Portrait of Lynn Shepherd

Lynn Shepherd

Three ‘R’s for the aspiring writer: Resolve, regularity, and room

I don’t know about other authors, but I just love doing festivals and signings. It doesn’t matter how many you do, someone always comes up with a question you hadn’t expected, or some new insight into how your book is read. There are some topics that come up more than others, of course (in my case ‘what would Charles Dickens think about what you’ve done with his book?’ and ‘which is your favourite Austen screen adaptation?’), but the ones that come up more often than any of  these are about the actual process of writing. People want to know whether I have set targets for each day’s writing, whether I have a special place in the house where I always write, and more important than either of these, how do I find the time?

The first thing I always admit is that I know I’m lucky. I write freelance for my ‘day job’, which means that I do have the ability (at least some of the time) to make space for my own writing. Anyone who’s ever been self-employed will know
that you don’t have a lot of control about your workload, and I rarely know what I’ll be doing more than six weeks ahead, which is fun, but can be a bit hair-raising too. It’s also feast and famine more often than not, and that means you have to make the most of the times when the deadlines are less pressing, and not get too irritated when the pesky clients send you something over to be done yesterday when you’re right in the middle of a really good creative run.

So much for my own experience, but would the same things apply to someone with a normal full-time job? Funnily enough I think they probably would. I have to be very disciplined in what I do, because if you work from home the temptation to just make another cup of coffee, or pop out to buy some milk, or go for a walk (especially in the summer) can be very hard to resist. Aspiring writers with full-time jobs have to be disciplined too – just in a different way. The challenge there is to set aside a regular time to sit down and write, whether that’s an hour an evening, or every Sunday afternoon, or whatever fits in with the weekly grind. And then have the resolve and the commitment to stick to it, even if the screen tends to look back at you a bit blankly to start with.

Way back in 1929 Virginia Woolf famously wrote that “’a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction”. Back then most people – never mind women – didn’t have the space to write, or the time for that matter. These days ‘room’ in the sense of time is far more of a constraint than money or a physical space, but I passionately believe that anyone who really burns with the desire to write can still find ‘room of their own’ to sit down and ‘just do it’. I may
be old-fashioned, but where writing’s concerned I don’t think there’s any substitute for practice, practice, and more practice. The more you do it, the easier it gets, the better you get, and (in my experience anyway) it gets less and less likely that you’ll turn on the computer and find you have nothing to say…

 

This post was originally written for the www.milorambles.com book and review website