Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Writing Time

Every Wednesday, I have an essay on any topic that catches my fancy!

The great thing about the label "writer" is that anyone can claim to be one. No degrees, no exams, no licenses needed. There is one requirement though: to actually write. Of course having said that, writing is a very, very broad category. If you want to be more specific, that's harder. You can only call yourself a poet if you've written poems. I don't claim to be a novelist because hey--I haven't written a novel. But a writer, yup, I consider myself a writer. And I'm sure many people do too. So the question is, where's your writing output?

Now there are several reasons why "writers" will claim they haven't written new material (and by new material, I simply mean new material--it doesn't have to be award-winning or even finely polished) such as writer's block. One pet peeve of mine is the excuse that they don't have the time. Now my issue with time is that we all have the same amount of time: everyone works with 24 hours a day, not a minute more, not a minute less (faster-than-light travel aside). There are several qualities which make a writer great such as perseverance, talent, and (let's be truthful about this) personal networks. Now as individuals, we have those qualities in varying quantities. But one element we have in our control is time, or rather how much time we devote to writing.

I'm not the busiest man in the world but neither do I have all the time in the world to do everything I want. I work in a nine hour job and getting to my office takes half an hour on a good day. I update this blog on a regular basis--at the very least, people have proof that I have writing output, in addition to the stories that are in my hard drive (whether they're good enough to be published is something else). Today I'm trying to meet a December 8 fiction deadline but I'm making the time to write this article. Oh, and there's such a thing as eating and sleeping. Was this always the case with me? Admittedly, no. I had to give up a lot of things: I said goodbye to TV, gave up my weekday nights playing DotA, and I even ditched one of my two regular RPG gaming groups. The last one hit me pretty hard but it was a sacrifice I needed to do--at least if I was serious about my writing.

I've heard some stories from aspiring writers about how busy they are, everything from med school to studying for law. Now with the former, I know about those 36-hour and even 48-hour shifts. But there's still the rest of the week to write. As for law, well, you can give up one hour of sleeping time (either before you sleep or when you wake up) to write. Either that or find a day in the week where you can devote time to writing. My best advice is to learn "guerrilla writing". Now I know some people want to be in the proper "mood" to write. But guess what, that's what writing is about: writing whether you're inspired or not, writing when you need to do so rather than when you want to. Still, you're the writers and do what's best for you: as long as you find the time to write. As for the rest of the world, well, what excuse do you have?

My main issue about writing time is prioritizing it. It's seldom that you'll actually find the time to write unless you make time for it. Again, we all live busy lives. Procrastination is the simplest excuse and the most difficult obstacle to overcome. If you're truly serious about writing, you'll find the time to write now instead of later. And I think that's an important fact. Because honestly, if you don't find the time now, when will you find the time? A student might have an upcoming project, term paper, or exam. But if you don't find the time today to write, when will you find the time? Tomorrow, when there's another quiz, another test, or even another party to go to? Of course there will be dire situations when you simply won't be able to write but barring those situations (and they should be rare), the rest are simply excuses. How badly do you want to write? What do you need to give up in order to write? While I'm not exactly the type of person who'll tell someone to not read a book, if you end up spending more time reading books than writing, you might want to cut back on the former and increase the latter. If you don't consider blogging writing (I do) and you're blogging quite often, cut back on it and start doing some writing (whatever your definition of writing is be it poetry, fiction, nonfiction, etc.). Better yet, stop reading this blog and go write!

Now this entire article might seem too preachy for you. Well, here's some practical advice: learn to write on the go. We live in a mobile world and here are some suggestions to help you in your guerrilla writing endeavors:

1) Laptop: The best alternative next to having a computer. You carry your files with you wherever you go and you can do your writing nearly anywhere. The problem? It might be too heavy and if you live in a country like mine that's plagued with security checkpoints, it might be too much of a hassle to bring along. There's also the problem of being able to afford one and I honestly don't own one (damn you third-world income!). But if you're the type that goes out on business meetings very often or meet with your friends in a coffee shop, investing in a laptop might be a wise choice: keep yourself preoccupied and instead of getting angry while waiting for other people, start writing!

2) PDA: All the electronic goodness of a laptop minus its versatility. Still, most PDAs are packed with a word processor. The only downside is that a stylus isn't necessarily the best method to write with. If you invest more money into such a device, you can purchase yourself a foldable keyboard. Write wherever you go and even keep your notes without the laptop's heavy luggage.

3) Flash Drive: I work in an office (most of the time) so this is the best method for me. I keep all my documents in a flash drive and I carry it with me everywhere, whether I'm at home or at work. This is easily the best bang for your buck as long as you have a computer terminal you can use (even the Internet Cafe's). It doesn't solve the problem of idle time when you're stranded in a deserted island however.

4) Google Docs: In a perfect world, everyone would have Internet access wherever they go. This isn't a perfect world so it limits the usefulness of Google Docs. But still, if you're that much of a cheapskate that you can't afford a Flash Drive, writing (and saving) your documents in Google Docs is the next best thing. Access it wherever you presumably have Internet access.

5) Notebook: Go treat yourself to a Moleskine notebook, a new fountain pen--whatever as long as it encourages you to write on paper. I find paper to be the most inefficient means of writing but beggars can't be choosers and if it worked for writers centuries ago, it'll work for you today.


Idadaan Kay Ida said...

What about if you have an opposite problem? You make so much time to write, that you eventually neglect everything else -- work, eating, your friends, etc.

I'm unlucky enough to usually be inspired to write in the middle of studying for a test. I prioritize writing, and end up failing a lot of tests. :(

I love to write, but sometimes it can be such a curse. Oh, but I do agree with you that when people say they don't have time to write they're just making an excuse. :P

PreciseEdit said...

Is writing a job, or is it a hobby? Most of our clients at Precise Edit who consider themselves "writers" think of writing as a job, which is to say they have specific goals, tasks, and times for their writing.