When you’re writing it’s a good idea to dedicate time to it, and this has to be factored in to your schedule, whether you’re self-employed or employed. It can sometimes be a problem working out how much time you should spend on writing and its associated tasks such as planning, reading, and thinking about your writing; among other things.
How do you view your writing?
It can also be a challenge working out how you view your writing, as a hobby that you spend a few hours on occasionally, as a hobby you spend nearly every day engaging in, or as a serious vocation that takes up most of your day with writing and author-related tasks.
How much writing is too much writing?
I would say, after having experience writing full time, concentrating on your writing many hours during the day to the exclusion of many other activities or engaging with people is not healthy because it doesn’t give you that break from your creativity and inspiration. Your creativity and inspiration may dry up, only having your own mind as a resource.
This is more the case if you’re writing for yourself and not anybody else such as an agent, publisher, or client: where you’re expected to produce a story within a deadline because you know you’re obliged to do so, even if you enjoy it at the same time. When you’re writing for yourself, left to your own devices and detached from any external concept of obligation or accountability, you can overdo it.
If you’re writing 6,000-8,000 words a day, that is a lot of writing, but if the inspiration is there and it works well within your time schedule, why not pump out all those words. If you’re getting tired of concentrating on your writing, you’re overthinking it, or it’s affecting other important tasks, including daily life, then this is a clear sign for you to stop and do something else for a few hours, few days, or few weeks. If your writing is exhausting you and distracting you then you’re spending too much time on it.
Writing shouldn’t be a priority if it’s a hobby; it should be done for enjoyment. When you obsess over your writing, or put it before everything else that you could be doing, it’s when it’s on a path to taking over your life. It’ll damage you and it’ll damage your writing when that happens; you’ll notice when you reread it. I’ve had experience of this myself, and I think you have to be in the right frame of mind to produce writing that you will later enjoy and feel relieved about. Something to look out for is when you’re tense when you’re writing! You should not be tense when you’re writing or convince yourself that being tense is normal because you’re letting out so many ideas … take a look at yourself!
Not enough time to write?
If we all have time, we run out of inspiration. If we have inspiration, we run out of time. It can be sad when you don’t have enough time to write and explore parts of your imagination that you would like to, but this doesn’t mean you have to forget about writing completely.
Setting a short amount of time, such as ten or twenty minutes, can be enough to get a pen and paper and write down some of your ideas. If you persevere with this, you could end up with a two-hundred page planning fact-file after six months. I did this!
Spending just one hour on your computer can be enough to get at least 500 or 1,000 words jotted down. You may even manage 2,000 or 3,000 in that time if you’re a fast typer or the ideas are strong. This is tremendous progress. Keep slotting in a period of one hour over two months and you’re looking at the first draft of a novel.
Spending a few hours writing each day can be an excellent choice for maintaining a writing routine and making good solid progress in terms of word count. It can increase your chances of doing other writing associated tasks such as planning, reading, self-editing, thinking, and research.
How I balance writing and work
I enjoy writing best as a hobby and so I need to set it off from work-related tasks, making time for it when I decide I need free time, and at the same time limiting how many words I type out at a time to ensure I don’t go overboard with it. Unfortunately, if left unchecked, I would use the energy of half a day writing, producing anywhere between 1,500–8,000 words or a substantial number of paragraphs of planning. As you can imagine, I don’t have a lot of time or energy for anything else when I do this, and I get a bit carried away with it, which I don’t think is conducive to work, and it’s not a healthy option.
I have a pattern that works for me. I work for 2–3 hours, and then I have a break of 2–3 hours, before working again for another 2–3 hours. In this break sometimes I’m organising or planning work, which I shouldn’t be, or I’m doing what I like doing, be this reading, playing games, listening to music, going for walks. Notice I didn’t say ‘writing’. I don’t schedule in writing in my break, though I often do think about it and actually write. If I scheduled writing in it wouldn’t feel pleasurable to me, and I wouldn’t get the full satisfaction from the hobby, but that’s just a personal preference. Many writers are comfortable scheduling writing in, and indeed have to in order to get it done among many other commitments.