Keri ArthurKeri ArthurKeri ArthurKeri Arthur

Finding time to write

I’m always so tired; I can never find the energy…

Even when I sit down to write, my family won’t leave me in peace. I just can’t find the time I need alone…

I work such long hours; by the time I get home, I just can’t face the computer again…

Excuses. We’ve all used them at one time or another. I’ve probably used all four listed above and a whole lot more besides. And for many years, my output reflected my attitude. I was producing a book a year, if I was lucky.

But in 2000, I completed two. I also completely revised another book, and started three others. In 2001, I finished three and had good starts on several others. In 2002, I finished four, and had good starts on two others. So, what’s changed?

Certainly not the situation. I worked full-time-and the life of a cook is not conducive to writing, let me tell you. I could do anywhere between 30 and 50 hours a week, had no set days off, and often worked a split shift. My daily routine rans something like this: get up, get daughter to school, get ready for work, drive to work. At two thirty, head back to school and pick up my daughter, go home, make tea, eat tea, go back to work. I would finally get back home anywhere between ten and one that night. Time to write? None, unless I made time.

The penny dropped about a few years ago. I finally twigged to the fact that most of the more successful authors were writing more than a book a year. They had their name out there, constantly on the shelves, constantly in the readers face. If I wanted to duplicate their success in any sort of way, I was going to have to get my act together and start producing. One book every year or so was not going to be good enough-not when it can sometimes take two or three years for a book to reach the shelves. By then, I’d be nothing more than a vague memory in my readers mind.

So, I sat back and took stock of the situation. The basics couldn’t be changed; I couldn’t afford to quit my job, and didn’t want to change it, as I actually liked working where I was. Nor could I change the fact that family will intrude, no matter what you do or say. What I could change was my attitude, and the way I worked. To get published, I had to write, so write I would-every day. But how, given my somewhat hectic schedule? If I didn’t count my days off, the only real time I had available was brief moments before I had to get my daughter ready for school (or at least, make her lunch) and maybe half an hour or so during my shift-break.

The answer, I decided, was getting out of bed earlier-no matter how hard that might be. I got into the habit of getting out of bed before seven, staggering into the computer room and writing for an hour and a half every morning. I didn’t care if it was good writing or bad, I just wrote. And you know what? It paid off. Books got finished.

Later, when I began to get more nights off, I switched around, and did all my emails in the morning and simply wrote at night. it’s a routine I still follow-though not, I have to admit, when I’m on holidays. I’m afraid the brain takes a holiday then, too. But for most of the working year, I write for a minimum of an hour and a half every day, plus also allocate one of my days off for writing. An hour and a half minimum doesn’t seem like a whole lot of writing time, and in reality, it isn’t. Yet, as I’ve said, I finished four books last year and started two more. It’s become a habit I now find hard to break.

And that, I guess, it the whole point. If you want to be successful, your writing has to become something you treat seriously. If it’s something you can push away with inane excuses, then you’re really not trying hard enough-or maybe, you’re just not serious enough about getting published.

Time can be found, whether it’s in the morning, or late at night, when everyone else is in bed. It doesn’t matter whether it’s half an hour or three; what matters is that you sit down at write everyday regardless of what happens.

In the end, it’s the only way you’ll ever get published.

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Keri’s books are also available at booksellers in Australia, the UK, and Canada.