Monday, June 22, 2009

Writing Dojo #1: Finding the time.

'Ability is nothing without opportunity.'
-Napoleon Bonaparte

'Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of — but do it in private and wash your hands afterwards. '- Robert A. Heinlein

When I first kicked off The Canadian Defender last year, I made a point of placing in my User Information the notion that I'd be exploring writing in this blog as well as providing my opinions about popular culture in film, comics, and literature. Of course, in my own personal grand tradition I immediately began focusing entirely on the minutea of superhero comics and characters to the point where any notions I might have had about sharing my opinions and experience with writing prose were broomed to the side and left to collect dust. Which is unfair, in my opinion. I can ramble on about upteen zillion ways on how One More Day sucks, so why is it so difficult to use an open forum to discuss writing and my own efforts to become a better author?

Hence my creation of this series of articles, the Writing Dojo. Here we'll get in on the ground floor of the creative process, and I'll talk about how I take it all in and try to work with it. I'll also discuss some of the books that made me want to write and ones I've found helpful in getting me started. And what better place to begin this series than to talk about how to get started, and how to budget time effectively?

I can't speak for anyone else but for the most part my days are already managed, as I suspect a lot of yours are too. Simply put we wake up, we go to work, we come home, we go to sleep. For the full-time professional author I think time management has to be much more hands on (I have to imagine the temptation to lose oneself in a good book, or do some housework, or watch television has to be pretty tempting) but for the most part I can count myself 'fortunate' that a large portion of my day is spoken for already(of course it does mean I do get a steady paycheck and health benefits, so I suppose I shouldn't complain. I'd make for a lousy starving artist). Let's take a look at how a typical day breaks down for one Mr. Dooks:

10:oo am - Wake up.

10:30 am - Breakfast/Internet time.

11:00 am - Shower/Dress

11:30 - Bus to work.

12:00-8:00pm - Work.

8:30pm - Bus home.

9:00pm - Home.

9:30pm - Supper

10:oopm-2am - Free time.

2am - Bed.

As we can see, the top of the day is usually pretty full, while the bottom third might be the best place to slot in some writing time. As a night owl by nature I prefer to write later, and on weeknights I'm less likely to be out and about. So, a quick ammendment:

10:00pm - 11:00pm - Free time 1

11:oopm - 12:ooam - Writing

12:00am -2am - Free time 2.

An hour a day for 5 days seems workable to begin with. Firstly I'm not trying to burden myself with too much too soon, thereby running the risk of getting down on myself, getting frustrated, then abandoning the work altogether. It also keeps the work feasible, and helps to keep anxiety to a minimum. Writing a 500-page novel can seem terrifying, but if you've only got an hour a day's work to think about it doesn't seem so scary. Of course, as you develop you may want to extend the period of time to an hour and a half, two hours, and so on. Stephen King maintains a writing schedule of eight hours a day, but as we're not cyborgs I think 1-4 hours a day in an average work week (i.e. where one has a job in addition to writing prose) is probably the range we should aspire to.

This can work for anyone who wants to try creative writing. Take a look at the hours in your day and see if you can find a space to slot in some time to write. Remember to keep the time in small increments to start and to hold to that rule. When the hour is up you stop, even if you're in mid-sentence. You then pick things up the following evening from where you left off, giving your creativity both time to relax and something to look forward to.

That's all for now. When next we speak we'll discuss the dreaded White Page of Doom, inspiration, and how to build a proper story.

Until next time,



Josh Reynolds said...

Good advice. Doing just a bit, every day, is the best way to go.

DLFerguson said...

On a good day I can squeeze in three hours of writing a day. Which I think is pretty damn good considering my schedule. A very good post. Keep 'em coming.