I tell myself, having read it in several writing books and heard it on several courses, that I need to keep a journal of ‘spare time’, or ‘writing time’ for a couple of weeks, then work out a schedule that I can stick to. I need to decide whether my best writing time is early morning, midway through the day, or late at night. I need to find a routine.
I do try to go to bed at the same time each night, get up at the same time each morning, and devise some sort of routine for my days, honestly I do. And it does work… when I’m being ‘parented’. I use the word parented to mean nagged, looked after, told what to do, nagged a bit more – usually by my husband, sometimes my daughter or my mother, and always out of concern.
As soon as I’m unsupervised though – when my daughter is away at university and my husband is away with work, for example – I get a ridiculous sense of freedom. It’s like being a teenager again whose parents have gone away for the night. I stay up late – usually at the computer, sometimes writing or working, sometimes playing games. I wake late in the morning. I eat unhealthy foods. I rebel in all sorts of ways. This takes a direct hit on my mental health and in turn on my writing.
My most productive writing days happen on Writers’ HQ monthly writing retreats. They host these all over the UK and a few of them are in my area, which is fab. Here, I am away from home, internet, other distractions. I am supervised by whoever is hosting the event (shout out to the lovely @P_O_Neill at Portsmouth and the equally gorgeous @jmgatford at Brighton… and of course @fictionalsarah who is also a total cutiepie).
Our mascot at the monthly Portsmouth retreat is a statue of a stern Nordic character who glares at me if I look up from my writing, and silently reminds me to ‘stop faffing* about and keep writing’ (*or something like that). We write in set ‘sprints’ of perhaps 20 minutes or half an hour, stopping for a quick stretch and a coffee refill at each break. Each participant sets themselves a target word count for the day and the host records the work done after each sprint. It’s not meant to be competitive, but there is certainly an element of competition going on in my brain, and it spurs me on. I want to write as many words as I can, and see my numbers going up on the chart. I want to write more than the others.
So, away from home and supervised seems to be my ‘where’ and any time of day as long as it’s in short sprints is my ‘when’. These are, of course, ideals… *sigh*… If I want to fix myself a routine and start a daily writing habit, then I guess I’ll have to work out how to write at home without distraction. I need to learn to adult…