The Schizophrenic Writer

Creative writing smallThere are many articles, websites and books on creative writing out there. And nearly all of them will get you to examine your writing habits and find the one that suits you and your lifestyle best.

Firstly there’s the discussion about the best time of day to write. Are you the ‘get up very early’ kind of person? Do you write a ‘stream of consciousness’ before you are fully awake? Or are you one of those ‘burn the midnight oil’ kinda guys? Perhaps you need to settle in to a good, hearty breakfast, walk the dog and get the day’s chores done before you can sit down to do any kind of writing.

Well, that’s all very well, but what if every day is different? Maybe you do shift work or you have small children, several small children who wake up very early and the only thing you can do when they’ve gone to bed is collapse? Perhaps you work long hours or have to entertain a lot, leaving you little time to yourself?

And then there’s the conversation about where you write. Of course, if you’re like me, you dream about a large book lined study, a substantial wooden desk with a sleek Apple laptop and plenty of room to spread. I’d also need a big comfy chair for reading and enough space to pace up and down, stretch my legs and cogitate a plotting problem. The door would be shut and no one would come in to ask me to help them with their homework or find out when dinner’s ready

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I’m currently writing my first novel. I’ve almost finished the first draft and over the two years it’s taken me to write it I’ve learnt that I can write anywhere, at any time that I can find. It’s often in the car, maybe ten minutes before a meeting or outside school waiting for kicking out time, or killing twenty minutes before a football/hockey/rugby/cricket match starts. Sometimes I get the luxury of a café and, oddly, I’ve learnt that if I know I’ve only got half an hour I can write like a demon and produce far more than I might have done if I’d had the luxury of three writing hours.

And then I got made redundant at the beginning of the summer holidays. Whoopee, I thought; I can write. I might starve and my children might have to go without shoes, but I CAN WRITE! But it was 2012 and we spent most of our days glued to the Olympics; glorious sunny days basking in the brilliance of British triumphs. Living in a house full of boys we watched any sport we could: tennis, athletics, rowing, swimming, shooting, show jumping, I could go on. As you can imagine I got no writing done.

So I resorted to the early mornings. Now usually I am VERY grumpy first thing. I don’t want to speak to anyone until I’ve had a shower and a decent cup of coffee. But I postponed the shower, curtailed the early morning crankiness with a very large cup of caffeine and settled down at 6.30am to two hours of blissful, peaceful writing; no children, no husband, no dog and no sport.Style small

That was all very well but then the school term started and I couldn’t do that, not unless I got up at 4am. Sorry, but I’m only capable of some Victor Meldrew-esque rants at that time of day. So, I had to turn back to daytime writing – no hardship, just a different mindset and less grumpiness.

It’s taken a while but I have now learnt to write whenever I can and wherever I am. I can still dream about uninterrupted peace in that book lined study but until then I find I need to switch into my subject at a moment’s notice. Perhaps I’ll need some quiet time to polish it, but at least I’ve got that first draft down, I’ve gathered my thoughts and given some shape to the ideas that have been floating around in my head.

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4 thoughts on “The Schizophrenic Writer

  1. I too am cranky when I’m interrupted and have had to find random times in the day to get any work done. Oftentimes my husband will be speaking to me and I’ll realize I haven’t heard him, I was so engrossed in a paragraph. We’re just humans trying to do our best. 🙂

  2. I’ve been writing for more years than I intend to detail! Poetry, and articles for magazines and newspapers. I also had 4 kids and a farm to run. I learned to write whenever I had a moment, literally – five minutes here, ten minutes there, half an hour now and then. Early mornings were for feeding the stock before the school run and, anyway, I’m vile at stupid a.m when it’s still dark and I’ve been woman-handling hay bales, so could barely write my name. But, overall, it worked well enough, I was widely published as a poet and sold a lot of articles. These tiny spaces somehow made me very creative. But I longed to retire and write ‘the novel’ which was plaguing me, imagining hours of uninterrupted writing bliss. But no! I find myself procrastinating like mad – even resorting to doing household chores instead of getting on with the next chapter. Why? Who knows – but in the two years I’ve been writing this novel, I’ve learned that there’s no ‘good’ time for me to write, except maybe for frantic, snatched moments in between the supermarket shopping and trying to learn to play the bones!

    1. Hi Lesley! I’m beginning to wonder if perhaps those frantic, snatched moments are the best times to write? Perhaps it’s the fact that we only have a few minutes that focusses our minds and fires up our creativity.

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