'Nothing is a waste of time if you use the experience wisely' - Rodin
There's a dream I have, it's one I've had ever since I was a kid and became aware of the concept that books did not simply materialize on the shelves of my local Coles or WHSmith or on the tables of my school's annual book fair. That these names that were on the cover beneath the title were those of the people who had actually created those worlds into which I escaped, and that these people did this for a living. I envisioned what it must be like, and that vision has largely stayed with me as a guiding of guiding vision for what I'd like to be; learned, sitting in a study surrounded by sturdy, antique-looking bookshelves stretching to the ceiling, maybe with one of those ladders on wheels upon which I could reach the volumes perched high near the vaulted ceiling of my elaborate study and--yes--to occasionally get a running start and ride upon(it was my vision of being grown up, not grown old after all). I'd be resplendent in a velvet smoking jacket, maybe one of those tweed blazer deals with the leather patches on the elbows, a pipe in the best Sherlockian tradition clenched betwixt my teeth (though I don't smoke, hey it's my fantasy go critique your own). A beagle (my favorite kind of dog) dozing at my feet as I composed my latest masterpiece. A pretty sweet dream, all told. One I will do my ample best to see realized one day.
Of course, in the desert of the real things are another story entirely. The day to day grind of that pesky thing called life conspires with fiendish glee to take any time we might have to offer ourselves up to the Muse and throw it down the nearest adjacent garbage chute. With our lives so constantly on the go between our jobs and the need to socialize with our friends and family in those only-too-brief moments we have completely to ourselves, how do we find the time to work creatively? How does the aspiring writer/painter/dancer/actor really find the time to sit down and commit to the work with the intensity it requires?
Easy. You actively seek it out.
A little about me; I hate schedules. . .and yet I honor them with near-religious fervor. You give me a time I need to be up for, a concrete patch of time in which my presence is a requirement and not a suggestion and no matter how many epochs might pass as I slumber in Van Winklian repose in my free time, if it's for something important I will be up--bright-eyed and bushy-tailed-- for that given hour. You give me a time, a date, and a place and I will do my best to be there on time and in position. I can't always guarantee complete success (despite my awesomeness I am only one man) but it's a commitment, and I was taught to honor my word. Simple as that. Left to my own devices. . .it's a different story. On my own and with no supervision I am a procrastinator par excellence. There's this book to read or that DVD boxed set and I haven't read those comics I got last week and hey, maybe I should head down to the library or the used book store. . .I'll totally hit it hard later and do a really bitching story later. For sure.
And that totally works. Just look at all my credits on Amazon. Oh wait. That's right. There aren't any.
In a world where I know better than to trust myself completely, a certain mindset needs to be established for the prospective writer. You definitely want to keep things fun, but you want that fun to be organized. I can't speak for anyone else, but here are a few tips I've stumbled across to help you get a handle on how to find your optimum writing time:
1) Road-map your day.
This one's easy. Sit down with a pad and pencil and make a rough outline of your day. Here's one I made recently:
11:30am - Wake up.
11:30am-12:30pm - Breakfast/Morning Internets.
12:30pm - 1:30pm - Reading/Continued Internets
1:30pm - Shave/Shower/Dress
2:30pm - Bus.
3-11pm - Work.
11:30pm - Bus home.
12:00am - Home.
12:00-1:00am - Television/decompression.
1-4am - Reading/Internets
4:00am - Bed.
From this, we can discern a few things. Chiefly; I spend way too much time on the Internet, but that's a subject for another time. The other is that I have two key chunks of time I could be working with. The morning, or the evening. Which to choose? This leads to our second point:
2) Play to your strengths.
I'm a nighthawk by nature, so the late-night hours tend to be when my brain is most alert. Plus, after midnight the possibility of interruption by the outside world tends to peter off to about nil. So clearly, that midnight to four in the morning bracket is what's best for me.
With a careful look at your daily schedule you can map out and plan the optimum time for your writing. Ideally you're looking for a good two to four hours where you're left largely to your own devices. Follow the steps above and I'm pretty sure you'll find your ideal time.