Some writers get up very early and do a few thousand words in that quiet time before the world presses in on them. I am not one of these.
The nearest I got was a regular 6.45 wake up each morning; a hurried breakfast and out for the 7.15 bus. The ride into the city centre gave me thirty minutes thinking time, jotting time, plotting time, followed by a similar block of time in a coffee shop before starting work. Lunchtime was a quick sandwich whilst scanning work papers. The bus-ride home was usually rush-hour, crowded, noisy, tiring: not conducive to writing – so the next bit of time able to be squeezed out for being creative was mid-evening or odd hours at the weekend.
It wasn’t ideal. Despite that, a number of things were written that way: Made in Birmingham, the Tales; Made in Birmingham, the Poems; It’s Murder on the Eleven; Another Glorious Day. This was because I was able to see at least one fragment of me as being a writer, and was determined in creating spaces and times in which to write.
Once retired, things were different – but retirement didn’t bring endless free time for writing. My normal getting up time became more like 8.00am. Breakfast was less hurried. There was then a walk across the nearby park to buy a newspaper. A couple of coffees, and a gentle read of the paper, and it was mid-morning: Time to check emails, Twitter, Facebook and line the writing tasks up for the day. There were usually a couple of domestic tasks to do: bits of shopping to get in, or things to move around, or other odd jobs to do. Writing might start then, or after an early sandwich lunch.
That has become a new pattern for me. Writing at home or in a High Street coffee shop. Late morning into early afternoon. Space for writing and time for writing.
It isn’t always direct writing of new stuff. Often it is editing, or redrafting articles from the website. Sometimes it is simply puzzling about ways forward, reading stored up background information, cross-referencing things. The writing may be on a work of fiction, or a poem, or may be on the next post for a blog, or the next article for the www.thewordsthething.org.uk website.
Retirement has brought more time for writing – but it has also brought new pressures that eat into that time. Not having to squeeze the writing into that short pre-work slot means that it can be done at leisure – or can be distracted from by Twitter, cups of tea, answering cold-call nuisances on the telephone, the neighbour calling round … and that is before the family things. Relationships need time spent on them; children need supporting or listening to; grandchildren expect to be played with. Then there are holidays, birthdays, visits, days out –the writing time can drain away. Time is there but with no simple guarantee that it will be maintained for writing.
It is the same with maintaining space for writing. The largest table in the house is ideal for spreading stuff out, resting the laptop on, writing at. Unfortunately it is also the place for meals or for others to leave things on.
Ideally a writer has a space of their own – a place where things can be left undisturbed – a study, a shed, an office, a desk in the corner. Ideally there are times that are recognised as working-times, undisturbable, privileged.
For me it is a set of shelves, a table, a laptop, a set of storage files. It is evening times when others are enthralled by TV programmes. It is several afternoons. It is train rides to nearby towns – near enough to be a quick day out but far enough to for the journey to offer an hour’s writing time. It is half-day workshops.
Sometimes it feels like time snatched here and there, but there is always the determination that writing is what I do and that this occupation needs its own time and its own space.