Now that I have finished this writing challenge, I find that I have learned a great deal: about the way that I write; about what works for me and what doesn’t; and about where writing sits within my life and my priorities. I have the uncomfortable feeling that some of the insights I have gained don’t only apply to writing!
I have found that having more time to write doesn’t necessarily mean that I get more done; the same work does indeed expand to fit the amount of time available for it. I didn’t take me any longer to complete the first draft of a novel when I had to fit it around working full-time, or bringing up a family and working part-time, than once my children had left home and I was working very few hours each week. Over the last month, although I have had neither more nor less time available than in the preceding six, I have written a great deal more. Partly, I believe, this is due to taking advantage of smaller chunks of time, and using them wisely. For example, on a train journey that takes half an hour, I tend to use that time well, to justify carrying my laptop or notebook around with me, whereas if I am due to be at home all day, there is a sense of limitless possibilities for writing – but also many distractions. I may well get more good quality work done while travelling to and from a conference, plus during the lunch break, than on a day with no other commitments.
Over the last week or two, I have found myself deliberately seeking out such limited windows of time, in order to write this productively. I need to learn from this how to make better use of the larger swathes of time available to me, and I’m still working on this – suggestions welcome!
Something else that has become very important to me is my writing group. I have in the past been part of writing groups where one of the important components was to read and discuss each other’s work, and I have found that sort of feedback from fellow authors very useful. That is not, however, the aim of my current group. For us, there is a solidarity about writing silently but as part of a collective; whilst I generally relish the solitary nature of my chosen occupation, it is very companionable to be surrounded by other people engaged in a similar activity once a week.
Being accountable to the others in helping to maintain a productive writing atmosphere helps to keep me on track, and the momentum that we as a group create carries me through tricky tasks. I often therefore use this weekly slot for work that I feel less confident about, or that I hesitate to start for some reason. Before this challenge, I attended the group meetings about once a fortnight on average – I don’t think I’ve missed a single one in the last five weekends!
There is also a difference that I haven’t quite got to grips with yet, between being someone who writes pretty much every day, and a writer. I feel I have perhaps made steps towards the latter over the last month, although I wouldn’t like to have to put that difference into words. I suspect that this, and other insights, will continue to settle into my mind into the future. If so, you may be sure that I will share them with you here!