Hello and welcome to the first in a series of blog posts written to coincide with Facebook Lives on the Chasing Driftwood Writing Group Facebook page. If you don’t already follow the page, here is the link; https://www.facebook.com/ChasingDriftwood
Our first topic and one that comes up again and again when talking to both new and established writers, is finding the time to write. I think it is true that everyone has a story in them and a story to tell, but finding the time to do it is often the number one thing that stops them.
Do any of us have the time to write? Well, perhaps if you are retired you might finally have the time on your hands, but what about the rest of us? I work with children and adults and even children these days cite lack of time in their increasingly busy lives as the main thing that gets in the way of their writing.
So, what can we do about this? Unfortunately, I don’t have the power to slow time or halt it, or add a few extra hours to the day for you, but I can tell you what has worked for me over the years.
When I was a child, I wrote endlessly. I loved writing and reading equally and if I was not doing one, I was doing the other. I was the kind of kid who hid under my duvet with a torch scribbling into notebooks or devouring paperbacks. I would rush up to my room as soon as I got in from school to write stories. This continued through my teens and into early adulthood. But slowly and surely, it started to fizzle out. Life started to get in the way! I wrote less when I was at University, and less still after I graduated and entered the adult world. And by the time I had my first child at the age of 24, writing was well and truly a thing of the past. I just didn’t have the time.
Or did I?
The truth is, when I was a kid, I had the time after school and I had the time in the evening because I didn’t have any other commitments. And obviously as I became an adult, my commitments increased, whether they were work or home based. I had less time, or so I thought.
In reality, the time was there, I just didn’t know how to utilise it.
Something had to change, as not writing made me sad and less able to cope with everything life threw at me. I didn’t feel like me without writing and even worse than that, I still had all those stories and characters shouting in my head, demanding to be let out!
When I was in my early 30’s I read a book and one of the characters in it reminded me of one of the characters in my head. I had written a book aged 12, rewritten it at ages 16 and 19 and then put it away as life took over. I suddenly felt utterly determined to write that story at last, even if I never shared it with anyone! Here is what I changed to get it done.
1 – I picked up a notebook and pen.
I don’t think the book would ever have happened if I had made myself sit down at a computer to stare at a blank screen. At that point, after so many years of not writing, I think I would have felt intimidated. It would have felt too big. Instead, I grabbed an A4 notepad and a biro and started writing. I could then carry this notebook around with me and I did. I started picking it up when everyone was out, and I started taking it to bed with me rather than a book to read. Before I knew it, the story was pouring out of me. Sometimes, good old fashioned pen and paper is the best way to start!
2 – I didn’t tell anyone to begin with.
Again, in those early days of regaining my writing, I felt very unsure about it and had very little confidence. I think if I had announced to the world or even my loved ones that I was writing a book after all those years, I would have felt the pressure immediately. It was scary enough without any added scrutiny so for a few weeks at least, I kept it to myself. I hid it under the mattress or the sofa if anyone walked in! I wanted to see where it went first and it felt very private. I think sometimes keeping it to yourself for a little while can allow that confidence to grow again naturally.
3 – I gave up watching TV.
This was probably the biggest change, and it had to happen. At that time I had three young kids and a full time job as a childminder. I was happy but exhausted on a daily basis. Once the kids were in bed, I would slump in front of the TV with a magazine and watch my soaps. I used to watch loads of them, plus reality TV! This had to change. I was wasting hours of potential writing time! Luckily, it wasn’t too hard to give up as my story was now consuming me day and night and just had to be written. I gave up TV for years. With such a busy home and work life, I had to give up something and the chances are, you will too. It’s all about making time for writing. In later years, I did start to let TV creep back and I now have the inevitable Netflix subscription! Now, I sort of regard TV as writing research and view it with a writer’s eye. However, if you are starting out and struggling to find the time to write, this could be the one big change you also need to make, at least initially.
4 – I built a writing habit and stuck with it.
I know the rule ‘write every day’ can be incredibly annoying if you hear it too often, so I’m not going to bang on about it here. Not everyone can write every day and not everyone should. What I would say is, you need to establish a writing habit and stick with it. Writing is like everything else in life, the more you do it, the better you get at it. And the more you write, the more you want to write! To start with, the writing is like an unused muscle. It’s there, but not really. It’s not sure what to do. But if you keep picking up that pen or sitting at that keyboard, the muscle will get used to being used again and it will start to work for you, not against you. For me, back when my children were small, I would write as soon as they were all in bed. No TV, no magazines, just straight to writing and no stopping. You would be amazed how this habit soon becomes hard to break. It’s a bit like exercise. You know you should do it, you want to do it, but the thought of it sometimes is too hard, so you have a day off and before you know it, days have turned into weeks and weeks have turned into months…and you are still unfit. It’s exactly the same thing. The only way to move forward is to pick a writing routine that works for you, stick to it and turn it into a habit.
5 – I told myself I deserved to write.
I think this is a big one – often, we view writing as a hobby, as an interest, as something fun and perhaps even a bit silly. We then allow ourselves to believe that we don’t deserve to spend time on something frivolous like writing. Other things are more important and deserving of our time – housework, childcare, family time, work commitments, shopping, gardening, DIY etc. Of course, these things are all important but if you start to view writing as important as well, you can convince yourself that you deserve to spend time on it. Look at it this way; if it is important to you to write, then writing is important! It has massive benefits to our mental health and our ability to communicate and deal with the world around us, at the very least! For me, I had to let go of all the little voices in my head that derided writing and believe me, I have heard them all over the years. It’s a waste of time, there’s no money in it, it’s not a real job, it’s a silly hobby, what’s the point and so on. If it is important to you, it is important! And if anyone questions you wanting to spend time writing, just tell them very simply and clearly that it is very, very important to you and hopefully they will back off a bit!
7 – I made the time – I chose writing
So, the thing is, it is unlikely that anyone is going to just hand you the time to write. It’s unlikely that your work and life commitments are suddenly going to decrease or demand less of you. You can’t sit around and wait for the time to write, or you will be waiting until your retirement. You can’t wait for your family and friends to give you some spare time either. It’s just not going to happen. You have to demand the time to write and make the time to write out of the time you have. Sometimes that simply means choosing writing. And choosing writing above other activities does involve some sacrifice. So you might give up TV for a while, you might give up some family time, you might let the garden get a bit wild, you might give up another interest for a bit. But that’s what it all comes down to. On the surface, no, you probably don’t have time to write. But neither do most other writers. Most writers have other jobs, in fact these days it is very rare to find even a traditionally published writer who does not also have a ‘day job’. Most writers have families and demands on their times. I now have four children and when the fourth was born, I promised myself this time I would not let my writing slip. I was absolutely adamant. I would write as soon as he was in bed and in the day, I would sit at the laptop with him over my shoulder, still writing. When he was old enough to play with toys, I would grab five or ten minutes here and there, letting him play while I wrote. It is possible!
8 – Take your writing with you!
Finally, the last tip I have is to make your writing mobile and take it with you! I have written entire manuscripts while sat in car-parks waiting for kids to finish various activities. I have jotted endless notes and scenes into my mobile phone when dog walking. I have taken notebooks to the strangest of places so that I can write if I feel the need! Don’t think of writing as something that only happens at your desk in your house, because inevitably this will make it feel like you need a certain amount of free time to sit down and do it. Writing can happen anywhere and at any time!
I think the last thing I would say about finding the time to write is this. If a story is important enough, if a story is growing in your head and consuming your thoughts, if characters are becoming so alive you can have conversations with them in your mind, if a story simply refuses to go away….then you must tell it and you will tell it. You won’t have a choice!
Finally, don’t forget we are here to help you! Drop us an email, ask questions or send messages on the Facebook page or join the Facebook group for writers. (Link is below) Support is there if you need it! Good luck!
Chasing Driftwood Writing Group Online https://www.facebook.com/groups/649109435226158/