A technique I use to maximise creative output whilst finding time to write around a full-time career
So picture it, you get home after a full day of work and your creative muse is urging you to sit down and crack on with the new novel – but your body, and your frazzled brain are already waving the white flag of surrender whilst you eye up the most comfy corner of the sofa. Alternatively, it’s early morning and you’re staring at your reflection in the mirror… wishing you could spend the morning writing rather than giving your best energy to somebody else.
In the last seven years I’ve launched three existing novels (God Seed; Dante’s Fool; and Iron Man Project) and written and published five more (EDGE; Living in Flames; Dog Eat Dog; The Black Lake; and The Social Club). And written Yellow Dawn, an RPG based on the post-apocalyptic twist of the world my books occupy, plus a major campaign (Shadows of the Quantinex) and a raft of small scenarios. Last year I wrote 14 original short stories (40,000 words) in the space of 6 weeks. And in 2011 I wrote 15 shorts in a similar time-frame. This on top of a full-time job.
I write as often as I can and do what I can to keep my mind fresh. Polyphasic sleep really helps with that.
Writing around a career can be tough and leave you exhausted – change sleeping patterns to remain effective as a writer and at work
So, here’s what I do.
Every hour of creativity I take 15 mins out to sleep / snooze.
Sit down to work, set your alarm for 45 mins. When the alarm goes off, dump everything into standby and find your cave.
This can be a blanket on the floor with a cushion for your head; or a bed in the spare room next to your study. Set an alarm for 15 mins and let your mind drift off.
You don’t have to sleep. You just have to relax. You’ll find your thoughts roaming. You’ll be thinking through what you’ve just been working on. You’ll be thinking about what you’ve got to tackle when you get back to it.
And maybe, just as the time runs out, you’ll start to doze.
The trick is to get up when the alarm goes off.
When you first try this you should expect to feel nauseous, disoriented and generally grumpy.
Ride it out. Do it enough and the discomfort goes away; you get used to being able to grab these re-energising power naps regularly throughout the day.
This all started for me back in 1998 when I was 27 and partying more than I should. I remember reading a blog post on the early version of the Internet from a well-established screenwriter who talked about getting up at 4 o’clock in the morning to write. I tried it. Set my alarm clock.
It was hard!
Cold and feeling sick and confused. Those first attempts sometimes ended with me squirting shaving foam under my armpits – instead of deodorant, or pouring the freshly boiled kettle on my cereal instead of into my tea mug. I did it for a summer and then dropped the idea. But come 2007, I started to use it again, and combined with polyphasic sleep it makes a significant difference.
When it’s going well for me I tend to snap away in the wee hours of the morning. No alarm clock. Usually around four o’clock. Instant adrenaline rush and a sense of excitement about getting down to some writing before mundane reality crashes in and takes up time.
Coming home from work, I don’t even think about starting writing until 7pm. Start with a 15 min snooze then crack on. Golden rule, stop at 9pm. No computer work after 9.
Yeah, only 2 hours writing a night – but doing this every night, with the snoozing giving you high quality output and energy. And, more importantly, you’re working often, keeping the momentum going and not burning yourself out with long hours…
If you’re somebody who struggles with time-management I would seriously recommend you read the life-changing book by Stephen Covey – “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” – https://www.stephencovey.com/7habits/7habits.php
Let me know how you get on if you try it.
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