When should you write? How can you find time for writing a book – or two, or eight? Do writing targets – eg two hours per day – help?
Someone the other day asked me: ‘when do you write? And are you writing a book right now?’
Here is a snapshot.
I have – or had – a full-time job
First, until 2021 I had a full-time job as a diplomat and, for my last 13 years at work, a head of mission (ambassador or consul-general). It was a fine job and I was privileged to have it. It kept me busy most days from around 8.30, when I started work, until around 18.45. It also required me to be out a lot in the evenings.
Using targets for writing a book
When working as a diplomat, I concentrated my writing on weekends and free evenings. My aim was to write for an average of two hours every day – two-and-a-half during lockdowns, when I had fewer evening engagements. This was an ambitious target; but I often met it. How? Because I was generous to myself on what counted as writing. For example, I included writing this blog, research or meeting another author as well as physically putting pen to paper.
Since I retired, I have increased my daily writing target somewhat.
This target-driven approach works for me. Mostly I work in the evenings between about 9 p.m. and 1 a.m. At the weekends I sometimes write for 4-6 hours in a day. Many nights and some weekends, of course, I don’t write at all.
Writing a book is possible for anyone – if you really want to
If you really really want to do anything, you can always find time for it. For example: most parents, before they have children, have rich, fulfilling lives. When they have their first baby they miraculously find many hours every day to care for that baby. Of course they do! Their lives are fuller than ever before. How could they find time to do anything else?
Then another baby comes along. Do the parents say, hey, we have no time to look after this one? Nope. They love the new baby, too, and fit him or her in just fine.
Writing a book is the same. If you really want to do it, you will find time. Watch less TV. Go online less often. Go on a writing holiday (one of my favourite ways to get the creative juices flowing). Above all, get started today.
For a summary of my projects at the moment, see my post How I write, What I write, When I write.
What to do next
That’s it. It’s demanding. It’s a joy. It’s writing, and it’s a passion. Always remember Stephen Donaldson, a successful fantasy author. Someone asked him: “What is your advice for writing a book?” He replied: “Start today.”
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