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The Long Write

I often read other published authors talking about how they write non-stop, hours and days and weeks on end. While their writing flows erratically at times – say 2 hours per day sometimes or 9 hours at others – generally they will write every day. This is not my experience at all. I write sometimes when the words are flowing well, and not much at all when it just isn’t happening.

Yes, writing, writing and more writing is key to improving and is absolutely fundamental, but if you have a full-time job, a family, or both, then it’s going to come second, third or fourth. That’s life.

I recall reading about one crazy author who worked out that he could write through half the night to make up for lost time while caring for a newborn… that I found disturbing. No one should mess with sleep deprivation, particularly when sleep deprivation will be thrust upon you anyway with kids. I wouldn’t recommend missing out on real stuff to focus overly on a single aspect of life, such as getting down the required 1500 words that day (unless deadlines are looming!).

Writing is all about practice, so if you are able to write full-time then you will improve at a faster rate than if not, but that doesn’t mean much really for two reasons:

1.      It isn’t a race
2.      Writing is a long term passion.

Being a hermitic writer might be appealing, but perhaps to the detriment of your inspiration. Writers need life experiences to write compelling characters and scenes, don’t they? Writers also need money to live (job), relationships to be happy (family, friends, lovers) and other interests to find life interesting (other passions, hobbies).

To me writing is a part of who I am, but it isn’t the main part. I am not my job or my passion. I am a husband, father, sportsman, pet-owner, traveller, linguist also. Writing fulfils me (although not always) and gives my life meaning, but so do the other aspects of my life.

For the record, I write on average three times per week. Generally when I sit down to write, I bang out more than 1000 words. This works for me. While I’m working full-time and with a new family, my work rate plummeted to maybe once a week. It was frustrating, but this my reality of writing with a family. The prodigious work rate of those sans children is daunting for us mums and dads but the reasons are obvious, so don’t compare yourself to those with buckets of time. Don’t compare yourself to others at all.

Unfortunately I don’t practise what I preach – I compare myself all the time, but I try not to. I’m also trying to eat more vegetables.

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