Some people have the mistaken belief that a writer's life is all about sitting in café, writing brilliant prose while sipping coffee, or lounging at home without a care in the world as the story literally leaps onto the page.
Writers are some of the hardest-working and devoted people, and most cannot afford to live from their craft – which means that they work a full job, look after the family, do chores and errands and, on top of all that, devote precious time to writing.
How do they cope? Here are some tips for bringing writing into your life.
1. Switch off
The very first thing to do is to switch off the TV and get off the web. Add up the amount of time you spend on these activities before you say that you have no time to write. Often the small distractions can add up to many hours wasted.
These activities give you a great excuse to procrastinate, so turn them off. You'll soon find that you don't miss them. The key to having time for something is making time for it.
2. Set a writing time
Find out when your most creative and alert time of day is and set that as your personal writing time. During this time, accept no distractions – don't check email, don't do chores. Tell your family that it is your private writing time and that they may not interrupt you.
Once you're left alone with just your writing in front of you, guess what you'll end up doing! You should take at least 30 minutes to an hour every day.
Many writers manage to fit this time into their schedules despite having a full-time job and a family to care for. If you're determined enough, you can make it happen.
Wake up earlier or go to bed later; spend your lunch break writing; organise a playgroup or sitter for your children to get that free hour – and make sure you spend it on writing, not on other chores or tasks.
3. Create a habit
There are various sayings about how long it takes to create a habit. The key is to stick with the writing and one will form eventually. While part of writing is talent, a much greater part is skill and exercise. Writing is just like any other activity – the more you do it, the better you get and the easier it is. One of the easiest ways to ingrain this habit is to start your own blog and write an entry every day.
4. Make a plan
There's no sense scheduling time for writing if you have nothing to write. Sitting in front of the screen and creating aimless sentences won't do much for your morale or enthusiasm.
So create a plan: start a blog, outline a novel, conceptualised a series of short stories – whatever you have to do to introduce structure to your time.
And set reasonable goals: you won't finish a novel in a month, but you can complete a chapter in about two weeks. Create a time schedule on your calendar and cross off goals when you reach them.
5. No excuses
Finally, don't allow yourself to make excuses about not writing. This is probably the hardest step to overcome because committing to something like writing can be overwhelming and scary.
Really ask yourself: would I rather be watching series repeats than writing? Do I need to do chores right now at the expense of my writing time? Do I need to sleep in an extra 30 minutes, or could I wake up earlier and get some writing done?
Once you've made the commitment, the answer should be an emphatic “No”.
What are your best writing tips? Share them with us in the comment box below.
Ron Irwin is a professional literary agent, editor and author based in Cape Town, and completed two Masters degrees under the supervision of Nobel Prize-winning author Prof JM Coetzee. He is also the convener of the Random House Struik Creative Writing course which starts on 21 February 2011. For more information contact Karin on 021 685 4775 or Karin@getsmarter.co.za, or visit www.getsmarter.co.za