Friday, 15 June 2012

Well Past Midnight - Linda Strachan

 When I first started writing it was such an exciting time.

I had discovered, much to my amazement, that I might be able to put words together, express my thoughts and bring stories out of my head in a way that made people want to read them, even publish them.

Who would have thought?
This new part of my life was uncharted territory. I had no real expectations because I had never dreamt this was something I could do. I didn't know anyone who was a published writer so I knew nothing about what it would be like. But what I did know was that I had found something that I loved doing and I wanted to spend all my spare time writing.

I never had any expectations of.making a fortune, it was the excitement of being allowed, and encouraged, to create characters and stories. Being able to give myself permission, having a good excuse to spend hours scribbling in a notebook or on the laptop.  I was living lives other than my own, crafting words that would take the images in my head and create them in a reader's mind.

This excitement meant that I was writing in the evenings, at the weekend, when we went away for a break or a holiday I would take the laptop and a notepad so that I could write.

It also meant that I would find myself writing late into the night - I particularly enjoyed the quiet, atmospheric feel of the early hours, well past midnight, when darkness enveloped the world outside the circle of light that was my workplace.

That was then, but as time went on things changed and although the excitement of writing and crafting a story is still there my writing life has changed.  I spend a lot more time travelling - to events, schools and festivals etc, and there seems to be a whole lot more time spent on paperwork and other things that are not actually writing.  I am not unhappy about this because every day I wake up delighted that this is my job, and I wouldn't have it any other way.  It's just that it's different now.

Yesterday I went to listen to a masterclass by award winning author/illustrator Oliver Jeffers. It was fascinating. He talked about his picture books, his art and his life.
You can see his great Authors Live event on BBC iplayer here Scottish Book Trust's Authors Live event
Oliver Jeffers
During the question and answer session he was asked - with all the things he does, how did he manage his time? 

He said he used to work all day and then also work in the evenings and at weekends, in fact all the time.  There was no definition between working time and non-working time.  
Now when he leaves his studio at the end of the day he doesn't take work home, although he said he always carries a notebook for the odd sketch or notes if an idea strikes.

This struck a cord with me and I recall when I made the same decision.  When I started writing full time  I started to set aside time when I was not writing  - because writing, the joyful hobby, had become a full time occupation.  It doesn't mean that I don't have ideas or think about writing at these times, but I find that having time away from whatever I am working on means that when I come back to it I approach it with renewed energy. Often the solution to a plot or character problem seems obvious.
 I do still sometimes write late into the night but much less often I used to.

 Do you have defined non working/writing times? 

Linda Strachan writes books for all ages - picture books to teenage novels and a writing handbook Writing for Children
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Joan Lennon said...

I am rubbish at this. Days off are the ones that start with a migraine. I do think I should think about taking time, and make many fine resolutions to do so, after the current book is finished ... but given my discomfort about any time spent BETWEEN books, Captain Jack Sparrow's opportune moment just never comes.

I feel much better for confessing - now back to work!

Penny Dolan said...

Am wishing for a studio now. Though it would probably end up with washing and to do list enclosed.

Linda, I really do agree with how complicated the work of writing - an/or not writing - gets.

Linda Strachan said...

Just updated the blog with BBC iplayer link of Oliver Jeffers doing an Authors Alive event for Scottish Book Trust. Watch and enjoy!

Stroppy Author said...

Ah, my time is such a mess! Until very recently, it was organised around school hours (and all kinds of complications that went along with that for various reasons). So I would work from 5:30 or 6 until time to shovel bints out of bed and towards school, then work during the school day, then not work while they were around. And work alternate weekends when they were away.

It's all got even more complicated now, though, and I don't even have much of a pattern. Except that I never seem to do much on Fridays....

Lynne Garner said...

I don't have set hours to write. I tend to have a list of things to do and I work my way down that list. So one morning could be paperwork with writing in the afternoon. Whilst the next day could be planning classes and no writing gets done. Other days I'll write all day.

Jackie Marchant said...

I write in the mornings. I will either stagger across the landing into my study, or I will reach, bleary eyed, for my netbook. I find the couple of hours before breakfast the best. Then I'll write until about midday. After that it sort of goes down hill - I reach a point when I just can't write any more!

Wendy Meddour said...

I'm always trying to move a mountain of 'stuff' just so that I can write. You know, the kind of life-stuff that gets in the way. Estate agents, leaking washing machines, packed lunches, pesky weeds. And those emails! The hyperactive inbox! None of you warned me about them! So I continue to do battle against 'stuff' in my fight to reach the laptop. But when I get to it, (and 'stuff' doesn't notice), well, let's just say: happy days ...

Linda Strachan said...

Joan - I wonder if that is your head telling you to take time off, perhaps not even a whole day, but some time that is guilt free!

Penny - Oliver J's studio is in New York and in the picture he showed us it looked great. Was jealous, but I do love my shed.

Anne - Your Fridays sound good. I tend to write in blocks of days,and I work better with a deadline. No idea how I managed to get so much writing done when all three kids were living at home, but perhaps that is why I used to write late into the night.

Lynne - if I started with my to do list I would never write anything!

Jackie - I also find I need to set myself up to write in the mornings otherwise I never get started. It can sometimes translate into all day but if I put it off it seems harder to get started.

Ann Turnbull said...

Wendy's experience strikes a chord with me! There's so much 'stuff' involved in running a home and keeping on top of work admin. If I start on my 'to do' list, no writing gets done. If I start with writing, I'll go on all day and the 'stuff' will have reached crisis point next day. So I tend to alternate...