Writing a Book – The Writing Day

An excerpt from:

So You Want To Be A Writer

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How does your writing day look? How should a writing day look? Well, the honest answer is that no two days will ever be exactly the same. That applies whether you are a professional or an aspiring writer. Some of us are morning people, some of us are afternoon or evening people. Some people even write throughout the night.

And what if you don’t have a writing day. What if you only have a writing hour, or a writing afternoon one day a week?

The important thing to note is that, to be a writer, you need to write. You need to find the time to write as often as possible in order to fulfil your ambition.

Stephen King, in his book On Writing says that he told one interviewer, in answer to the question ‘How often do you write?’, that he writes every day of the year except for Christmas day and his birthday. Then, in his book, he tells us that he’d actually lied to the interviewer. The truth was that he wrote everyday, including his birthday and Christmas. He couldn’t help it. Had to do it. Wanted to do it. Did it anyway.

You should aim for the same.

Now not everyone has the luxury of being able to write every day. We don’t have the money in the bank that might allow us to do that, and that’s assuming that we even have the desire to write that often.

But I’m going to guess that you do. I know I do. If I could wake up every morning and just go to the computer and write, I’d be a very happy and contented man indeed.

How does your writing day look if you also have a day job? Well, I have one, and I’m about to publish my second book this year. How do I do that? I write for an hour a day, almost every day, when I come home from work.

I set myself a target of 1,000 words. I might write more, I might write less, but at least I have a goal. That hour might be 45 minutes, or it might be an hour and a half. Doesn’t matter. I’m writing consistently. There’s still some subconscious work going on every time I sit down to write. I have momentum. I have desire. I have a project underway. I’m writing.

Time was, before I was married, whenever I could afford to do so, I’d write for 12 hours a day, unprompted and unpaid, for seven days a week.

I know what you’re thinking. That’s dedication right there. Or maybe you’re just thinking, ‘Get a life!’

The thing is, I did it, and I’ve done it whenever life has allowed me to do so. Maybe not write to that extent (though don’t let me stop you), but write as much and as often as you can. You never know, you might just get rich and famous a little earlier than you hoped or expected.

How did I keep writing for 12 hours a day and for seven days a week?

Well, the seven days a week only happened during occasional periods of unemployment, when either I could afford to take a break or I couldn’t find a job. And if I was unemployed, I was skint. And when I say that, I mean as broke as broke can be. Like one of those Parisian artists trading paintings for meals at the local bistro, except no-one wanted my work, so I was even more destitute than that!

My friend, someone who’d grown up in a ghetto, used to say that I was the poorest guy he’d ever met. By that (I hope) he meant the person who had to survive on the least money, and not that I was a poor excuse for a human being!

Whenever I had time on my hands, I would write. Plays, screenplays, novels. Whatever story was next on my list, I wrote it. Once completed, I’d find a way to get it into the hands of publishers, film producers, and anyone I could find in the industry. Nothing would come of them. Still, I’d keep writing with all of the time available to me.

I worked too for most of the time. I’ve worked my whole life, it seems, yet I’ve made use of any downtime and written prolifically in that period. If a work contract ended, and I had a little put away in the bank, I’d write until I ran out of money, and then I’d go find another job.

So, back to the question, how can you write for 12 hours a day? The answer is that you can’t. Not non-stop, anyway. But here’s how you can best go about it.

I’d begin at nine in the morning. I’d write for 90 minutes. Then I’d take a half-hour break. Give my brain a rest.

I’d have a cup of tea. Watch a bit of morning TV. Just switch off and have a cup of tea or coffee, maybe smoke a cigarette or eat a piece of toast or something. Then I’d go back and write for another two hours.

Then I’d break for lunch. I’d give myself a full hour. I’d make myself something to eat, whilst watching more of that daytime TV.

An hour’s rest for a brain that is being driven at its maximum. You’ve got to give it a rest. You’ve got to learn how to relax and switch off and not tax yourself in those interim moments. After all, you’re working hard, right? Give yourself the break you need and that you so richly deserve.

After lunch, do another two hours. Then break for your afternoon coffee. Give yourself half an hour. After all, you’ll be feeling the strain by now from all of that endeavour. That connection between what you’re thinking and what you’re typing comes at a cost. You’re working really hard.

Then you do another 90 minutes.

Then you break for dinner. That’s a two-hour break. An hour to cook. A half-hour to eat. A half-hour to watch some more of that TV. After that, you spend a couple of hours going over everything you’ve written; editing, and making changes and improvements.

By now, it’s 9pm, and your writing day is done. You’ve probably got a couple of thousand words down on paper. Those words have been edited too. You’re in good shape. Go watch TV, or pop to the pub. Afterwards, go get some sleep, because tomorrow is another writing day.

Write as often as you can. Find a time that suits you.

And write.