A common complaint I hear amongst new writers (apart from the famed 'Writer's block' argument, which is a whole different discussion) is that they are so busy doing other things, they don't have time to finish the short story they are currently working on, or get started on that novel, or approach that agent or publisher, or even open a damn Word document.
You know what? At best, that's an excuse. At worst, it's a big steaming pile of horse shit. We make time for the things we really want to make time for.
As the popular saying goes, “You have the same amount of hours in a day as Beyonce.” Nobody is expecting you to start going on tour or having hit singles, but that is the crux of the matter. Unless you've found some way to disrupt and manipulate the space-time continuum (unlikely), we do indeed all have the same amount of time. You, me, Beyonce, JK Rowling, Stephen King. It's exactly the same amount of time as Abraham Lincoln had. Elvis Presley, Michael Jordan, Queen Victoria and Muhammad Ali. The only thing setting these people apart from the rest of us is how they chose to spend that time, which in turn directly led to their success and various achievements.
Our lack of success isn't a result of limited time, but by priorities
When I first started writing seriously, I was holding down a full-time job at a packing factory. I worked shifts, 6 am to 2 pm and 2 pm to 10 pm on alternate weeks. I also had all the same trappings any other normal 21-year old has – a social life, a girlfriend, a cat, a car, a games console, and an obsession with martial arts that saw me training two, three or four times a week. On top of all this I was grabbing any overtime I could to help make ends meet, which often pushed my working week up to 45 or even 60 hours. All things considered, I was lucky to get maybe four hours sleep a night.
But you know what? Regardless of anything else I had going on, I made sure I spent two hours a day writing. Two hours. Every day. It's not a lot of time, but it was enough to allow me to launch my career, get out of the factory, and start on this path I'm still on today. I was very aware, even back then, that time is a finite commodity, and I didn't want to waste a minute.
Looking back now, I think being so busy actually helped me focus. When I was doing something else, especially the more menial, repetitive tasks that typify factory work, I was always thinking about what I was going to write that night. Mulling over plot twists and characters, running through various scenarios in my mind, making mental 'to-do' lists. It was a distraction. Plus, that way, when I eventually sat myself down in front of the computer, I already knew what I was going to do. From there, it was just a matter of thrashing out the words.
Back then, I wrote a mixture of fiction and fact-based material. Just as I do now. I always worked on several projects at any one time, and if one ground to a halt I would simply switch to another. That's an easy way of defeating so-called writer's block. What people don't seem to understand is that in order to suffer from writer's block, you actually have to be writing something, and when you only have a couple hours of precious writing time a day, writer's block is a luxury you can't afford.
After keeping this regime for several years, I'd accumulated a modest collection of clippings and published credits, along with the obligatory stack of rejection slips.
My crowning achievement at that point was completing a book about Welsh history and folklore. To me, this symbolised all the hard work I'd done and all the sacrifices I'd made. When the book was accepted by a traditional publisher and came out the following year, I couldn't have been more proud. The book turned out to be quite a big deal in my home country. There were radio and magazine interviews, and a lot of attention. One opportunity led to another, and within a year I was able to leave the factory I'd worked at for over eight years and enroll in a journalism course at university.
Whatever your aims and ambitions in life, it's unlikely that you will ever achieve them without a certain amount of organisation, dedication and dogged determination. That may sound harsh, but it's true. Ask Beyonce.
The good thing is, these are transferable qualities that can easily be applied to any facet of your life, including your writing endeavors. However talented a wordsmith you are, don't expect success to just fall in your lap. You're still going to have to put the hours in. Many, many hours. If you aren't up for the fight, you'd be better off doing something else. But if you are up for it, and find a way to roll with the punches, the rewards will come.
C.M. Saunders is a freelance writer and editor. His journalism has appeared in publications such as Loaded, Record Collector, Fortean Times and Forever Sports, while his fiction has appeared in over fifty magazines, ezines and anthologies, including Raw Nerve, Fantastic Horror, Trigger Warning, Liquid imagination, and the Literary Hatchet. He is a hybrid author, meaning his books have been both traditionally and independently published, the most recent being X SAMPLE and Apartment 14F: An Oriental Ghost Story (Uncut) which are available now via Deviant Dolls Publications. He is represented by Media Bitch literary agency.
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