If you were given an extra two hours a week, what would you do with them? Diane Perry decided to use hers for writing and has not looked back. Janet Johnstone gained a couple of days a week and has since been published in a variety of magazines in the UK and America. Julie Phillips suddenly gained a year and saw her name in print for the first time. Who gave them all this ‘extra’ time to write? They did.
Two Hours a Week
Diane Perry works full time as a civil servant and she also keeps horses and chickens. Life is hectic. But she’s the author of 100 Ways For A Chicken To Train Its Human and several articles in local county and smallholding magazines. She suddenly gained more time when she bought herself a laptop computer. How? She now takes her writing to work with her. “I use two lunch breaks a week for writing,” says Diane. “We have a small private meeting room with a huge desk and most importantly, no telephones! Two hours per week extra may not seem a lot, but I am always amazed at how much I get done in a solid hour without any interruptions. It has had a huge impact. My last three articles written during this time have been published, or accepted. Some were on a tight deadline, so I doubt that I would have got them done if it were not for my extra writing time.”
When extra writing time is limited like this, preparation is the key. You need to know exactly what it is you want to do during each specific writing period and how to overcome any problems you may encounter. “I use it for everything from the first draft to editing, and even research,” says Diane. “We are not allowed to use the Internet at work, so I have an encyclopaedia on my laptop, which is a useful tool to search for information and make notes.”
Buying a laptop computer has enabled Diane to literally buy herself more writing time.
A Couple of Days a Week
Janet Johnstone is a Health and Safety Advisor for a shopping centre, and whilst she’s approaching the time when many people consider retiring, that’s the last thing she wants to do! Janet used to get into the office before 7am in order to write before her colleagues arrived. Like Diane, these few hours a week were productive, but she wanted to write more, so she enquired about reducing her working hours. Her employers agreed, which means she has a couple of days a week to devote to her writing. However, as Janet says, creating extra time like this to write doesn’t mean that it all has to be spent on the writing process. “How many times has that spark of inspiration been lit, only to be extinguished because a full day’s work gets in the way? It’s ages before you’ll have that free time and by then, something has been lost. I have more time not only for writing, but also thinking – thinking without other matters getting in the way.”
Janet enjoys writing fiction and non-fiction, so her writing time follows no fixed pattern. “With an article deadline to meet, I will start around 7am or even earlier and I continue until I am completely satisfied. However, with short stories or when working on a novel, I write as and when inspiration fires in.” Having the flexibility of a whole day to do this rather than part of a day works better for Janet. It also has another benefit. “I would say the writing is far more enjoyable. There isn’t that need to squeeze it in between your working day and other essential tasks such as housework and cooking!”
That enjoyment has certainly paid off because Janet is much more productive. Since making this time to write, her articles have appeared in a variety of magazines including Doll Magazine, Teddy Bear Club International, BBC History, Living History, Woman’s Weekly and Doll Reader. Janet’s decision to invest more time in herself, is paying off.
The Gap Year
Julie Phillips was a part-time practice nurse and is a full-time mother. She caught the writing bug when she undertook an Open University course in 2007. “Suddenly the flood gates opened and I knew I wanted to write more and more.” The opportunity to do so arrived when Julie was given the option of taking a career break, putting her nursing career on hold. It was the push she needed.
Making this much time to write can have its drawbacks, particularly at the beginning. “Because I tend to write in a corner of the living room, when my partner and daughter are here it can be very distracting and frustrating – particularly if an editor rings and I’m trying to hold a professional conversation with Bob the Builder music blaring out from the TV! But the pros definitely outweigh the cons.”
However, having longer periods of time to write has also improved Julie’s writing experience. “I’m less stressed than I used to be, which helps with my creative flow. I also have greater flexibility, so when I’m researching for articles, I can go off and interview people during the week in the day time, which can be more convenient for the interviewee. Since I became a full time writer, I can take myself, and my writing, more seriously. I have no qualms admitting to people that I’m a writer. It’s what I do!”
Since beginning her career break, Julie has had numerous articles accepted and published, and seen her fiction in print in Australia.
Most writers would like to create more time to write, and although Diane, Janet, and Julie have all created different amounts of time, they’ve all benefitted from that investment. Two hours a week doesn’t sound a lot, but its equivalent to writing full time for two weeks every year. Where will two hours a week take your writing?
♣ Tell your colleagues what you are doing. That way they’ll be less likely to bother you.
♣ Plan what you want to spend time doing, especially if you only have a short break. You do not want to spend the majority of the time wondering what to do with it and then find it’s the end of your lunch hour!
♣ Enjoy it! Try not to see it as just working through your break. Take a huge mug of tea and nibble on your sandwiches wile being creative. It will pay off.
♣ If writing is in you and you can reduce your hours, go for it. We are all going to have more time ‘one day’ as we get older, but if you can afford it, don’t hesitate to follow that dream whilst you still have the drive and the energy required to be successful.
♣ Discuss your plans with friends and family. You can’t do it by yourself and you need that support network.
♣ Make sure you have everything you need to set yourself up as a writer before you take the leap. I would have made sure that I had my own writing space. You need that to keep all your writing stuff in one place and it looks professional, which means you are professional. It’s a psychological thing.
© Simon Whaley