Yesterday I posted my Wednesday book review very late in the day. Normally I finish a book a week before so I can get the review scheduled and ready for Wednesday afternoon, 12:00PM GMT+2. Not this time. With CampNaNo starting up, preparations to make, book review requests flying in, reading to be done, social media updates, blogs to read and trying to squeeze in what I can still recall from my art lessons… an obvious conclusion suddenly hit me:
Well I do have the time, but all of these activities are time consuming. With work taking up a bulk of my day, it leaves a very limited amount of time to do everything. If you remember my previous blog post Trade Mistakes, I talked about one of the bad habits writers must work through, the “I don’t have time for this.” bad habit. Now there are legitimate reasons, and you can read the article for clarity, but here’s a truism about writing we as writers must embrace: writing takes time.
“Time is what we want most,but what we use worst.”
― William Penn
I write for Gamecca Magazine, a free online digital magazine on games, lifestyle, comics, technology and great articles about the world of gaming in general. My monthly writing consists of a writing previews, which are foresight on upcoming games, what they entail, when they release and so on. Now a one page preview is about 270 words. I can bash out 270 words in 5-10 minutes easy. But to make sure I don’t end up re-hasing the same content the myriad of online gaming sites have, my writing involves lots of research – websites, trailers, developer blogs. And then the writing is no longer 5-10 minutes but 20-30, most of which is spent re-writing, rephrasing, and making sure I don’t overshoot the word count. Three or four previews could take close to two hours in a day.
Earlier this week, determined to write, I got home from work at around 6PM and just crushed out around 3000 words. Being a discovery writer is a perk in this regard as I hadn’t touched that draft in months, picked up the story and just flew right through. I looked up and it was 8PM. 2 hours, gone, just like that.
My Steampunk horror story has a lot of research and looking up the right words, places, settings etc. From the top of my head, I have no map of England to refer to, or what cities are close enough for my character to traverse and how would that happen in that setting etc. So the 1500 words I wrote for one scene took a little over 3 hours.
Book reviews take time to write, writing this blog post takes time to write, making preparations for a writing project takes time, research for your writing takes time, writing your novel, short story, poem, article etc takes time: writing in general takes time.
“Time is what keeps everything from happening at once.”
― Ray Cummings, The Girl in the Golden Atom
It’s so obvious and yet we completely overlook it, or at least don’t grasp it’s fullest extent. So here’s some things to consider as you plan to write:
- Plan the prep AND the writing: Don’t put aside an hour for writing and spend half of it researching and the other half writing, break those two into separate times if you can. The odd Google or Thesaurus check is okay.
- Outlines: I know, I know, and as a discovery writer this is not really up my alley, but as my previous article My Plotted Guide to Pantsing has said in more detail, get a basic outline to guide you and pants your way through it. Separate the two too if you can.
- Goals: Although it can be linked to “outlining” you can also set goals for your writing before hand. Find out what your average word count is in an hour or two or however long, and set that goal. Or set a scene as a goal. Or plotting as a goal. Or research as a goal. And stick to it! Then you know how long you can plan your writing time for.
- Tell people to go away: Okay just warn them that for the next hour or so you are not to be disturbed, even if the house is on fire. Disruptions can take precious time away and you don’t want that.
- Put aside distractions: Turn off the internet. Put your phone on silent and hide it in the other room. Log out of Steam or Battle.net or Skype anything that will pop up and distract you. You’ve set time aside for writing, and writing takes time, so just do it.
- Find your space: Find a a good corner away from distractions and where you are most comfortable. Writing takes time, and that’s time spent in one position for quite a while. Make it a pleasurable experience.
- Time your writing: You know when you are most productive in your writing. If it’s between 2am and 4am, then schedule everything else around it so you don’t arrive at work as a zombie. Or bark at the car beside you because you overslept and they are in your way.
- Prepare your environment: Move the kettle to your writing space. (Sorry fam, I need dis!) Take your bathroom break, set-up your laptop/computer. Prepare your playlist. Don’t waste your writing time with things that could be done beforehand. When you have an hour to write, write for an hour.
And lastly, be disciplined. If you have free reign on your time, as I sometimes do, then plan it accordingly. But keep to your time. Also, take breaks. You can’t be staring at your screen for three hours straight. Well you can, but don’t. Get up and take a short walk. Stretch. Do breathing exercises. Go talk to your family or friends. And lastly, enjoy your writing and just write.
“Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.”
― Louis L’Amour