completely. Snatching time here and there can also make it difficult to get into the ‘flow’ of a scene, when the words come easily and quickly.
Whenever you write, it’s good to be aware of your habits. Set up a daily word count target to make sure that, however you choose to get them down, you are achieving a minimum amount of progress day by day. If you’re flexible about your writing time, word count commitments are doubly important, as they’re good motivation to ensure you don’t get to bedtime and realise you haven’t written a word.
If you do chose a time, make sure you stick to it. And keep writing time sacred – don’t start chasing YouTube links until you’re watching trippy advertisements from Japan – make sure you’re focused on your manuscript and nothing else.
Time is a precious commodity for a writer, even the full time ones. Use yours wisely.
When do you write?