A few weeks ago I visited Oban, Scotland. On a tour of the whisky distillery there, the tour guide asked (rhetorically) ‘What’s the best way to drink whisky?’ and answered immediately ‘Any way you like it.’ It’s the same for writing. The best time for writing is whenever you are able to write productively.
That said, changing your writing routine can be helpful. There are also ways to find more time in the day to write. Lastly, you may find that a new time is better for you. So here are some tips and suggestions.
The best time(s) to write
- Get up early. The phone doesn’t ring and nobody interrupts you so, for me, 6am-9am is usually my most productive writing time. (It’s 6:53am as I write this.) I find that setting two alarms – one by the bed and another further off – means that I wake to the first and then get out of bed to stop the second one ringing. Bingo! I’m already up. For more tips on getting up early read: How I trained myself to get up earlier in the morning. You’ll be in good company. Anthony Trollope used to get up at 5am and write solidly until 9am when he would stop for the day. Michael Palin wrote his voluminous diaries first thing in the morning.
- Work late. This never worked for me but there are plenty of examples of writers (and especially computer programmers) who do their best work after everyone else goes to bed. Churchill was notorious for working late into the night – usually after a heavy meal and heavier drinking. His colleagues hated being summonsed for dinner because they didn’t get to sleep for two or three hours in the afternoon, unlike the great man himself. The advantages are the same as in the early morning – no disruptions.
- The ten-minute burst. If you are working on a project that doesn’t have a tight deadline – a novel, for example – this technique might work really well. Set a timer (the iPhone clock application will do or you can use my free concentration timer) and write as hard as you can to get as many words down as possible. Edit another day. You can do this at lunch, after work, on the commute home, in gaps between other projects, after every phone call, between TV programs or while cooking in the evening. Life is full of short gaps that you can use to do some writing.
- The 9-5. I tried this for a few weeks when I was working for one of my clients. I did a strict 9-5 day with 30-45 minutes for lunch. It worked very well in that I got a lot done but mainly because I was working with colleagues and not in my regular office so there was some peer pressure to concentrate and also because I was away from my usual distractions and interruptions. You can recreate the circumstances by writing somewhere different. Take a laptop to a library or coffee shop. You could work at a friend’s house. Or a tree house. The key thing for a big push like this is concentration. Check out my earlier post: Concentration: 22 ways to stay focused on writing.
- Weekends. I try not to write on weekends. It’s important to have time to feed the well and do non-work stuff. But if writing isn’t your day job (lucky you: check out My profession for a great poem about the travails of being a writer by Ezra Pound) then weekend work might be good for you.
- After work. Neville Shute wrote his novels in the evening after a long day designing aeroplanes, according to his autobiography Slide Rule. He did it for relaxation. It could be very effective but since I spend most days writing, for relaxation I want to do something else!
So, dear reader, what works for you? How do you find time to write? And, if you're ready to begin, here are some tips about how to start writing a blog.
See also: how to start a blog
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