The Ten Commandments of Writing #1: Thou Shalt Make Time To Write

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

Just about all writers have that encounter, sooner or later, at a party or some other social event where they get chatting to someone who asks that stock question, “what do you do?”. When they discover the answer is “writer”, the person says airily, “oh, I always wanted to write a book. If I could ever find the time.”

I’ve always believed that being a writer is not something anyone chooses to be, any more than we choose the colour of our eyes, or our skin, or whether we are left or right-handed. What we do choose, however, is whether or not to be a successful writer. And the first step in being a successful writer is finding time to write.

It’s the stock excuse for many aspiring writers: I could finish my book if only I had more time to write. I used it myself for quite a long time. My first published novel, SUFFER THE CHILDREN, took me ten years to write. I used a variety of excuses to try to explain this, but really they were just excuses. Fledgling writers find excuses not to write for many reasons. The most common, if we’re honest with ourselves I think, is lack of confidence. But taking ten years to write a book is a luxury only afforded to the unpublished writer, or ironically, the very successful. If you’re Stephen King or JK Rowling, your loyal fans will probably wait ten years for the next book, if they had to, and still be there to buy the book at the end of it. For the rest of us, it’s worth bearing in mind that there are many writers out there to attract your potential readers when they get bored of waiting for you.

The stark reality is that writers have no more hours in the day than anyone else. Finding time to write is simply a matter of ensuring you block off some of those hours for writing. Many writers, like me, have full time day jobs. Some have kids and school and hockey runs to deal with, elderly relatives to care for, yoga lessons, football practice, swimming lessons, or even a combination of all of the above. Modern life is extremely busy. But amongst all this, the writer must carve out time to write.

What works for me is getting up at a stupidly early hour and getting the early train into London. I sit in Starbucks round the corner from work, and have a soya latte and a muffin for breakfast while I wait for the NetBook to boot up. I try to get an hour of writing in before I head for the office to start my working day. I find this hour very productive, and in truth I get more done in that hour than I do if I take a day off work and write at home.

I appreciate not everyone can face getting up at 5:30am. Fifteen years ago I wouldn’t have thought I could have done it, either. But I have discovered that this is the best time for me for writing. It may have something to do with tapping into the muse before my internal editor wakes up, but I find the words flow first thing in the morning when I am not properly awake. Some writers I know carve out an hour of writing time when the kids are in bed. Some find that writing late at night works for them. The key is to find what works for you and schedule it into your routine. Block off the time in your diary. Make sure that your family members also know that this particular time is Writing Time, and you are not to be disturbed.

Making time to write in a packed life generally means sacrificing something. For me, it’s sleep. Other writers I know have stopped watching TV, opting instead to use that time as writing time. If your schedule is absolutely rammed, have a look at what you can change to fit in some writing time. If you get a lunch hour at work, can you leave your workplace and set up in a nearby café or some such to use that time for writing? If you regularly meet friends at the pub twice a week, can you cut down to one a week and use the other evening as writing time? If necessary, try experimenting until you find a routine that works for you. As I mentioned, it never occurred to me once upon a time that I could get out of bed so early. But once I got in the routine of doing so, I found it not so bad, and the thought of a nice sugary treat when I get to the coffee shop does sometimes inspire me out of bed at that unseemly hour in the morning.

But the most important thing, in order to be a successful writer, is to write, and so this is my First Commandment of Writing: Writer, Thou Shalt Make Time To Write.

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1 comment so far

  1. […] Tweet of the Day: Thou Shall Make Time to Write […]


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