It can be enormously difficult finding the time to write when it’s “just a hobby”. Your nearest and dearest may not understand your desire to lock yourself away and make things up about fictional characters instead of spending quality time with real-life people.
Sometimes it’s not easy finding the time to write even when it’s a paid job – not if it’s done from home. As much as you may want to set yourself office hours and stick to them, unless you live alone you are always susceptible to family demands and pressures.
But let’s return to the issue of writing as a hobby. I suspect that many people who are writing novels or short stories do not view their endeavours as a hobby. Whilst others may quietly sneer and mock, you believe you are in training for the main event.
The problem is all the false starts. My own experience with writing novels led to me to one certain conclusion: I can’t dip in and out. I can’t sit down for half an hour, or even an hour, and expect to achieve very much. The perils of doing this are that you get nothing of any worth completed, but your family has the perception that you are never away from your computer because you are forever grabbing screen-time in a vain attempt to get things moving. It’s the worst double-whammy.
I always found that it took a while to immerse myself back into the world of my novel. I had to find my rhythm and slowly pick up the pace until I achieved full momentum. You know when you are writing good stuff because it flows. I could rarely do that within the first hour. In fact, I would sometimes spend that first hour tinkering with just one or two sentences. It was like setting the tone for what was to come; if I got those initial words right, then I knew I was watertight and underway.
The next hour I might complete a page. The third hour would see another couple down. Beyond that, I could be knocking out three or four pages an hour of material that I was generally very pleased with.
You may not be like that. There are some truly prolific writers who can just sit down and immediately click into the mood and start creating reams of top-notch writing. However, if that’s not you, then you may need to think like an oil tanker. You may need to accept that it’s going to take a while to get going. Therefore you have to decide whether you really have the time to even get out of port, and if not, perhaps you should stay home.
Personally, I would rather book myself a once-weekly ten-hour stretch at the keyboard than spend every day struggling to get several half-hour slots of unsatisfactory work completed. The latter option is the easiest way to lose all momentum and give up trying.
I know that the longer my keyboard session lasts, the more pages per hour I complete, and the higher the quality of the writing. Ten hours will of course wipe out a whole day, which again may not endear you to your family if that’s Saturday or Sunday gone, but perhaps you can look at three or four hours, perhaps early morning, or later on in the evening. The point is to try and give yourself sufficient time to gather some momentum.
The only problem is that oil tankers also take a long time to come to a halt. I spent a solid twenty-four hours writing to finish off my first novel, and wild horses (or a fleet of tug boats to maintain the analogy) would not have stopped me.
What are your own experiences with time-management for creative writing projects? Are you an oil tanker, or does taking the speedboat out for an hour every day bring results?