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Talk the talk…and walk the walk

April 7, 2011

I write, therefore I am… or something. Writers have built up a cultural mystique over the years, from the starving loner scribbling in a freezing garret to the wildchild torn between his typewriter and the nearest bar. Since a writer becomes something you are rather than something you do, there is a certain amount of curiosity about “the writer’s life”. I’ve been writing so long that the writer’s life and, well, life in general are one and the same, so I had no idea what I was going to talk about today. Luckily, my contributor cohort Rob Diaz saved the day when he said he’d like to know how I make or find time to write, considering the other things I do. How, you might wonder, does a writer actually live life?

To be honest, I’m probably not the best person to ask. I don’t have a family to care for, and the only real demand on my time comes from the ol’ day job. Of course, I have other hobbies, as well as academic pursuits, and then there are errands to be run, and housework to be done… it all sucks up the time that I’d like to spend writing.

Still, it’s entirely possible to both make, and find, time in your average day to write – and if you’re going to settle for the writer’s life, then it’s important that you do so. The more you write, the better you’ll get, and the better you get, the more you’ll want to write… it’s an endless circle you definitely want to be a part of.

But how?

1) Utilise any spare moments.

No time is truly lost until you choose not to use it. Use the time you spend mopping the floor or standing in a queue to daydream, or mull over plot problems. If you have a daily commute that doesn’t involve driving, then you can use the time to either read a book on the craft of writing, or go over your own work in a mini editing session. Always keep something to write on and something to write with close at hand for those moments when inspiration strikes.

2) Cut out what you don’t need.

I might watch a lot of films for my academic pursuits (which I’d argue are often useful to writing in terms of analysing story structure etc.) but aside from the occasional science or art documentary, I don’t watch much television. I’m just not interested in it. Therefore I automatically have more time. Think about it–that half hour you spend watching that soap opera several nights a week could be half an hour you spend writing.

3) Make a commitment to yourself, and keep it.

Non-writers often don’t understand the time and peace that a writer needs to get some work done–sitting at a computer/typewriter doesn’t seem like work, so they’re unwilling to give the writer any space. However, while it’s important to tell others that you’ll be unavailable for a short period while you’re working, it’s important to tell yourself that you’re unavailable, too. Put your phone on silent, turn off the Internet and just get on with it. Don’t kid yourself that you need the Internet for research–you can check your facts later once you’ve done the writing.

4) Always have a project on the go.

It’s difficult to think about writing, or to find the motivation to write, if you don’t have some kind of project to go back to. Even if it’s just a short story or your next Friday flash, simply having a project at all is a good reason to write. After all, nature abhors a vacuum, and there is nothing that satiates the ego more than completion.

5) But remember to LIVE.

Writers need real experiences to draw on when creating their fiction so as well as finding the time to actually sit down and write, don’t neglect life too much. Get out there and live it.

  1. Jason Coggins permalink
    April 7, 2011 2:21 am

    I find always having a project on the go ticks all the boxes. It’s with me gestating when I cycle to work, when I get a few moments to daydreams at work, in the bathroom, under the shower, when I go on a run and by the time I actually get my arse in the seat the story is ready to rock. This is vital for me. I need to be excited by what I’m writing and dread those (thankfully infrequent) absences when I have no stories on the go. I also find neglecting housework works a treat too!

  2. adampb permalink
    April 7, 2011 5:26 am

    Practical and applicable advice. Great work, Icy.

  3. April 7, 2011 7:29 am

    I am so glad you wrote this, Icy! Wasted time is something I loathe, but something I’m finding I’m doing too much without even realizing it. Some of it is about the actual timing of when I have “free” time (at night) — I barely function when the sun goes down, so it’s never easy for me to NOT waste time at night. But it’s something I’m working on. Your tips in this post will definitely help me out.

  4. April 7, 2011 7:54 am

    Always have irons in the fire and customers waiting – excellent advice.

  5. April 7, 2011 8:28 am

    Having a project on the go is essential I agree. I have trouble, however, focusing on one project at a time. I seem to flit from one to the other, which means that my progress on all of them is slow. Has anyone got any tips for seeing a big project through to completion and avoiding distractions?

  6. April 7, 2011 10:46 am

    Jason – Yeah, I feel a bit “lost” when I don’t have a project!

    Adam – I’m ever the practical one. Useless for anything else!

    Rob – Well it was you that prompted it!! Hope the tips help.

    Tony – Haha, you summed it up beautifully!

    Wordsmith – I actually wrote a post on that over on another blog I write for – here.

  7. April 7, 2011 10:54 am

    Nothing to add, just that I enjoyed your post. 🙂

  8. April 8, 2011 1:25 am

    Great post, and I agree completely. Life just doesn’t seem complete without a writing project simmering away on a low heat. It’s when I have mutiple projects on the go simultaneously that the fun really starts! 🙂

  9. April 8, 2011 2:33 am

    Good advice. But how do you beat your will into submission to make sure you stick to it?

  10. April 8, 2011 5:45 am

    Awesome post Icy! 🙂

    Cut out the crap that distracts is so important… especially TV. It’s so easy to see your favorite Seinfeld episode on and say “I have to watch this!” But come on, the episode is 20 years old now… you can watch it any time.

    It’s very easy to say “I have no time” but unless you take a second and think about your day, you never really know how many little moments are there. And trust me, I know – I have two boys under the age of 3 plus work plus writing… not a second to waste in the Bronyaur home. 🙂

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