Time is seldom a writer’s friend, but a well-established routine can keep those approaching deadlines from becoming a runaway train barreling down the track toward you. You may not manage the old writers’ rule to write every day, but if you can manage to eke out a few words on a regular basis despite the many constraints life puts on you, you will be ahead of the game.
If you have a job, you have to write before or after work and/or during lunch. I used to write when I got home from my part-time job and on my days off—when I didn’t have “home management” stuff to do. You know, the stuff, like grocery shopping, that I bet Stephen King hasn’t done since he married Tabitha.
If you have kids, you usually have to write before they get up or after they go to bed or to school. When I first started writing, I wrote late at night, after my young kids were in bed. Now that I’m a grandma, I fall asleep in front of the TV about the time I used to be hitting my stride. (Unless I’m talking story in a bar somewhere; then I can usually make it until about midnight.)
If you have a job AND kids, God bless you. You have to choose whether to write or sleep. You can’t do both, sorry.
Just before I came to my new home in NC, when people asked me when I wrote, I usually answered, “Whenever I can.” I taught martial arts classes at all times of the day (and night), most days of the week, for an hour or two at a time. This made for a chaotic schedule, no two days alike. I could barely keep track of my routine, much less describe it to anyone else. I tried to get up early and write for a couple of hours consistently on most days, though. Whatever else happened that day, I could at least have that much accomplished.
I have to say that two hours was a goal more than an achievement, however, near the end of my stay in Virginia. The demands of my classes, the upheaval of preparing for the move and the promotional effort required to launch my first novel, Unchained Memory, took a lot of my attention.
Now that I’m in a new home, I have an entirely different problem. For the first time since I began writing as an adult, I am completely free to construct a routine built around my writing. I have no outside commitments—no job, no kids, no classes to teach. All I have to do is factor in time for exercise (I still practice tai chi, even if I no longer teach it) and those pesky home management tasks (nope, still no personal assistant/cook/maid, darn it!).
So what will it be? Am I really an early bird, doing her best work before noon? (The habits of a lifetime have a strong pull.) Or will I sleep in, then work steadily until late afternoon? (Tempting, but I can’t see that happening for more than a week.) What about my biggest conflict—the best time for writing (morning) is also the best time for exercise! And napz! Must have napz!
I can hear you all now. This is a nice problem to have, right? I couldn’t agree more. Forgive me if I have to take a minute to scurry around in frantic circles like an ant whose nest has just been kicked. Eventually I’ll find the right path and get back to work in proper orderly fashion. In the meantime, what would you do if you could build the day to suit yourself? Get up early, stay up late, declare noon to be the new dawn? Or just tell time by the rising and setting of the sun?