Tag Archives: time to write

When is writing right?

Recently I’ve been receiving some inspirational blog posts through my email. They’re from a writer who takes a very hard line about the business. I’m not going to quote this person directly, or make reference to their website, but the upshot is that they believe that being a writer, if you’re doing it properly, is the centre of your life. That anything else needs to take second place to putting your words down on…well, paper, screen, whatever you use.

From a certain point of view, I can agree with that. If you’re using your skill as a storyteller to write fiction for sale, or your ability to create interesting features to generate income from magazines, then yes, it’s a business. Like any business, you need to take it seriously and put in the effort it deserves. If you do the washing and ironing, then clear away the dishes and do the grocery shopping before you can start the day’s writing, you’re already behind. I get that.

Where it gets problematical (although I think that’s a made-up word) is that not everybody is in that position. I’m inspired by the example of James Moran, who wrote the feature films “Severance” and ‘Cockneys vs Zombies”. He held down a full-time job, but still wrote over twenty drafts of his first script because getting it exactly right and as good as he could was essential to realising his dream of being a screenwriter. He mentions in his blog that he would come in from work and start writing, he would write at weekends and at night because this was what he wanted.

Our favourite excuse, as writers, for NOT writing is : “I don’t have time”. Very few of the many, many writers in the world have writing as a full-time employment – by which I mean, the only thing they have to do during their work day. I’m luckier than a lot of people – my wife has a good job, and I only have to get the kids to school, then keep the house clean and running until they get back. The rest of my time can be spent writing. Except that the writing doesn’t directly add to the household income, so I actively pursue work that isn’t writing during the time I have FOR writing so that I can earn enough to allow me to remain at home and….not…write. Which brings me back to those emails.

There’s enough guilt in my life, thanks. I feel guilty that I can’t spend more time with my children. They have volunteer readers in their classes, they have adult volunteers on their field trips. I’m rarely involved with any of that. My house could do with more care and attention, but that would take some research and skills that take time to develop. My dog should have two walks every day, not just some days. My friends back in the UK should hear from me when things are ok, as well as when I’m grumpy, and my parents would probably like an actual letter to go with the emails. Maybe my family would appreciate me learning another meal to add to the seven I know how to cook. So, while I agree with the thrust of these emails – “If you’re a writer, then you should be WRITING! Writing is the most important thing in your day, don’t be ashamed of it!” I will still put family first. I know that means I probably won’t rise to the top of my profession, that I won’t outsell J.K. Rowling (and, given that I’m a playwright, that’s not surprising) but that’s a choice I’m making.

The sour grapes side of me wants to point out that the individual sending me these emails doesn’t have kids, and is “returning to the writing business”. They make their living as a writer by telling other people how to be a writer and working as a “Social Media Writer” for a large company. I don’t know what a Social Media Writer is. It might be a person who writes about Social Media, or it might be a person who writes about that large company ON social media. I don’t know. Either way, it’s not my place to judge their worth in telling ME how to be a better writer. Like I said, the core of their message is fair enough. Whether I want to take that advice to heart is up to me.

So here’s what I say about when to write. Write what you want to write, when you want to write. Write stuff you love writing, stuff you like to read. Write the stories that unroll in your head and drive you to your desk because they won’t lie still till they’re pinned to the page. Write because you have to.

You’ll be a writer because you write. If you want to be a rich writer, or to earn any money from writing, well…Then you need the discipline, the time and probably the guilt so that you FIND the time, no matter what else is going on in your life.

Disclaimer: Despite this appearing on the internet and probably leaving enough clues for a determined researcher, this post is not an attack on the person who is sending out the emails mentioned. They are entirely entitled to do what they’re doing, and I admire their standpoint even if I’m not standing there myself. If I really get upset by the emails, I have the option to remove myself from the mailing list and will do so if it becomes necessary. If anyone wishes to rush to the defence of this individual, please do so with courtesy and good spelling. If the individual feels persecuted and wishes me to retract any or all of the above post, I’d be happy to discuss it via email.

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Could you spare some time?

Have you got time to sit down?

All writing seems to be done against the clock. You won’t hear any writer say “Oh yeah, I have plenty of time to finish this piece.” If you’re not racing to beat a publishing deadline, you’re rushing to get your thousand words a day finished before the kids come home from school and start demanding unreasonable things like food and clean clothes.

The hardliners will tell you that if you don’t MAKE time to write every day, then you’re not really a writer. You have the same number of hours in each day as Earnest Hemingway, William Shakespeare and Julius Caesar. (Granted, Caesar didn’t write novels, but he did find the time to conquer Gaul and still write up his adventures: “What I did during the Summer, by J. Caesar.” Mind you, he also wore a bedsheet and always had leaves in his hair, which I think should rule him out as a good example.)

I’ve found the idea of writing every day to be a good one in theory, but harder to follow through, unless you bend your definition of “Writing”. I certainly get to the keyboard pretty much every day, but I don’t produce what I would count as writing. Up until last year, that didn’t matter much, because I had all the time in the world (between 9am and 3pm) to produce my masterpieces. For more information on how masterful they are, go look me up at www.lazybeescripts.co.uk . But with the arrival of our mortgage, I was thrust back out into the wicked world of work, and my writing time (and my Halo time, Facebook time, Twitter time…..) was severely diminished.

At least, it was from one point of view. From another, I still had time to write, I just had to work a little harder to make the most of it. During last year I wrote my full length play “Merely Players”, the first full length play I’ve ever written. I’d love to say I did it by getting up at five in the morning and getting in a good hour’s writing before the day began, but some of you know me quite well by now. I have only recently heard about five in the morning. It sounds intriguing, but I don’t want to go there. No, what I did was write a little here, a little there. Sometimes I wrote in the evenings, sometimes in the afternoons when the weasels were playing. Sometimes I had days at home when I wasn’t in work and the washing was done (or piled up in the basket accusingly.)

All this is not bragging. All this is me worrying, because it looks like I have found myself a new job. Better, in many ways than my last, because the hours will be more regular and there will be no weekend work. but it will be every day, with no wacky midweek breaks. I may get around thirty to forty minutes in each day when I will be home and the weasels will still be at school, but the washing, cleaning, cooking and shopping will still have to be done. If I want to stay a writer, not become someone who used to be a writer, I will have to work at it.

So tell me, how do YOU fit writing into your life? Or do you fit your life into your writing? Do you have weasels to wrangle, or have you got a dedicated weasel wrangler to take care of that? Have you read my amazing book “Writing a play for the Community Theatre”? It could change your life, you know, or at least fill some of the empty hours of it with witty prose and handy advice about writing plays.