Read any guide on how to be a writer and they’ll say one thing: you have to write. Not think about writing or read about writing or talk about writing, but actually write.
I took that lesson from Julia Cameron. Friends from my former life as a creative had always talked about The Artist’s Way, and when I decided late in 2009 to get off my butt and start writing again, I bought her book The Sound of Paper to help me get started. She recommends morning pages: six pages of writing, every day. It sounded daunting: I work full-time in a demanding job. How could I find the time? I decided if I wanted to be a writer I had to at least try. I started on the first day of an extended holiday, figuring that would help me overcome the very real logistical challenges.
It worked. By the time I came home I was committed to writing every day and spoke to my partner about creating both the physical and logistical space to allow me to write for an hour every morning before work, and an hour every evening after work. I also planned to spend my lunch hour reading about writing, and to allocate extra hours on the weekend. And that’s what I did.
In 365 days, I have:
- filled 11 A5 notebooks with longhand
- used up three A4 refill pads
- learned how to use WordPress
- started a blog
- published 25 short stories, 10 essays, 6 reviews and 3 short scripts to the blog
- read 8 books on writing and several screenplays
- finished step outlines for two feature screenplays
- created file boxes for 8 projects (some from my former life) with research and random ideas.
I take a notepad and pen everywhere with me and any time I’m likely to have time on my hands I also take one of my writing texts. There are those who eschew textbooks but with one or two exceptions, the ones I’ve read have inspired me and helped me keep my head on straight. The real learning does come from the doing, but I see no harm in taking guidance from those who’ve travelled the road before you.
I have also:
- joined two writers’ communities and two screenwriting organisations
- participated in online forums and discussions about writing
- been to one real-world writing event.
I won’t pretend it’s always easy and I’ve been very lucky to have the support of my loved ones – not everyone does. There have been sacrifices: I haven’t been to my bookclub at all this year because I can’t keep up with the reading and my dream of daily exercise remains a fond hope.
I will never be able to achieve as much in a month as someone who has the luxury to be able to write full-time. But if being time-poor is stopping you from writing, I hope this will inspire you to make time in every day. It’s the only way.