Thursday, July 8, 2010

Writing on the Run

It can be pretty hard to find the time to write. Life has a way of coming at you all at once. Family dramas, excessive workload, sickness - all of the above.

One of the things that has really saved me when things get hectic is the discovery that my laptop works fine on the bus. This gives me up to an hour a day during the week, and it all goes surprisingly well when I don't get distracted by people talking loudly on their mobile (first up against the wall when the revolution comes) or to each other right behind me. If you are prone to travel sickness, that would probably knock that one out.

If you are being beaten back even more, there are always those few minutes spent waiting for an elevator, or waiting for the bus or train. You can use those moments to dream away about your story, maybe flesh out a character, or if things are really grim, just feel good about the fact you are a writer.

Carry a notepad or electronic equivalent that you can slip easily into your laptop bag, pocket or purse. If you get into the right frame of mind, its amazing how productive you can be on the ideas front in very short slices of time. I personally love writing with pen on paper. Sitting down in a cafe with my English Breakfast tea (strong) and writing in my journal is a treat.

Feed the beast: Let yourself get immersed in good fiction, or visual story. Read things that excite you. Inspire yourself creatively. You can do that even you are unwell and too physically exhausted to sit in a chair. Try audio books if you need to be on the move. Get the creative juices flowing - you never know when that great new concept will hit you right between the eyes. I got my last one pulling up weeds.

Find your niche: Even in the most busy life there will be places you can find a calm moment - 'eyes in the storm'. My favourite is to escape to a local cafe. The development of an invisibility field is highly recommended:)

Use the mundane tasks of the day as brainstorming time - doing the dishes, sweeping the floor, ironing, painting, handyman stuff etc

How do you manage to fit in writing when things get crazy?


Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Chris, I'm really struggling.

I started a new job less than a year ago. We're renovating the house. I had to do 3 edits of my 3 KRK books in the first few months of this year. And I'm madly trying to do an edit of a new book to put into ROR.

Snatch the moments when you can.

Chris McMahon said...

Hi, Rowena. It sounds like you are powering through it all, despite the frenzy. All the best.

Jonathan D. Beer said...

When I have the answer to that question, I'll let you know!

In all seriousness, it does seem to just be a case of powering through. I am lucky enough to have a job which (at the moment) is pretty quiet, allowing for surreptitious plotting and character work. I don't like doing actual writing at work as there are too many distractions and stop-start moments - can't work like that.

Other than that... yeah, when they invent a way for humans to go without sleep I will be a happy bunny.

Chris McMahon said...

Hi, Jonathan. It always seems to be the sleep that suffers. I know what you mean about not writing at work - bit hard to be creative in that atmosphere. Keep pushing on!

C Kelsey said...

I've been lucky in the last couple of weeks. Holidays and what nots have combined to give me a lot of time to write. Normally it takes me quite a while to get a rough draft done. Last weekend, I did one in four days of researching and writing. Not many times like that, but I made the best of this one.

Daniel Casey said...

Writing on the run. Yep. Full time career (with extra hours at home when needed) three kids, complete home rebuild, working hobby farm.

Writing? Other's always ask "don't you have something productive to be doing?" So yep. Sleep is usually the sacrificial lamb here.
Having occasionally gone on a sprint where 3 hours sleep in a day was normal, I do have to point out that one hit's burnout rather faster than otherwise. Granted, there's lots of time to consider the points to write, characters, motivations, etc, etc. but the actual getting words down in sequence for the furthering of the storyline, that takes time.

I'd have to second Jonathan's comment that when they find a healthy way for humans to go without sleep, then I will also be a happy bunny...

Odd.. Never thought of myself as a bunny before... hmm....


Anonymous said...

I like to use driving time to work out scenes in my head. I give myself assignments, when I know I'll be traveling. Then there's still the problem of finding the time to put it down on paper. But if I have already worked the scene out in my head, interruptions don't seem to matter as much.

You can use driblets of time to form a coherent story line. Have a political discussion with a character. Try to think how your current suite of characters talk. Is that one long winded? The other is frequently sarcastic? The smart girl probably uses long words and drifts into technical terms? That one is a sports fan and uses lots of sports analogies? Who uses military terms? Who is shy and quiet? This is useful for editing purposes. I tend to write all my characters' speech about the same, so this is something I concentrate on with a second draft.

But somehow, you have to have enough time to get the first draft done, before you have something that can be worked on in bits and pieces. And a final long stretch to read the whole and see how it flows.

Chris McMahon said...

Hi, Chris. Sounds like great fun. There is nothing better than trying to home in on a storyline. I am pretty plot-driven, so trying to 'solve' the plot really pushes me on - its like a sore tooth - until I am happy with all the elements.

Four days, eh? That's impressive. Usually my plots take a deal longer than that to gel. There will be a few elements, or character names that just will not pop out of the ether at first.

It is amazing how things can really come together sometimes. Best of luck with the story.

Chris McMahon said...

Hi, Daniel. I'll put on my Dr Chris hat and say 3 hours of sleep a night is not healthy! Get more, please.

I can seem to funciton on five and half hours, but not long term. I would power for two or three months, then crash and burn. Coming back from that is really tough. Lately I have been trying to sleep 7-8 hours (after a period of poor health). Its worth trying for, although I cannot say I'm happy with the compromises this forces on me.

I also have three kids, so I know what you mean about extras at home. Ours are in the weekend sports as well, so there is a lot of transportation going on.

Can you write on public transport to your work at all? Lunchtimes?

Chris McMahon said...

Hi, matapam. Sounds like you have got pretty efficient at using your time. Its getting the long stretch of time to get that first draft down that is difficult. Maybe we should find out where Sarah's hotel room is and go and write there:)

Your exercises on the dialogue sounds interesting. I have rarely been deliberate about how I contruct dialogue. It would be a good exercise for me to think in these terms.

Just make sure you don't have an accident while driving! I can picture it. 'I'm sorry officer. I saw the truck, but just had to solve a character dilemma before I could swerve. But don't worry, I've got that character down now.' :)

Amanda Green said...

Chris, that seems to be the one question all of us need answered. Or maybe it's just me these last few weeks. With a major deadline looming over me for a project that has to be done by mid-week next week, finding time to write has been difficult at best. But what I've discovered is I have to take time, even if just a few minutes a day, or I'll go absolutely crazy. What's I've started doing is taking ten to fifteen minutes mid-morning and mid-afternoon to write. Then, in the evenings after the rest of the house is in bed, I do some more. It's not as much as I'd like, but at least it is some and it is on a daily basis.

Chris McMahon said...

Hi, Amanda. Even doing a little bit like that can make a big difference. Particularly being able to do a little bit each day - it just seems to keep the flow going. If things are flowing then you can really be very productive in small pockets of time - quite amazing really. Good luck with the deadline!

PS: If I find the secret to fitting writing in amidst a crazy life I will let you know:)