Making time to write

2:53 PM



Since unveiling myself as an emerging novel writer, people have been asking questions. Silly me, I didn't really anticipate all the questions. I was unprepared! I have mumbled! I have rambled!


So I'm making like a writer and putting the answers in, y'know, writing, in the hope of giving you more succinct answers.


It's like being pregnant. I wanted to get a t-shirt with the due date printed on the front, and then printed on the back the words WE DO KNOW BUT WE'RE NOT TELLING, in answer to the two most common pregnancy related questions.


But for this particular baby, I'm going to need a bigger t-shirt!


The first question was 'What on earth were you thinking?' Oh wait, that was from me (shortly followed by 'Where's the wine?')


Okay, so the first question from other people when they find out I've written a novel is 'What's it about?'


Oh I can't tell you how much I love that question. And by love, I mean loathe. It ain't easy summarising 95,000 words into a paragraph. Cue mumbling and rambling. Cue people looking at their watch when I'm half way through and saying 'Gosh, is that the time?'


I used to tell people it was 'A road trip romance between two truckies involving blue singlets and chicken parmas' but nobody was buying that.


Now I can just duck for cover and say 'It's on the website' but that's also a cop-out. I've had to actually develop a tight little verbal blurb for the novel that I can deliver effortlessly. Yep. That's working out really well.


Look, you can just read it on the website okay?


The second most common question is 'How do you find time to write?'


Now THIS is a question I have answers for! Three of them actually.


1. GET UP WITH THE KOOKABURRAS


Like most women, I'm a busy gal. I've been running a business for 17 years which demands a certain amount of time every week in order to keep ticking. I also have two children at home, one of whom still expects lots of swing-pushing and help with sight words. Both of them expect to be fed and clothed daily. I know, preposterous!


Both my family and my paid work are non-negotiable. They need and deserve my time. I'm accountable to people who have expectations of me.


For a long time, the writing just didn't happen because I couldn't find a nice long stretch of time to sit down with my friend the muse and let inspiration flow.


But I've learned a few things since then, mainly that the muse rarely shows up, inspiration is more likely to be found on a good walk when you can think, and that you have to make the time to do the writing.


For me, that means a 5am start every week day. I set the alarm on my phone and leave it in the kitchen so I'm forced to get up and turn it off. And once I'm up, I'm up! It's amazing how much I can get done. But then, I'm a morning person so it's not a big deal for me. I love the quiet stillness of the early morning. Except when the kookaburras start up. Good grief, they make a racket!


If I can knock out 500 words in that first 'hour of power' then that's 500 more words than I had yesterday. And all those little 500 word sessions add up. In six months they add up to around 80,000 words and that, my friends, is a novel's worth of words.


Are they perfect words? No. Do they need lots of polishing, rearranging, slashing? Yes. So there's my next round of 5am starts - doing the edit. This is the phase I'm in now. A few pages every morning and it's almost done. I'm handing the manuscript over to my beta readers next Tuesday. (Terrified would be an understatement regarding how I feel about that!)


2. GIVE SOMETHING UP


Of course, the 5am starts take their toll. It's not uncommon for our family to rent a movie on a Friday night and I'll be all like 'Yeah! Let's rent a movie!' But it doesn't really matter what they rent because I'll be slumped on the sofa fast asleep while the opening credits are still rolling.


Sacrifices must be made people!


For me, it's television. I've learned that my life is not significantly poorer if I don't watch Masterchef (and I'm fairly certain I'm quite a lot better off by not watching The Bachelor) My one indulgence is Offspring but that's a once-a-week gig and the season is woefully short. I'll also tend to record it and watch it while I'm eating lunch because when time is in short supply it's all about the multi-tasking!


3. DIY WRITER'S RETREAT


Every year, my husband asks what I want for my birthday and for the last 3 years, I've asked for the gift of time. If you're a parent, especially a working parent, you'll know why that is the best gift in the universe.


Last year I took myself up to Newcastle for 3 nights to coincide with the Newcastle Writer's Festival. I interspersed trips to the festival with big chunks of writing time, as well as plenty of walks, swims in the ocean and eating M&Ms that I DIDN'T HAVE TO HIDE FROM THE CHILDREN!


The year before that I rented a room in a fabulous apartment in Sydney's Redfern that I found on Airbnb. The woman who owned it was a fellow creative with a studio down the road that she ended up staying in. She left me alone in her wonderful home filled with books and art, and a kitchen full of fruit, tea and wine for me to enjoy.


I got through a huge chunk of tricky writing over those few days - the big, boring, middle-of-the-novel slump, when the end seems so far away and you're desperately trying to figure how to get your characters from point A to B in the most interesting way. I spent a lot of time staring out of the enormous windows at the trains coming and going from Redfern Station and worked, walked and ate my way through it.


So they're my top three tips for making time to write whilst simultaneously doing this thing called 'life'. At least, these are the things that work for me.


How do you fit creative pursuits into your life? I'd love to know.


Meanwhile, here are some tips from other authors on the subject of making time to write . . .


Allison Tait - How to make the time to write (Allison also runs a course on this very topic at the Australian Writer's Centre)


The Creative Penn - Writing a book: Where do you find the time to write?


Elizabeth Gilbert - The most important tool in a creative person's life

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