I’ve been feeling quite positive about my writing recently. It’s not that I feel I’ve produced wonderful quality work – far from it – but just that I have been producing anything at all. This last year has been for me, as I’m sure it’s been for so many, a challenge – in terms of finding head space and strong routines in which to write, as well as any external stimuli for creative flow. Head space was especially challenging.
Being a writer with a full time job can be quite tough at the best of times, which this hasn’t been. You have to focus at the end of the working day, or before the working day, but either way you end up tired. You have to fit the writing into your day in a way that is rewarding and productive. I have tried getting up early, or at least setting the alarm early, but I’m not a natural morning person and unless I can go somewhere silent and undisturbed to write (we don’t have the room for an office or writing room) then I’m likely to stay in bed. So I tend to write in the evenings instead, once everyone is in bed and there’s only so much I can do.
Working from home for the day job has further disrupted this routine, not because I’ve been working longer but because I need to do creative work in a different physical space to my day job. So the desk is out. I’ve also had to make sure I’m making the most of gaps in my day to change my focus and practice small wins. A lunchtime walk in the park, a ten minute journal session over a hot drink standing in the kitchen, small stints of writing in the evening when they’re all in bed. On Saturdays I have two hours to myself (which I will soon spend holed up in a coffee shop). And I’ve put social media limits in, just a comment here or there, an occasional photo, but that’s it.
In some ways, finding this routine has felt very much like starting from scratch. But it also feels like it’s working. I’ve submitted a few things – a competition here, a call for certain pieces there – and I’ve been journalling ideas and themes, mostly by hand. But it all feels hopeful, helpful. Ideas are fermenting, and coming out on the page.
Here are my tips for finding a writing routine around your day job and other responsibilities:
- Find your routines and stick to them
- Can you herald the start of your writing time with a ritual of some kind? A piece of music, lighting a candle, a brief walk? The body and brain start to associate this with a change in focus and can adjust quicker if this is incorporated into your routine
- Short bursts of activity are better than nothing at all, and can still allow your brain to make connections and ideas in your down time
- Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t write every day. If you can’t, you can’t. Writing regularly is the thing.
- Try to write somewhere different to where you work
- Get some fresh air and exercise every day
- Eat well
- Make sure you have a notebook handy for when you stumble across that missing plot point while you’re doing something completely different from writing. I regularly figure out writing problems when brushing my teeth in the evenings and many a night ends with me sat at the top of the stairs scribbling it all down, soundtracked by deep breathing from both bedrooms.
- Social media is not a writing companion. Put a little time aside to check in but that’s it. Or cut it out for a period altogether. Either way, switch it off.
Just doing it feels like a win for me right now. It’s been such a rough year and I was mentally yelling at myself for not producing much work, forgetting that I’ve been working really hard at the day job and home schooling and generally worrying about the impending death of all my nearest and dearest. Like the writing was the main issue.
None of the above are anything new or revelatory, I know. But it’s easy to see others being published and wonder what you’re doing wrong. Nothing. If you’re writing, that’s good. For some, that may be enough. Keep at it and be kind to yourself.