Writing Academy, Memoirs, Novels, Short Stories, Book Proposals

New York City Writing Coach

Gay Walley

Oh, When do I find the time?

“Writing – the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair.” Mary Heaton Worse

Your writing schedule. I know there are people who say it should be at the same time every day and if you are lucky maybe you can arrange this. I have known people with children to get up and write at 4 in the morning before the house wakes up. There are others, like me, who write when the time is available to them. BUT there is a caveat: One must write every day.

Even if it is only for ten minutes. Why? Your unconscious is working on it. You remain in the mood of the story, the “call” of the story. You are attached. You are a homing pigeon who goes back and forth to it. This is incredibly important. So you must write 6 days a week. Either at a set time or at a time that you can find in your schedule.

You don’t have to write 6 hours in a sitting and, if you are doing that, something is wrong. You can complete a whole novel in less than a year if you write every day for just one hour. The idea of being tethered to your desk is fantasy and people who spend six hours “writing” are probably doing anything but.  (Of course there are exceptions to this and, as I said, there are exceptions to everything I write, but for the most part, no one has the energy to write six hours a day.)  The fact is writing is highly demanding physically and this you will find out when you try to write when you have a cold or when you are tired. You just won’t be able to. Writing requires enormous concentration. One can only sustain that for a certain amount of time.

Sometimes people who are busier are more productive than those who are not because, when they finally get a chance to sit down and write, they focus. They get to the story and produce. So don’t lament you are not on a trust fund (it would be nice, I agree), just make sure to write every day. As Epictetus wrote, “If you want to be a reader, read; if a writer, write.”

It has been my observation that people who want to write do so no matter what.  I will paraphrase Goethe when I say that creativity is in the tension. So if you only have an hour, so be it. You will get a lot done if you focus and are deeply in the story.

And don’t be upset that life is bubbling around you.  If your life is too full, use it.“If you have other things in your life – family, friends, good productive day work – these can interact with your writing and the sum will be all the richer.” David Brin

So use all that abundance of emotions and observations and sneak them into your story, transpose them.  It will give energy to your book.

One of the great things about writing is that you can rewrite and so if your work today is a bit sloppy but you did advance the story, good, you can rewrite the quality and specificity of language when you are feeling more relaxed.  It takes writing the story to know what it is really about. On your third draft, you will say, “Oh this is the crux. I need to tighten the screws on this.”  But you will only really get there if you write the first and second drafts rigorously and attentively and with commitment.

The main thing is to write every day and push the story forward. Some people are inclined to write and rewrite the first chapter. This is a way of avoiding diving into the story and having success. A story is a journey and you may get lost along the way (and so what?) but you can only write it if you take the journey itself.

So go to your schedule now and note that you will work on your novel daily. Either after work, or before, or on the train getting there. (I remember a French writer being interviewed and the host said, “Your book has so much energy.” The writer said, “Yes I wrote it on the subway to and from work.”)  Take your time wherever you can. I have a friend who works on her book as she sits the four hours getting chemo. This is I do not wish for anyone but it shows the drive.

We are lucky that most of us now have laptops so if you are sitting in the sun on a Saturday morning, move away from people and spend 45 minutes or more with your novel. The good thing is that once you start, you will get lost in it and lose sense of time.  But if 20 minutes is all you have, you still will get somewhere.

So right now, add your novel into your daily schedule. Only you know where it fits in.