In order to answer this question, it may help to consider how you define ‘writing’. Writing isn’t just about sitting at a desk. Sure, that does come in to it, but by the time you get to that stage you’ll have already made the commitment to words, by which time the question will be irrelevant.
Let me tell you what I mean by explaining how I write. My writing always begins in the form of gathering and note-taking in any number of notebooks I have lying around the house. This is because ideas can arrive any time and anywhere, usually when I haven’t made plans to write and am occupied with other things – boring, mundane life things that can’t be avoided, like:
Cleaning. While I’m sympathetic to the view that when you’re on your deathbed you won’t be wishing you’d done more cleaning (and this poem certainly resonates), I like a clean and tidy house and find the muses do too. Not only can cleaning be enormously therapeutic and put you in the mood for work by freeing you of distraction, but if you have a notebook and pen handy you can capture any thoughts that float by while you’re vacuuming, scrubbing the bath or sorting through the laundry. Which they will do.
Showering. Everybody knows that ideas can visit you in the shower, it’s nothing new. So take advantage of this and invest in a waterproof notepad, or have a non-waterproof one close by for when you get out. Taking notes while showering can give you a feeling of accomplishment before the day has even started (if you’re into that sort of thing).
Cooking. Chopping onions, frying veg, stirring soup… Cooking often involves multi-tasking, so why not add writing to the mix? If I’ve also got the radio on I’m guaranteed to be inspired by something enough to need to scribble it down.
Travelling. Whether you’re stuck in a traffic jam, or are on the bus or train, sometimes it is nice to just sit there and do nothing. However, if you’d like to make more use of these times, take a notebook and pen with you. When the muses see you’ve got one they’ll reward you with ideas.
It’s a bit of a paradox, but if you want to write, try doing the opposite: don’t. Certainly don’t obsess over it or sit at a desk because the words are unlikely to come that way. Just buy some notebooks, place them around the house, in your bag and in your car, and see what happens.
After a while you may get a feel for when words are likely to visit you. For me this is during activities when brainpower takes a back seat to action, when I’m not trying too hard and am doing something else: queueing at the supermarket, watching TV, even sleeping.
Tune in and be alive to these times, and be glad that you’re busy. Lack of time needn’t stop you writing because handwritten words are portable and can fit in the small gaps in your life. Words want to help, and will be happy to see that you’re trying.
It’s great when the need to write something down overpowers whatever else it is you’re doing. Once you start, ideas will accumulate. If they’re any good they will force you to keep going, and other tasks will get ousted.
Writing will make the decision for you.
So what do you think? Do you find you’re able to fit writing into your life this way? When and where do ideas come to you? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Feel free to post a comment below.