A writer friend, RG, reported back to me that his efforts to write at lunchtime weren’t going all that well.
It was clear from conversation that RG had a particular set of challenges. So do you. So do we all. Most of what I suggest for most writers is written from the perspective of a writer with a 9-5 office job with a computer. As that’s the majority of us, it’s a fairly safe assumption. But it’s not everyone’s lot to sit on their ass all day, including RG.
You need to look at your own particular circumstances and adjust accordingly.
For RG, the suggestion of writing at lunchtimes didn’t work. So switch around your day so that you still get some quality writing time somewhere in your day. Perhaps use your 30 minute meal break to run some errands, make calls, or other essential chores. If you do them during your meal break, then you are freeing up time in other parts of your day that you could use for writing, instead.
Also, if you’re on your feet and moving all day, is there a shelf somewhere – behind the counter, or on the back shelf next to the syrups, where you can park a small notebook and pencil, and scribble down ideas when they occur to you?
I’m sure a lot of your job is rote, stuff that you barely need to think about when you’re doing it. If you deliberately switch your mind to your manuscript, and where it’s heading, you’ll at least be using what might otherwise be dead time to make some progress on your writing. And when you get a glimmer of an answer, scribble down one or two words that outline the solution, so that you remember it when you next get to your manuscript.
For anyone who spends a lot of time standing or moving, this way of “writing” is a great method to ensure your actual writing time goes lickety-split when you do get to sit down at the desk. When you finish a writing session, figure out what story questions have to be answered next. These could be questions like: “How is this scene going to end?” “What’s a killer comeback line for the hero?” “How do they get away from the bad guy with the gun?” and so forth. Or character questions: “What would Rick really do and say when she turns up at the end of this scene?”
Whatever answers or ideas you get as you move through your day, write down one or two key words so you’ll remember.
Basically, you’re brainstorming on your feet, which means you don’t have to waste time doing it when you’re at your desk – you can get on with cranking out pages, instead.
Be flexible in how you structure your days. If keeping vampire hours works better for you, then live life by the moon. If going for a run through the park and literally getting away from the day job for xx precious minutes works better for your meal break, then do that. You can write for xx minutes longer in the evenings/mornings, instead.
The important thing is to figure out when you can reasonably expect to get dedicated writing time during your day, and commit yourself to actually writing when you say you will. It might be that your writing time is split up across the day (mine is), but as long as you hit each and every scheduled writing session and actually write, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how much progress you make.
This is a game of increments. And the increments add up.
First appeared on Anchored Authors, July 19, 2008
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