Saturday, 3 May 2014

How to write (when you don't have time to)

It's coming up to the two year anniversary of the first publication of my dystopian novel The Binary Man, and the beginning of my adventures in writing, so I thought I'd share a bit about how I go about destroying myself on a regular basis, all in the name of narrative.

For many, including myself, writing is a hobby. I don't mean to say that it is any less important to me (it's my biggest passion, apart from my family), but it isn't my main source of income, at least not yet (fingers crossed until they snap).

I have a demanding full time job, and two small children (two and four) to look after. As I'm not willing to be an unavailable parent, I have had to come up with a framework for my writing so that I don't jeapordise either my family or working life which has allowed me to write three novels, a series of six novellas, and several short stories in the past two years. 

(This list is sometimes more intention than actuality).

Work out your optimum writing time

Everyone has a different body clock, so working out when the writing part of your brain is functioning at a satisfying level is recommended, to save having to trawl through hundreds of words of junk when you're finally switched on. The early morning works best for me, with prime time being between 10am and noon.

Cut down "leisure" time

So you want to play a bit of Shogun Total War? Sorry, those ronin ruled territories will have to wait to feel the heavy boot of your Shogunate. It’s time to tear your hair out over a freshly discovered plot hole that has destroyed the foundation of an entire novel. This is your fun now.

Make 4 a.m. your friend

There is something liberating about being the only person stupid enough to be awake. Even birds are hitting the snooze button. Use that isolation to bring your narrative world to life. The precious hours before your daily routine are a bleary eyed gift.

Ignore your kids

Just kidding.

Get the train to work

If you have the choice between the car or the train, take the train. I get an hour and a half extra screen time a day that way, although sometimes I do spend the time crammed in next to beer soaked football fans managing to scream without using any consonants whatsoever.

Find some writing music

This can be whatever works best for you, but I find that instrumental music generally helps, so that my writing doesn’t get cross contaminated with Nick Cave’s lyrics. It also helps to drown out others when you’re typing up a storm on the commute.

Realise you have two jobs

Even if one of them has a far poorer pound-per-hour ratio (guess which one). Get organised, add some structure, and think ahead. You never know when you might be able to grab half an hour.

Keep a notebook

Anyone who writes will recognise the deadly ‘blank page stare’. Counter this by noting down ideas as they come to you, to ensure you have ammunition for your next session.

A lot of these points have been said before, but hopefully someone somewhere will find them useful. I’ll probably print out a copy for myself, as I shirked my 4 a.m. start today and stayed in bed until 5.45, which means that am now having to finish this blog post with a small child (drinking juice whilst dressed as a rabbit) perched on my lap.

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