How does a full time writer organize their
time? That’s what three author friends and I discussed at lunch on Sunday. Two
have young children; the other woman and I started writing when our children
were small, but they’ve now left home. She lives alone, whereas I have a
husband (and a dog!) In other words, although we’re all full time writers, we
all have different life demands to work around.
The main thing we agreed on was that you
have to be prepared to use every available moment. Janne, a Danish children’s
author, talked of once mapping
out every available hour in the following three months, and managing to write a
book in those stolen hours.
|The distractions of working at home|
People often say to me that they want to
write a book when they have time. I think that if you need to write, you’ll
find the time. My children were 4 and 7 the year I started writing seriously; I
worked 3 ½ days a week, an hour’s drive away, and helped my husband on the farm
when needed. There weren’t a whole lot of spare hours, but I grabbed what there
were. The next year, when my daughter started school, I wrote solidly on my one
full free day and frenetically on my free afternoon, about two and a half hours
between getting home from work and school bus pick up time.
In fact, in some ways it was easier to
remain focused then, because I knew how limited my time was. In the intervening
days, I carried the stories in my head, planning the next scene, rewriting the
last ones, gathering insights. When it was time to write, the words were ready
and waiting to pour out.
It’s not always so easy when you’re always
at home, always writing. The washing does need to be put on some time, so why
not now? And there’s always another cup of tea to be made, and you might as
well tidy the kitchen at the same time. It’s easy for a morning to disappear.
We’ve each used various ways to combat
this: working at the library, in a café, even renting an office. Three of us
are rigid about exercise routines, feeling we can’t write without them.
In the end, it all comes down to choice.
Writing may be a vocation, but it’s also a job. A very strange job, but still a
job: 10% inspiration, 90% perspiration, as someone said. You have to fit in the
time for the sweating part/
But the other side of it being a job, is
that paid employment has days off: weekends, public holidays, vacations. So once writing becomes
full time employment, instead of a hobby, we need to remember to take some time
off too. Decide not just how many hours a week to work, but how many to take off. That can be a much tougher discipline than finding the time to write.
Maybe I’ll blog on that part when I’ve worked it out.