Write Every Day: Stolen Moments

From a purely theoretical sense, I sit down to write every night from ten o'clock to about one in the morning.  "Theoretical" is the most important word in that sentence. What does my writing schedule look like in practice?  Well, it varies.

Some nights I pull myself together and at ten-oh-one I'm in front of the keyboard.  Other nights . . . less so.

Write Every Day

Write Every Day

So I get it.  And I try to do my best.  And I try to be flexible and not get too grumpy when stuff gets in the way of my ten o'clock call.

But sometimes I know I'm not going to be getting any writing done.  Maybe my day-job was particularly rough that day and my mind is wiped.  Maybe I'm feeling under the weather.  Maybe Layla needs me more than I need to be writing -- and let's be clear: at those times, it's not even a contest.

The baby comes first.  Jessy comes first.

Writing is important, but it's a distant second to my family.

It happens.  And when the smoke clears and it's eleven-thirty or midnight, maybe I don't get to write that night.  It's okay -- I believe I've talked about how a big part of this Write Every Day stuff is resolving yourself to the impossibility of it.

Some days you're just not going to get to write.  It happens.  But if writing is the norm and not the exception, well, then you're doing it right.

But there's another answer, too.

As I wrote above, ten o'clock is my writing time.  But it's not my only writing time.  Ten o'clock is my scheduled writing time.  I think that's important, essential even, in building the good habit of writing.  After all, it's only too easy to procrastinate and rationalize and lose another day.

So, while I think it's important to schedule your time, I also think it's important not to be married to your scheduled writing time.  If ten o'clock at night was the only time I could write, if the sun being up kept me from sneaking into my worlds of make believe, I'd be really hamstrung.

Because sometimes I'm not going to be able to write at ten o'clock at night.  I'm just not.  No one is, not really.

So here's what you do: steal moments throughout the day.

Maybe it's ten minutes jotting down an idea you had while waiting for the train.  Maybe it's propping up your iPad and working through some notes or a scene during your morning commute (I have a Bluetooth keyboard for my iPad for just this).  Maybe it's an hour in the afternoon when everything and everyone else seems to have briefly vanished from the world.

The trick is to keep an eye out.  The trick is, again, to make writing your default.  So, if you're traveling and you've got an hour to kill in the hotel room, don't flip through the hotel's crappy cable channels hoping to find something worth watching on. (Protip: you won't.  There's almost never anything on that's better than writing.)

Don't fall into the habit of telling yourself if you can't get a solid three or four hour window to write in it's not worth trying.  It is worth trying.  Even one sentence, if it's the right sentence, is worth the trouble.  Just one word is worth the trouble.  It's always worth the trouble.

Some writers will carry a little notebook around with them wherever they go.  I haven't found this to work for me, less because I'm bad about taking notes and more because -- as previously noted -- I can't actually read my own handwriting.  Doubly so when I'm writing in a hurry about something I'm excited about.

So I keep an iPad with me pretty much 24-7.  Each book I've got active or on the back burner has its own little notebook on my iPad.  The notes sync in realtime to my other devices and desktop.  So if I have an idea for something while I'm out and about, it's waiting for me when I get to my computer.

Whatever you use, however, the point is this: write.  Be ready to write.  Create the habit of stealing those little moments whenever you can.  Maybe it's as simple as falling into daydreaming while waiting for the bus instead of whipping out your phone to check sports scores.  Maybe it's as simple as visualizing where you left off, and asking yourself where you're going next.

So many of the best bits of story have come from moments like that.  I'll thinking I'm getting ready to write a particular type of scene, but then my mind will wander and I'll realize I actually want to write it this way instead.

You might be grabbing a half-hour in the middle of the afternoon.  Or two minutes waiting for a meeting to begin.  The point is not to write off those snippets of time just because they're so small.

The point is to keep yourself open and ready.  It's vital to schedule your writing time -- that's the best way to build up the habit -- but it's just as vital to let the words come to you.

Be on your guard, be alert, and be ready.  Some of your best stuff will sneak up on you.

If you let it.