Making time to write
By Ginny Swart
You want to write, you’ve got a great idea for a story, you’ve made a few notes – but your life is just too busy to find the time to get behind your computer.
The trick is managing your time in a way that allows at least an hour of “me-time” or rather, writing time, in every day.
First, decide when you feel the freshest and most creative.
For some people, this might be 5.30 in the morning, before the rest of the family is up and demanding your attention. There are plenty of well-known writers who do their best writing at this time and have written entire novels in that snatched hour before they have to go to work or take the kids to school
Or you might be a night owl – able to write when everyone else is in front of the TV or in bed, leaving you in a silent house. No telephone ringing, no distractions, just you and your writing. You’d be amazed at how much you can write in an hour of undisturbed computer time.
On the other hand, there are a very few people who are happy writing at odd moments. They leave their computer switched on and grab the odd fifteen minutes here and there. If that works for you, fine! You’re one of the lucky ones.
Learn to say NO.
Once you’ve found the writing time that suits you best, and you’ve carved yourself a regular writing slot in your day, learn to say no to family and friends who want you to do something else. Tell yourself (and your family) that writing is an extension of your job. It’s something that has to be done and you can’t put it off. They’ll soon learn to respect the fact they have a writer in their midst!
For most writers, it’s best not to try and split yourself in two, by listening to homework or making supper while you dash back to your computer in between. You’ll lose focus and you’ll end up by doing neither task successfully.
Find the environment that suits you.
If you’re a tidy soul at heart, and hate being surrounded by a disorganized desk, it’s worth spending five minutes tidying up. Then you won’t be distracted. But if you’re one of those people who work best with the kids in the same room, the TV on and someone playing loud music upstairs, that fine. Just don’t allow your surroundings to give you an excuse to procrastinate!
Lose the guilt!
It’s no good sitting down to write when you know you promised to clean the car/ wash the dog/ take the cat to the vet. You need to get important chores out of the way and the best way to do this is make a list of Absolute Must-do’s for that day. Once they’re done, close the door and write. The small stuff can wait until tomorrow. (This doesn’t apply to you early risers!)
So yesterday you started well, but…
You’re ready to write, so you open your document and stare at the screen. You re-read what you wrote yesterday and you tweak a word here and a word there.
But new words just won’t come. You hit the delete button after every few sentences. Today’s writing session is a disaster.
Relax! This isn’t the dreaded Writer’s Block - your story just needs to bubble inside a little. Go away and think about it. Take the dog for a walk. Skip your writing for today if nothing seems to come right.
Someone (it must have been a writer) said, “Writing is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.” But if that 1% is missing today, don’t worry. It’ll be back tomorrow.
And the good thing about writing short stories is: there is no deadline. No one is demanding that story from you by the end of today. There is always another issue of that magazine next week, or next month.
On the other hand, making a decision to finish a story by the end of next week is a probably a good idea. It gives you a focus.
Joining a Writer’s Circle is also an excellent boost. You usually have monthly assignments that you are expected to finish and it’s good discipline.
Don’t be distracted
If your computer tells you that you have an e-mail, ignore it!
If you always feel like a cup of coffee the minute you sit down, make it before you start writing. If you often get up looking for a snack, take that piece of celery to the computer. (You were going to snack on a bit of celery, weren’t you?)
If you need to research a fact that you must have in order to move your story along, Google it, record it and close the Internet. You can easily get sidetracked reading other interesting, but irrelevant, stuff. Save that for after your writing time.
Ginny Swart started writing short stories in 2001, and to date has sold over 200 short stories to women's magazines all over the world.
Her more serious work has appeared in literary publications in South Africa, Canada, and New Zealand and on the Web. In 2003 she won the esteemed UK The Real Writers Prize from over 4000 entrants.
Ginny tutors the Short Story Writing Course at SA Writers College and is a SAFREA member.