Do Writers Keep Regular Hours?

As you both know, I am busily engaged writing my next book. I had actually written the entire manuscript, but in consultation with my agent I decided to take a different tack, and the project moved in a new (but related) direction. Thanks to a new and improved synopsis – providing a secure roadmap – I am now well on the way to completing the new text. More on this at another time.

However, in the meantime, I have found that regular working hours really drive things along – and they don’t have to be too arduous.

As I am not a full-time writer (by day I work for the Submerged Log Company) the time I have to write is limited. I spend no more than 12 hours a week at the book – between 7pm and 9pm each day, except Friday, when Gardeners’ World is on the TV. This is quite enough to rough out 1000 words or so, which is as much as I can do in one go without losing focus. So, at 7pm sharp, I shut myself away in the home orifice, shut the door, pipe some loud instrumental rock music into my headphones, and write.

I find it essential to have a place where one can work undisturbed. Having a home office is great, especially one in which you can shut yourself away – but it’s not essential.

The Home Orifice. Recently.

More important is the cooperation of one’s family or housemates, with whom you can agree that these hours are sacred. That’s why relatively short, intense bursts work. It might be too much to ask one’s family for one to absent oneself for too long. This is also why I’ve found that regular long-distance commuting by train is a gift: when I regularly traveled between Norwich and London, a journey of two hours, this was enough for me to draft, in two-hour bursts, an entire novel.

Blasts of loud noise into my headphones is also helpful, to minimise distraction from outside sauces tzores sources. I have invested in recording-studio-quality, over-the-ear headphones, and play instrumental rock – loud and noisy to get the adrenaline pumping, but with no distracting vocals. My playlist includes lots of Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Focus and Jeff Beck, and more obscure and jazzier artists such as Scott Henderson and Shaun Baxter.

I expect that most professional writers, of which I am not one, will keep regular office hours, and will sit down and write, whether they feel the muse is with them or not. At times, when I have a lot of writing to do, I have taken two weeks off, commuted to an office or library, and worked from 9:30 to 5:30 with an hour for lunch. But it is hard to justify this when one has familial responsibilities. Even less suitable is taking oneself off to write, as a vacation – I tried this once and it was a disaster.

Equally important is that one does not work on one’s book outside these hours. The time must be strictly circumscribed. One should avoid the temptation to go into the office and scribble a few lines whenever the fancy takes you, apart from, perhaps, making the odd note. This makes the time spent writing more important, and helps minimise feelings of guilt at not writing, outside these hours, and also allows one to spend more time within the family circle and doing other important things such as walking the dogs, doing the garden and being sociable.

It’s important to spend time with members of your family.

But whatever works, works. Each writer will have a different way of working. I’ve found that two-hour bursts in the evening, after dinner, but before the good stuff on TV, works best for me.

What works best for you?

About Henry Gee

Henry Gee is an author, editor and recovering palaeontologist, who lives in Cromer, Norfolk, England, with his family and numerous pets, inasmuch as which the contents of this blog and any comments therein do not reflect the opinions of anyone but myself, as they don't know where they've been.
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