Finding time to write makes for the writer’s eternal struggle. I am learning this lesson the difficult way with many new opportunities and surprises in my own life; a new day job, new friends, new schedules. I’ve been overwhelmed with these changes for the last two months.
And, please, do not think I am complaining. I most certainly am not. I am more than thrilled with the newness in my day-to-day life. I am experiencing and learning more than I ever thought I might. However, this has caused a setback in what stands as most important for myself.
I haven’t had the time to seriously write on a daily basis. I am trying to balance writing with my day job, social life, schedule, etc. It’s very difficult to eek out those precious moments solely for breathing life into my characters and stories.
Writing in the mornings seems to be the key to creating that equilibrium. Two hours before work, I just tap away at keyboard as I allow my characters to guide me through their world. I spend the rest of my day in the real world at work and in the evenings I give my time to friends, family, and promoting my name: Kat Devitt.
At least, in theory, this should work. I’m finding it hard to wake up at 6am to write for two hours, until it is time to rush to work and beat to the drum of a job I hold a passion for. However, this job does not equal my passion for writing. I become tired and drag during the day. And, I find it hard to not take a catnap at least somewhere in the afternoon.
This is a common problem for many, if not most, aspiring writers. I made a blanket statement there, perhaps, but I view it this way in speaking to writers through various outlets and venues. Its hard to find that time. Its hard to dedicate yourself when it feels impossible. Its especially difficult when you are starting over in the writing world.
I’m not imparting much advice in this post, because I am still exploring the possibilities for making a balanced life between the practical and the writerly. If anyone has any tips or solutions, please drop it into the comments below. I am certain several writers out there would be interested in any imparted wisdom, myself included.
I found it impossible to write seriously when I was working full time because by evening I was too tired. Now I’m retired I write best in the mornings. Creativity is sometimes just ‘there’ and other times isn’t, so it’s hard to pin it down and force it out at a specific time like tooth-paste from tube!
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I’ve been reading quite a few studies about how creativity is at its ripest in the morning hours. If you write before you go to work or taking care of real life responsibilities, you are more likely to hit your creative stride, as you are not yet tired. Do you write at a specific time in the morning, or whenever you can, so as not to force the “toothpaste from the tube”?
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Being retired we get up when we wake up, often by the light. Then I just write when I’m ready – hardly ever look at a clock! I really dislike commitments, and targets, and am lucky enough not to have to live by them. ☺😊😀
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Ah, so I take it you are a pantser? I am one of those individuals that likes targets and commitments, otherwise I feel as if I am floundering. To each their own, I suppose? 🙂 Cheers!
I think the key is in not worrying so much about the quantity of time and striving more for a doable routine/schedule. (The key word being “doable”.) I don’t know about you, but for me, a 2 hour writing block is much too optimistic. Maybe you should cut that in half, or even down to a half-hour, at least at this point in your life, and then adapt accordingly as you see how things go.
I read a book almost 20 years ago that touted the ability to write one novel a year with only five minutes a day.
His main point?
To follow a routine and just write.
This routine could be a set time, a set place… or even just using the same, dedicated, favorite pen! For him, it was a favorite baseball cap. He called it his “thinking cap”. It’s basically a mental trick that tells your mind it’s time to get into “writing mode”, and then just producing new copy non-stop for your allotted time. No self-editing, no planning, no researching… just producing. The other tasks can be done higgledy-piggledy as time permits, but producing copy takes a certain mindset and focus.
It is purported that this is what Anthony Trollope did. He wrote for two hours every morning before going to work. He sat down, took out his manuscript, and and started writing, non-stop, until his two hours was up. It didn’t matter if he was in the middle of a sentence, or even a word. When the timer dinged, he put away his manuscript, and left for the post office. It didn’t even matter if he finished a manuscript with only 3 minutes left to go. He wrote “The End”, took out another piece of paper, and started writing his next novel for the last 3 minutes.
How’s that for being committed to a routine!
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Wow, talk about dedication! Writing two hours everyday before work is what I have been trying to commit to. I hadn’t known this was Anthony Trollope’s routine until I read your comment. I would like to reach this sort of dedication, but how does one develop such discipline?
I find your advice of maybe starting in smaller increments, and slowly increasing the allotted time, as a useful guideline. I’m sure any writer trying to become more serious about their craft would find this to be so.
Do you try to write for at least an hour a day, James? I’m curious to know. And, as always, thank you for reading and commenting!
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My life and work is such that my writiig is more sporadic. I can’t find much in the way of blocks of time. My writing time is in spurts while I work on other things…. do a little work, then while waiting for more work, I have a few minutes to write. Do a little more work, then a few minutes to write.
It’s a constant see-saw of work-write-work-write that coagulates into a few hours of writing every day. It’s not ideal, but its better than the alternative, which would only be a block of a few minutes each day.
Ah, sounds like quite the merry-go-round! If you don’t mind my asking, when you say you write between work, do you mean at the day job? I must confess, I do the same on occasion.
Yep. I snatch a few minutes whenever I can during downtime when I’m just waiting around for something that needs my attention.
I am lucky enough to be a morning person. I get up at four a.m. even if I don’t have to. That is when I write. I really don’t think it matters if you are a morning type or a night type, you simply must write when your creativity is best. The key is: you must write.
I read elsewhere on this site that your novels may never see the pages of a book. Why not? Do you think that only perfect manuscripts are ever printed? What is perfect for me may only be drivel to you. This may be the key to why you have trouble getting the writing done. You need to put yourself out there and hit publish.
Are you waiting for permission from a publisher? Here is a secret: You don’t need permission! Publishers have stacks and stacks of manuscripts on their desks. Getting a publishing deal may just be a matter of having the pile fall over and yours ending up on top.
Self-publish that thing! No, it doesn’t mean that it is less than traditionally published works, it just means that you decided to take the next step.
There will be other books that are better than yours and some that are worse. How is that different from traditionally published work?
Just do it.
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Thank you so much for your advice, Nancy. I can see creativity at its peak depending upon the individual. Writing in the morning might match a morning person, writing at night might match a night owl.
I haven’t given much thought to self-publishing, for the reason that I would need to do much of my own PR. I am uncertain if I’d have the time to push my novels in front of the eyes of the public. Outside of my thoughts on self-publishing, my age also remains as an insecurity.
But, connecting back to other writers, what are your thoughts on self-publishing vs. traditional publishing?
I used to write, more. I was a foreman on a residential framing crew, would wake up at 4:30, in fact i still wake up at 4:30, but I would always bang something out over coffee & cigarettes, some segmant of some serial I was writing at the time, call it an episode, and then email it to friends before I would leave for work, who kept egging me on. At 50, I got into college, after nearly 10 years of writing poetry & short stories and boning up on grammar and literature that I was way ahead of the pale in all my lit courses. I took every creativ comp courese, every composition course, every literature course they had to offer as well as Comparative Religions & World HIstory, and then I dropped out, I was burned out. Writing on command, and have actually written very little since except to rework some short stories online (Knitting Clouds) and I see all these so-called ‘aspiring” writers online and I think–yeah, I used to be one of those, though I never aspir4ed to publish, simply to create. The “vale” blogs is based on an ideal by John Keats, you can search it, but it is basically a soul-search project I started on Tumblr and moved here because 0eople on Tumblr simply don’t source the material properly. I would encourage anyone to write, for whatever reason, and yet I think I have said all I have to say, really, over nearly 15 years and so now I am simply soul-building. Though I might write more, except I feel it would tend to be suicidal for the most part. I have seen too much grief over the past 10 years to not believe there is something better on the other side.
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Oh, Charles. Thank you for opening up so much about your experiences with writing. It is very insightful and emotional. Your life sounds like a rollercoaster ride with peaks and lows. I hope you continue to work on your soul-building, and I hope this brings you closer to your writing–but for happier reasons. Maybe this is naïve of me to say, but I truly think writing can lead to happiness if we let it.
Having a job and being a writer part time is something that requires effort. Mornings are okay for me, but sometimes the BEST ideas and plots come across the mind at the most unsuitable time. By the time you try and grasp the trance, its gone. I think thats why most of those classical authors of old were self employed. When the pen starts to move on its own is always the best of times. 🙂
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Hi Kat, maybe you are being too hard on yourself. What if you could devote 45-60 minutes to it every morning, without exception (well, at least 5-6 days a week) and more if you really really want to on weekends? For most of us who have day jobs, that time, if it is really focused it is more manageable. I say that partly because I work a pretty intense job as well, so the idea of working for two whole hours would intimidate me. I think for me, just creating that regular rhythm and time slot to think/write and jot notes is critical, and it is less important about the amount of time. That daily momentum can achieve awesome things over time. Elizabeth Gilbert has some great advice in her book Big Magic, which I think helped me along as well. Best of luck!