I’ve never been a prolific writer, either when writing fiction or non-fiction. But I’ve (relatively) recently completed a three thousand word short story from scratch over a few days. I also wrote seven articles for Squawka over the Christmas period, one of which I wrote late in an evening after losing a family board game. But that prolific spell isn’t normal for me – in fact, I wrote most of this blog entry five weeks ago, and only got round to finishing this week.
I find writing easier when I’m relaxed and happy… and possibly being a little drunk helps as well. Just the other day I read that a fellow blogger, Cate Morgan, does some of her daily writing preparation during her lunch hour. That’s certainly not something I could do, as I’ve always tended to be either slightly stressed or surprised that I’m not stressed during my work day, and I couldn’t squeeze my time in that manner.I know that I personally waste a lot of time worrying about what I’m planning to write – that I don’t have enough of a command of the facts I’m writing about, and that the original things I intend to bring (analysis to non-fiction, characters and conflict to fiction) won’t be interesting or original enough. There’s also the regularly reoccurring annoyance that my prose won’t rally itself into the clear, but compelling and poetic shape I want it to be in. Because worry wastes so much time, I’d say that managing fears is also an important part of time-management – either stepping away completely from the cause of my worries when I feel them starting to build, or reframing my negative thoughts in some way or other. (This can be as simple as telling myself “Just write something you muppet, you can always fix it in the morning”.)
I’m obviously not incredibly invested in, for example, whether David Silva is a better footballer than Philippe Coutinho. (Spoiler alert – he is.) But there’s still potential for me to make factual errors on the subject, and there’s the chance that what I write will find it’s way to a reader who’s better informed than I am.
There’s also the fact that the heavy lifting of ‘writing’ isn’t necessarily done with pen in hand or at the keyboard. Plenty of times I’ve developed concepts for stories, even invented new scenes, when walking in the cold, or lounging on the couch. I know I’m not the only writer to do the inventing part of writing at other times. For example Ruth Rendell, in an interview I’d misremembered closely enough to be able to re-find, said that
“The plot is never written down. I will tell the story to myself, but I won’t plan it. I’ll speak the narrative in my head for a while.”
It’s definitely an aspect of the writer’s craft I need to work on – learning to better manage my time, manage my doubts and fears, and think through my ideas before I make it to the keyboard. Things like story structure, the use of metaphor and imagery are important skills to learn, but the self-discipline to get things done is equally vital.