Finding time to write

So, what’s new with you?

You get up, go to work, then have a shorter evening than you’d like before bed. Maybe you have to bundle the kids off to school in the morning and collect them later, cook for them and watch over them. Maybe you’re single and dating even though it’s dark and cold out. Maybe you have a beloved dog to walk or a house to clean or a relative to take care of. Maybe there’s just a lot of TV to catch up on.

How do you find time to write with all that going on?

As a proofreader and editor I work with students, translators, prose and poetry writers. When I’m fortunate enough to get return business, the gaps are often explained as being the result of simply being too busy, or not finding the time to write lately.

So what’s the solution?

You can’t make more time. You probably can’t stop doing one thing to make more room for writing, either (although if your problem is TV, sort it out. No TV is that good).

Lifestyles can be busy, especially when we make them busy. Are we so social because we hate to be alone? Do we succumb to all of that easy entertainment because we don’t want to have the space to think? Not only are these problems that should be sorted out, they’re also problems with a built-in solution for your writing woes: stop doing them for a while, and write about them instead, or at least the things that motivated you to do them. Take two weeks off and try.

When my life gets busy, my problem isn’t that I don’t have time to write, but that when I do have time I don’t feel like it. I’m not ready to think and work after all the thinking and working I do at my day job and then freelancing in the evening and at weekends. If I feel a moment of creative inspiration, I have to get home (or at least move from one room to another) and get set up. By the time I have a steaming cup of tea on my desk and the laptop is booted up, I’ve lost it. The inspiration is gone and I’m staring at a blinking cursor in an empty Word document.

A solution that works for my particular lifestyle is routine. One of my favourite writers, Haruki Murakami, has a famously rigid routine that he says not only makes him productive, but also brings him great joy. Murakami-san has the luxury of being successful enough to not need a day job, but a writing routine certainly helps the rest of us, too. Not the usual insipid “write 500 words a day, every day!” advice, but more allocate yourself a time slot amidst the chaos to write. It doesn’t even have to be daily. Just choose a particular time of the week (or day) that is set aside solely for writing. Not only will you find peace in the routine, but you might also even look forward to it. On days where your inspiration comes at other times, jump right in. Then, when your routine writing window arrives, you can rejoice in how you’re already two pages further into that thesis or novel you’re working on.

Personally, I try to get home from the office and immediately start writing. My brain isn’t yet fried, or numbed from a couple of hours of evening TV, and I’m still ‘on the go’ and energised. I’ll aim for 30-60, and if I’m inspired to write for longer then I will. Unfortunately that time is usually when I want to be whipping up a quick meal and stuffing my face, so there’s sometimes a compromise. In any case, I’m slowly making progress with my creative work as a result of choosing a routine instead of hoping for a break in the storm.

Give it a try and let me know what you think.

—db

 

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All Things New: 2015

Fireworks over the Thames in London, New Year's Eve 2015

Fireworks over the Thames, London – New Year’s Eve 2015


Happy New Year for 2015!

A lot of people are asking what I’ve been up to since my brief misadventure in China a few months ago.

It’s been a tough few years, between an awful corporate job in 2012, to landing back in the real world after six months traveling India and Asia, and my TEFL training and subsequent awryness (I’m MAKING it a real word) last year.  I flew to China; I came back.  I had the option of beginning the cycle again by getting another crummy job in another  office, neither employing my qualifications or creativity for a basic minimum wage in an environment I couldn’t stand.  I chose not to take that option.

For the last year or so I’ve been taking the occasional bit of work editing.  A lot of this business came via word of mouth and my clients were mostly foreign students who had essays and dissertations to hand in and wanted a bit of help with their written English.  Sheffield is blessedly cosmopolitan and its two universities has students from all over the world.

Since I got back to the UK I decided to begin freelancing full-time, and have since had a lot of success.  Editing and proofreading has been a handy constant, from education, academia and journals, to resumes and even fiction, poetry and love letters.  I’ve also developed a reputation for ghostwriting fiction and articles, and have taken commissions in various genres with plenty of repeat business.  Lastly, I’ve managed to flog a few of my own humble fiction and screenplays.  I’m surprised by how quickly it’s all taken off.

It’s strange that after years of hard work and mixed success, I’m suddenly able to legitimately call myself a writer.  It’s a very strange feeling to have pretty much realised my oldest dream.

I’ve also had a fascinating education these last two months.  Either from editing various papers or by researching for my own writing/ghostwriting, I’ve made plenty of deposits into my Bank of Useless Information.  I’ve had The Bank for years, much to the bemusement of my friends and family.  Recently I’ve developed my knowledge of:

  •  Ophthalmology (that’s eyeballs to you and me)
  •  South African culture
  •  Pheonicia
  •  Middle-Eastern mysticism
  •  Current trends in erotica
  •  The Armenian art scene
  •  Scientific psychological experiments involving monkeys
  •  Species of cats
  •  The state of the Chinese housing market
  •  South American folklore
  •  Jewish holocaust poetry

… And they’re just the ones that I can tell you about without betraying confidentiality (which I take seriously).  It’s been a wild ride, accentuated by the occasional bouts of panic that are probably common amongst the self-employed.  The good news is that I’ve had some incredibly flattering feedback from all my clients so far.  Hopefully I can continue that trend into 2015, whilst TEFL and salaries take a back seat.

It seems a little redundant to have a blog about my exploits ‘abroad’ now that I’m more-or-less permanently based in the UK for the forseeable future, but I think I’ll keep the title.  Consider me ‘abroad’ on the ocean of discovery as I see where my new life takes me!

All the best for the New Year, and much love,

David Brookes
Freelance Writer & Editor