Sunday, March 25, 2007

Writing Time

The perennial problem of writing time has come up again this week, not just for me but for several writers I know. Most writers have to work at some kind of job to pay the bills and keep a roof over their heads. The average yearly income for a writer in Australia is around $6000 (I imagine that's for writers who file tax returns as writers - it wouldn't include those the Tax Office consider to be hobbyists). $6000 would barely pay the rent on a small apartment. So we work at "real" jobs, ones our families acknowledge because we get money for them each week.
Therein lies part of the problem. Families (including spouses, children and parents) usually consider writing to be either a waste of time, a nice little hobby, or something annoying that takes the person away from what they should be doing - looking after everyone else. Women suffer this more than men (and you can argue with me about that until the cows come home, if you want, but it's true).
How do you carve out writing time in a day that is probably filled with work, cooking dinner, cleaning up, paying bills, organising things to be fixed, quality time with family, relaxation ... you can add your own time-consumers. I've read lots of those articles where famous writers talk about writing their first novel by getting up an hour earlier, or writing on the train, or running away on weekends - snatching any kind of time they can to put words on the page. And it's true. Until you sell your first novel/book, that is exactly what you have to do.
No one is going to knock on your door and offer you two hours a day to write. If only. It's also unlikely that your family is going to offer to go away and entertain themselves for two hours a day, or do half of your chores and errands for you (oh, if only!). The only person who can find that time to write - wrestle it barehandedly out of the 24 - is you. You have to want and need it badly enough to do it, or it won't happen.
I probably learned this lesson through participating in NaNoWriMo a couple of years ago. Suddenly, because I had to write 50,000 words in a month, I found the time. Half an hour here, an hour there. Leaving my computer on with the file open helped a lot. No down-time waiting for things to boot up - I could just sit and go.
But I still have to remind myself of this lesson every so often. Especially when life crowds in and it becomes almost easier to give in, to say "maybe next week I'll find time to write". No, you won't. That's like saying "I have a big bill to pay - maybe next week I'll find $200 lying around". Won't happen.
By the way, we've started a blog for our writing students, a place for them to post their writing or thoughts about writing. We've given them some jumping-off points, and hope they will all contribute - that includes our fellow writing students in Tucson, AZ.
Check it out at


Anonymous said...

I am taking an online Writing for Children class and appreciated your input in Lesson #6. I recently have decided to dive into my dream. I have some very rough drafts and some poems. I am taking this class so I can take my writing to the next level. Anyway, with a new 5 month old baby things are rather crazy and finding time is difficult but I feel this is the time to get the ball rolling. When I get on a roll and think I've created the next best thing I have to then look back and say...oh my...get back to the drawing board! I hope to tighten up my work as a result of this class and taking advantage of additional resources available to me. I will bookmark this site and become more familiar with you and your work. You have provided me with inspiration. Thank you!

PS: My mother's from Tasmania!

Sherryl said...

Thanks for your comment - and I'm glad you enjoy the blog. Isn't it funny how, when we are busiest and life is jam-packed, that's when we feel the strong urge to write.
Not just a sanity-saver, but a way of saying "this is for me, this counts". Good luck with your writing.