Someone once told me you have to treat time like money.
It makes a lot sense, when you think about it. We all have only a finite amount of it to spend after all. And we all have ‘time expenses’ we can’t wriggle out of – direct debits from our hours, if you will. Once you deduct those bills (sleeping, working, eating, showering and so forth) you’re often left with very little to spare.
So then, you have to budget. You’ll want to spend a fair bit on your family, particularly your children. Friends too, and hobbies, and relaxation, and Netflix, and Facebook… before you know it you’re overdrawn on your hours. You’ve gone from having a little bit of disposable time to being overstretched, and owing more than you can feasibly pay.
If you’re trying to fit serious writing in as well, it might feel like you’re continuously in the red, and no one will offer you a loan.
As well as the finite nature of time, there’s another hard truth facing aspiring writers: no one takes you seriously to begin with. If you’re lucky, a few close family members, and your critique partners, believe you are going somewhere. Everyone else thinks you’ve got a cute little hobby. So you feel apologetic, embarrassed even, when you try to carve out some time for it.
But when you start to view time as if it were currency, it becomes a little easier to stand firm. You wouldn’t buy every product someone wants to sell you, or splash out on new clothes before your bills are paid. So, if you want to write seriously, you have to ring-fence your time in the same way you guard your pin number. No one else is going to protect your hours. It’s your responsibility.
Another piece of advice, one that has stuck with me over the last few years, is that you have to treat writing like a job if you ever want it to become one.
So, I don’t draw my writing time from my disposable hours. It has its own account. The fifteen hours a week available to me to write are immutable. I am, to all intents and purposes, at work. OK, I’ll have a coffee break and check my social media… maybe I’ll take a long lunch sometimes, but I won’t allow those hours to be eroded. They’re too precious. They’re an investment – in myself.
For the last two years I have spent those hours working on my novel, When Jimmy Saved London. I have been absent from the blogosphere during that time, because I found it too distracting from the task in hand. I’ve learned an awful lot, and worked closely with some awesome writers who have helped me bash it into shape through several redrafts. Now, I am gearing up to finally submit.
When people ask me if the time I’ve invested will pay off, they mean in a financial sense. And I honestly don’t know. But when I consider for myself whether those hours will pay off, I think of everything I have learned, the critique partners I have worked with, the sheer accomplishment of having written the story that yearned to be told – and I can’t help but feel they already have.