Writing and Time
Fellow blogger Sandrian recently asked on the Blaugust Discord server, “how do people find the time. I've been nothing but exhausted for the past three weeks and barely remember to post stuff for Blaugust”. It’s a common question asked by people coming to grips with regular content creation. After a decade plus of writing in some shape or form, I believe I have two possible answers. The first and short response is a quote by the great Montgomery Scott, “if something's important, you'll make the time”. The second is a more detailed breakdown of my daily schedule and how I integrate my writing process into it. Perhaps aspects of my approach to writing will be of use to others, however I will once again state that there is no “one size fits all” approach to any sort of content creation. You have to find what is best for you and then build upon it. There is no magic solution and however you undertake your writing, podcasting or streaming, it takes discipline and a degree of self-sacrifice if you wish to persevere.
To begin with, I have demands on my time like everyone else. I retired from work to become a carer to both my parents who are disabled. However, both have clearly structured days and routines, so although I am kept busy, I have a very clear idea how my time will be spent at the beginning of each week. I am mainly occupied between the hours of 11:00 AM and 6:00 PM during week days. This affords me time in the morning and the evening to write. I live with my significant other who also took early retirement and is now a lady of leisure. We spend time together each evening and regularly have days out, but we also pursue individual interests. My son is an adult with a family of his own so childcare is no longer an issue, although we do regularly babysit our twin granddaughters. Overall, my life is busy but tends to be well organised. I’m also a “night owl” and will stay up late, getting by quite well with just five hours of sleep. Hence, there are distinct windows of opportunity each day to write, both in the morning and at night.
Because of the subjects that I write about, at least half of my weekly content is planned in advance. I have an ongoing “to do list” of movies and TV shows which I methodically work through. I take notes as I watch and use these to structure reviews or analysis. Most of the long form “think pieces” that I write about popular culture and gaming are planned ahead of writing and developed over several writing sessions. The other half of my writing is driven by what I read. I will often riff off a talking point in the gaming news or give my perspective on an ongoing debacle or controversy. I keep a spreadsheet on my Windows “start list” where I frequently jot down ideas. If I’m out and about and something worth writing about pops into my head, I’ll use the voice recorder on my phone to collate my thoughts. I also have word installed on my Samsung S8, and have frequently written bullet points for a blog post, while sitting in a hospital waiting room with one of my parents. Again, “if something's important, you'll make the time”.
There are twenty-four hours in a day. If you want to write, then you can always set an alarm and get up an hour early. Or you can skip a superfluous TV show that you watch mainly because you don’t want to get off the couch. Time can be found, if you choose to do so. But that can lead into another potential problem. After creating that window of opportunity and finding yourself in front of your PC, you have to motivate yourself to write. I prefer writing in the morning when I’m feeling enthused and energetic. It is demonstrably harder to do so later at night after a gruelling day. And this is where mental discipline raises it’s head. You have to consciously decided to ignore all distractions (such as cat videos on You Tube) and focus on getting your content out of your head and into a coherent written form. Now if you feel that this is all a little too heavy and you only want to write just for fun, then cool. If the shit fits, wear it as they say. But you’ll soon find that your output will become infrequent and that in itself can kill your motivation further. If you want to pursue a more rigorous writing schedule, then you have to knuckle down and just do it.
Once you start writing, get as much down as you can in the time that you have. Do not edit as you go, as that really slows you down. Just concentrate in getting the thrust of you post written and worry about spelling, grammar and coherency later. If you find that the writing is “flowing” and that your plan is coming together in such a way it would make Hannibal Smith happy, then capitalise on the experience. If you can get two or more posts written, then do so and bank them. Building up a stockpile of blog posts is great insurance policy for those days when everything you touch turns to shit. Plus, it’s highly likely that you’ll have a holiday at some point during the year, or social engagements that will keep you out all night, so having material in reserve is a real boon. Another point to remember is that every blog post doesn’t have to be an epic. Brevity can be good. Three paragraphs that are on point are far better than six that are vague and flatulent.
Ultimately, how you blog and what you blog about have an impact upon the length and complexity of your output. But if you diligently set aside the time, sit yourself down in a suitable writing environment and focus upon the task in hand, you will find that writing will get easier over time. Blaugust is great for providing the budding writer with a reality check about the nature of regular content creation. Many will have found the experience hard, which is why I sincerely congratulate all those who met the targets that they set themselves. What happens next is in some respects a lot harder. You now have the choice to continue to write, purely for yourselves and not because you publicly agreed to undertake a challenge. But you’ve already proven that you can. You have all the tools that you need at your disposal along with a month’s experience. If you set your mind to it, you will continue to write and integrate it into your regular life. I hope that many of those who partook in Blaugust Reborn this year will do exactly that.