It can be a problem working out how much time to spend on writing, what comes before writing with planning, and what comes after with the tasks related to improving writing for publishing such as reading, self-editing, and rewriting. A lot of thinking may be involved even when you haven’t made any concrete progress. Fitting writing into a busy schedule can feel impossible at times, or undesirable when your work tires you and you want to relax, not think about something that will tax your brain further, even if you do enjoy it.
How do you view your writing?
Do you view your writing as a hobby that you spend a few hours on occasionally, only for the sake of happiness?
Do you have grand writing goals that will require a consistent effort per week?
Is writing a serious vocation that will require a schedule with both writing and author tasks?
Not enough time to write
Many of us can’t get enough time to write and explore parts of our imaginations, but it doesn’t mean we 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 or paper can be enough to get at least 500 or 1,000 words jotted down. In another hour you may even reach 2,000 or 3,000 if you’re a fast typer or the ideas are strong. This is tremendous progress. Keep slotting in a period of two hours over two months and you’re looking at the first draft of a novel.
Too much writing
After having experience writing full time, concentrating on 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 yourself, and 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 have days where you’re writing 6,000-8,000 words a day then that is a lot of writing.
- If you’re spending your break days worrying about writing then it may start to become unhealthy.
- 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.
- If you don’t have any other hobbies or vocations, except writing, then this is a sign your life is not balanced.
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 be happy with. Something to look out for is if you’re tense when you’re writing! You should not be tense when you’re writing and you should not convince yourself that being tense is normal because you’re letting out so many ideas …
How I balance writing and work
I enjoy writing best as a hobby, but I do have goals that require a consistent effort, which means I try to set it off from work-related tasks and make time for it. It has to be different to work, in my mind.
Many writers are comfortable scheduling writing in, and indeed have to in order to get it done among many other commitments. I don’t schedule in writing in my break, though I often do write. If I scheduled writing in it wouldn’t feel pleasurable to me, and I wouldn’t get the full satisfaction. I like writing to be my escape and not something I feel I must do and keeping this in mind keeps the process enjoyable for me. That’s my personal preference.
Motivation is a key barrier against making progress when you spend a lot of time working. When you’re tired you just want to lay back and watch a film or zone out, check messages or become engrossed in something mind-numbing. If you have the time to write, you tell yourself you don’t have the energy.
When I’m determined to complete a project I have to make a conscious effort to get in the right frame of mind before attempting to dive in to the intellectually-demanding yet pleasurable writing process, and to stop myself from resorting to the easier option of doing something else. Writing has to come first if I’m serious about it.