Thursday, December 9, 2010

Finding Time to Write

Something has shifted this year. I have found the gear lever and finally put the car into motion. I can pinpoint exactly when this happened and now it has finding time to write is paramount. So if you are still struggling to find the time to write I'll let you into my secrets (because they're not really secrets!)

First the point when I realised I had to do something about it. Writing has been a passion all my teenage and  adult life but it was a hobby. I never considered it anything more than this but dreamt of being published (like you do.) My imagination has always been very active and in my final year of University when I should have been concentrating on my dissertation I was busy writing  a novella at the same time. In my early years as a physiotherapist I continued to write but this became less and less as my job role became more senior. I have always been quite a bold and determined woman so becoming ill was not part of the agenda. So when not so much my illness but the side effects of my tablets became problematic I started thinking about what else I could do. 

My job as a Senior Physiotherapist was strenuous and as I am on immuno-suppressants I caught every bug going. It was a big decision but I decided to leave the NHS as by that stage I was really struggling with fatigue as a result of continuous sinus infections. There were lots of jobs within the same field I could have considered  but they were only a substitute for working in the area I loved (Medical In-Patients - I always liked trying to work out what was wrong!) Somehow I knew the only thing that would satisfy a change in career was if I pursued my writing ambitions.

This however is not the light bulb moment I am referring to. I think my light bulb was on some kind of dimmer switch. I totally gave up my job and started working part-time in my local shopmobility. It was a total change in lifestyle but for the better. I then went on and spent almost a year not really writing. It is very easy to not write. 

The point at which I realised I had to do more than just say I was a writer was before I started this blog. Within a short period two things happened that helped spur me on. The first was the renewal (or rather the non-renewal) of my registration with the Health Professionals Council. It was a bit like pulling my safety net away from me. Then on holiday someone asked what I did and I said a writer but then how can I back that up? I was still at that in-between stage (still am really) but at least these days I know I am doing everything possible to get myself there. It had dawned on me that I had shut the door on my previous profession and I needed to start working on the next. On that holiday I scrawled my first blog in a note pad determined that I was going to make a start. Now I have made a start I'm finding it easier and easier to make time for writing. So now I have waffled on for a bit here are my tips for anyone wanting to know how to find time to write (without the whole 25/8.)

  • Are you sitting comfortably?
    • One of the major reasons I get lots done is because of how I sit. I get back ache if I sit at a conventional desk for any period of time so I type from my sofa! I get up and do other tasks in between and never end up with an aching back. I have a nifty tray for my laptop and my office is created.
  • Have more than one project on the go
    • How much you write depends on the time you have available. If you only have ten minutes why not write a piece of flash fiction which you could later enter into a competition? My varying shifts mean having more than one project to choose from can be helpful.
  • Learn to say NO
    • It is very easy to let everything and anything get in the way of writing. Whether it is your working or social life there is a point at which you have to say no. Only you can decide at what point that is. But if like me you are hoping that writing will become more than a hobby then you have to start treating it as a profession. I now treat my free hours as working hours.
  • Ignore the housework
    • On the same note you must also learn to ignore the housework. It can wait. If you worked away from home you couldn't nip back to do the washing up or any of the other household chores. 
  • Write with purpose
    • Have a plan, know what you are up to or what competitions you plan to enter that month. If you have set goals in mind you are more likely to try and achieve them.
  • Increase the amount
    • I have found over past months this has happened naturally for me. The more I have written the more ideas I have been able to identify leading to more projects. If this does not happen naturally set yourself a challenge of increasing the time you write or the word count you produce.
  • Find a vice
    • Mine is tea and plenty of it. When I'm writing tea breaks are what get me through and having something to break it up will make it more enjoyable. As long as this doesn't turn into procrastination.
  • Never give up hope
    • Writing is not easy. If I wrote a list of reasons not to find time to write this blog would be much longer. When rejections come along or your great idea didn't win don't be disheartened. Instead do some reading, find out where you want wrong and try again. When I was eighteen and wanting to get into University to study Physiotherapy I was essentially told not to bother. The ratio of applicants to places at that time was 25:1. I didn't get through the conventional UCAS system and instead sent out an 'Information Profile' to all the Universities after failing to get even an interview. I included a photo on everyone and all the glowing placement reports I couldn't include on the UCAS form. The week before clearing two universities phoned me up and offered me a place. It was an unconventional way to go about it (and it is now banned - think I started a trend!) but it worked. I see writing a little bit like this. You have to find a way to elbow your way through and get yourself noticed. If you let yourself be turned away at the first hurdle then there was little point starting in the first place. Instead when ever you feel like giving up, pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start writing again.  

If you have read all of this I salute you :) 


  1. Very good advice, especially the 'ignore the housework.' It took me a while to learn this and now do it in the time I'm not working, ie put the washing machine on at lunchtime, empty it after 5pm. It took my husband a bit of time to get his head around it, but I just kept on saying 'if I was in an office, I couldnt do it' Also, 'feel free to pop home from work and do it yourself' seemed to hammer the point home too!

    I agree that if you want to write, you will eventually find time for it. If you have small children then you need to grit your teeth and accept that maybe your writing time is yet to come, or get up earlier, turn of the TV etc., personally, I think there is a 'light bulb moment' in most peoples lives when they decide what they *really* want to do.

    A great post that many will identify with :-)

  2. Hi Catherine! I enjoyed this post, but I will have to come back and read it again... energy failed me half way through!
    The bit you said about flash fiction is good. With little energy I've only in the last 6 months found out about flash and micro fiction. If you have little energy they are fab to read to, much like poetry is - short blasts. Perfect really and there are lots of websites where people are posting up their flash fiction too.

  3. I agree flash fiction is an excellent way to get yourself writing quickly, and is also challenging, and thought provoking.

    Often ideas for much longer stories have come out, of what started out as 100 word stories.

    Good post Catherine.

  4. Thank you everyone - I love flash fiction! It is a great challenge to get a story in only a few words!