Virginia Woolf famously said, ‘A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.’ Virginia Woolf didn’t live in the twenty-first century when few of us have a private income or the luxury of a whole room within which to create.
Mostly we struggle to find a tiny timeslot between work and family demands and a physical space with no distractions is almost impossible. However, there are seven simple strategies that we can use to give ourselves more time and space to write.
Look for empty corners of time
Empty corners of time are everywhere, for example the fifteen minutes spent sitting in the car waiting to pick up the children or the lunch hour spent browsing the internet.
Writing doesn’t need a large continuous block of time.
A hundred words written here and there will, eventually, develop into a novel or a short story. I write quicker when my time is limited. Too often, having a whole day to write leads to procrastination.
Develop a regular writing routine
Use your empty corners of time as the basis for developing a regular writing routine. Doing something regularly, at the same time each day or each week, creates a habit and, once established, habits are hard to break.
Writing must become a habit.
On average it takes 66 days for a new routine to become habitual so be prepared to initially force yourself to write at regular times. If you struggle to get started, describe the weather or a character’s appearance until your brain kicks in with the story again. After a couple of months this way of writing will become automatic.
Arm yourself with a notebook
Always be prepared to write by carrying a notebook and pen. Alternatively, there are several note-taking apps available for smartphones if you prefer tech over paper.
When writing time is limited, it’s essential to know what you are going to write before the clock starts ticking on your allotted slot. Plan that next chapter, paragraph or sentence while you’re engaged in an activity that requires little conscious brainpower such as washing up, walking the dog or gardening. It might be useful to have a dictation app on your phone to capture any ideas before they disappear into the ether again.
Block out distractions
Unless we have Woolf’s ‘room of her own’, the distractions of family, house mates, colleagues or fellow commuters can be a barrier to writing. Noise cancelling headphones help reduce the noise and also signal that we are working and should not be disturbed. Choose music that gets you into the writing zone. The same music each time will teach your brain that when this music plays, it’s time to write.
Sit in the same place
When writing at home, always sit in the same place, such as the same corner of the kitchen table or the makeshift desk pushed under the stairs. Like playing the same music, sitting in this place will indicate to your brain that it’s time to release the creative juices. Making everything as automatic as possible will increase productivity.
Have a ‘portable office’
Writers with a room of their own have the luxury of spreading out paper, books and other paraphernalia. If your ‘space’ is in the corner of a bedroom shared with your partner, that’s not to be encouraged. Instead, have a box, bag or even a magazine rack, in which you can keep everything writing-related. You’ll know instantly where your notes and pens are, nobody will accidentally put your teetering pile of paper into the recycling and everything can be pushed out of sight when necessary.
Most of us don’t have the money nor the room of our own as advocated by Virginia Woolf but we can still claim the time and space to write. Enjoy!