Here’s a fun thing I’ve noticed as I bumble my way through life as a writer; you’re almost never not writing.
I know many writers, myself included, for whom the hardest part of writing is writing. I mean the actual sitting down with pen or laptop to hand and forcing your brain to be in the mode you need it to be in. Where you block out your day job and your everyday life along with all the minor and major problems that have been occupying your thoughts and you just commit the words to paper or screen.
Finding the time and the headspace are tough things to do. Then when you have that done; you begin, knowing that whatever you get done will not, at the end of the day, be enough in and of itself, but you’re acting in the hope that when you’ve enough of these moments put together you’ll have something complete, and worthwhile.
That’s the work of it, the grind part.
The almost stupid revelatory part for me has been the slow realisation that when that moment arrives to commit those words to the page, what is actually being written is a cumulation of all the other moments you were writing but hardly noticing you were doing it.
You thought you were chopping vegetables for dinner, or driving to work, or showering, but your mind was wandering back to your story and for just a minute it was your main character dicing onions, or your villain straining pasta.
You might do this fifty times a day and hardly notice it; moments where you briefly leave this world to visit the imaginary one you’ve created entirely in your head. Telepathic transportation to a fictional universe populated by people who are imaginary to everyone except you. To you, they’re real.
So many moments of character development and plot-untangling that you do reflexively as your car idles at traffic lights. Because the truth is that when you’re a writer you’re almost never not writing.
Day and night, sometimes unexpectedly when you’re in mid-conversation, sometimes costing you your place in the queue for your groceries, often, all too often, just when you’re on the verge of sleep.
And when you’ve filled your head with those moments, and teased out your plot and when you’ve been awake after your bed-time long enough, with your mind brimming over with those ideas, that’s when you’re suddenly ready to commit to the real writing part.
It’s so much more than the pen or laptop at hand, it’s a process you carry in your brain wherever you go, and though it’s sometimes exhausting, it’s also why you can never match the feeling of that moment when you write “The End” at the end of your first draft, because whether you knew it or not, you’ve been writing this story in almost every waking moment, not just when you were locked into that room you use.
It’s a stupid thing to have realised so many years later, after writing four books, publishing two and starting five others that remain unfinished – but there it is.
So cut yourself a little slack (and I’m mostly talking to myself here) if you don’t get to the table three times a week to commit to your masterpiece; whether you realise it or not, you’ll be writing throughout the day, every day, regardless.