Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Ask a Macmillan New Writer!

From time to time we get the occasional question on "Ask a Macmillan New Writer" and I thought this would be one we could all answer:

"Bev Morley has left a new comment on your post "Ask a Macmillan New Writer":

Hello everyone.

I have a question which I am guessing could be answered differently by every other writer, but could really do with hearing what has to be said on the subject...

The question is on the subject of time. Time, that is, for writing.

It is only in recent months that I have taken the plunge into "full time" writing - with some minor successes - and a lot of frustrations!

I consider my available time for writing to be Tuesdays to Fridays, from 9am to 3pm (the only time the house is quiet enough for me to write). The world and the laundry basket, however, seem desperate to conspire against me! My family see no difference in my "routine" as I am still at home, therefore lists of things I can do to fill my day still find their way onto the fridge door - a hazard, I suppose, of being a home based writer.

I would love to know how other writers manage their time, especially with the demands of family life still very much in the fore. "


Matt Curran said...

Hi Bev
You've  come to the right place to ask this.  I think everyone would agree here that the Macmillan New Writers tackle the problem of "writing time" in diverse ways, being that we are writers from all walks of life, with varying life-styles, family commitments etc.
Personally... I'm a part-time writer - having a day-job of 24 hours a week and writing-job of 10 hours on Mondays and Thursdays.  My writing hours are usually 8:30am - 3pm with lunch and a couple of tea-breaks thrown in.  This works well for me.  I tend to write about 10,000 words a week (1,000 words an hour) so my productivity isn't bad.  I lock myself away from everything - all responsibilities and distractions and Sarah knows I'm not to be disturbed at that time unless I venture out of the study.  I do get the odd distraction because I'm working from home (and because my two year old has worked out how to open "daddy's study door") but it means that come 3pm I've finished writing, I'm at home, and we have a few more hours together that I wouldn't normally have with the day-job. 
This all came about through necessity, as my previous circumstances didn't work well for me.  I had a 30 hour a week day-job and wrote 12 hours a week, including publicity work (which I've reduced considerably and will only get going again with the advent of another book-launch).  This meant doing a 42 hour week including evenings and weekends and last year was a difficult year for me and my young family.  It made my wife unhappy, I wasn't spending enough time with my two year old son and ultimately I was unhappy which also affected my writing.  Eventually Sarah and I decided to change my day-job hours and she would take up the financial slack of dropping those hours (she gets paid more than I do per hour anyway!).  Evenings and weekends are now non-writing zones; it was the only way to keep cohesion within the family.  I wouldn't say it is easy now, but at least we have more time together and I'm comfortable knowing that I can still get my writing done and have a family life.  I've gone from 10 hours a week with family, to having twice as much time and you can't put a price on that.

Aliya Whiteley said...

I find leaving the house helps, Bev. I love a good cafe, but then, background noise doesn't bother me at all. If I'm at home then, like you, I find myself doing the washing up or hoovering. Easier to not see it than to deal with it.

Giving myself a time limit helps too. An hour spent productively is much better than three hours interrupted by housework. Hope that helps a bit.

Len Tyler said...

Hi Bev

As you had already guessed, we all do it differently! What we do seem to agree on though is that you need to block in and protect writing time somehow. Writing is one of those things that can apparently be done any time and can therefore always be postponed - whereas cooking, publicity tours, picking up the dry-cleaning, blogging etc all seem to have more immediate deadlines attached to them. I try to allocate blocks of days when I will (mainly) write and blocks when I will (mainly) do other things. I never set a target for a number of words because some days I delete more than I write. But, however you do it, there is no substitute for putting the hours in.

Good luck with the writing!

Hartley James said...

I too have recently quit the work-a-day world and run into all the same problems.
I'm a schedule type person. You know the type. If I stick to schedule everything is fine, without it I kind of wander around the house looking for socks.
We tend to be creatures of habit. Try making a schedule and sticking to it for a bit.

Samuel J. E. Trawick, Author of The Frostbourne Chronicles

Doug Worgul said...

In my experience finding the balance between writing on the one hand and work and family on the other has been nearly impossible. It becomes a choice, and I'd rather feel guilty cheated, and unfulfilled for not spending enough time writing, than to feel guilty about not attending to family and work and leaving them feeling cheated.

Writing is a self-centered, self-indulgent pursuit. Whereas family and work are, when done well, centered on the needs and requirements of others. Writing is my calling, but in my heart of hearts I know that I was called first to be a husband and father, which requires certain things of me. It demands time, effort, thought, emotional and spiritual energy and commitment, and simple presence. It also requires that I work at a well-paying day job.

I hope that my books and my writing will be part of my legacy to my four daughters and my grandsons. But ultimately I want the quantity and quality of my love for them to exceed the quantity and quality of the writing I leave behind.

Alis said...

Hi Bev
On my writing days (three or four days a week depending on my other, slightly flexible work) I try and limit the housework by only doing ten minutes of it every hour - I try not to sit down for more than an hour at a time to be nice to my back so when I get up, I'll put the kettle and, while it's boiling I'll put a wash on or tidy the kitchen. I reckon to get at least four good hours a day done which, since I ususally start at nine means that if I eat lunch late, I've got the afternoon to sort out the rest of the housework and family-management stuff. It also allows for reading-time and taking a daily walk, both of which are essential - at least for me - if I'm going to keep the creative juices flowing.
Best of luck with your own work!