The first post in the Writing IRL series. Writing is a lengthy process. You might have an idea for a story or an article that is almo...

The first post in the Writing IRL series.

Writing is a lengthy process. You might have an idea for a story or an article that is almost completely formed in your head, twists and turns and characters and dialogue all pre-planned and ready, but getting it down onto paper the way you imagined it could still take hours, days, weeks. There'll still be points where you don't know what you should write next to keep the prose flowing, or you're stuck on the big twist because you just can't find the perfect way to word it. And even when you think you're done, you have redrafts, plot holes to fill, errors to correct. It all takes time and effort, even for the shortest of stories. 

Even writing that paragraph was a struggle. 

So as a casual writer, when you have a day job, and you have to commute to and from the office, work an eight hour day, cook and eat dinner, put the washing on, do the ironing, tidy the house, see your friends and family once in a while, read whatever book you're in the middle of, and still try to get seven or eight hours' sleep every night, you start to think that maybe you don't have time for all that sitting and scratching your head, all the redrafts and research required. 

But, with a bit of thought and preparation, maybe you can do it. Perhaps you just need a little bit of a kick start, a few tips from one casual writer to another.

Here's a handful of mine.

Write whenever you can.

This sounds obvious, doesn't it. Of course you should write whenever you can, you're thinking, but that's the whole point - there's not enough time when I can! Well, I wouldn't be so sure about that. Before recently, bath time for me was just for bathing. I didn't scribble anything in my lunch break, because that was for lunch. I never used to write during my commute, because that was my reading time; it was just designated as such in my head, and the idea of bringing my laptop onto the train and tapping away at my stories was a preposterous one. 

It still is, of course, and I would never do that on such a short journey. But if you drop the laptop part and replace it with notepad or smartphone, then why not? What's stopping you using all those times for writing?

For me, it was the size of smartphone screens, so I bought a phablet. But after that, I was good to go. There are so many good writing apps available, a lot of which I'll be writing about over the coming weeks, that it's actually really easy and liberating to write wherever you are, whatever you're doing. And if you don't like the apps, there's always the old fashioned notepad and pen.

By allowing myself to break the process into bite-sized pieces and miniaturise it from large screen to handheld, I've grabbed back the tiny little parts of the day that I used to think were just lost and made them mini pieces of writing time. Then later, when I do have a chunk of time when I can sit down with my laptop or typewriter, I can pull them all together and edit them into stories, novels, blog posts, whatever my (stunted) imagination has conjured. 

So now, I write on the train (I really do - I'm writing the words you're reading right now on the way to work). I write in the bath and while the dinner's on. Those are the times I used to think I couldn't write, because I was busy; but now, I've realised that if you really want to, you can. So I do. 

Cut out the crap.

My girlfriend and I are big fans of TV, films and video games. Our life is put on hold while we watch the latest series of Narcos, Game of Thrones or House of Cards. We often spend whole weekends playing Tomb Raider together. We love it, and there's nothing wrong with it, and it probably even helps me with my writing, as all those storylines get pumped into my head and plant seeds which might later grow into ideas of my own. 

But sometimes I feel like spending an hour watching Kevin Spacey fuck people over might be an hour of writing wasted. I kick myself for playing The Division, when I should be editing my novel.

So, instead of sticking with Gilmore Girls, which my girlfriend loves and I loathe, I put my headphones on and got my laptop out, and I started writing instead. I could have taken the easy way out, stayed horizontal on that sofa and not moved until I had to, but I made the decision that writing was more important than the story of two idiots from Stars Hollow. 

The moral of that short story is that there are things that we like to do and things that we just do because we can't be bothered to do anything else; and if you're doing what you like doing and it's more important to you than your writing, then by all means, do that first; but if not, then stop putting writing off. Shut yourself away, go to a quiet spot, do whatever you have to do to get in the zone, and use that time to write instead. Cut out crap shows about an immature mum and her child prodigy daughter, and write your own stories instead. 

Set yourself soft deadlines and achievable goals. 

By the end of this year, I want to have finished the third draft of my big novel. By the end of each Tuesday, I have to have written up my Wednesday Wreading and Writing Wroundup for the next day. At least once a month, I need to have written one of these Writing IRL articles. 

These aren't hard deadlines. If I miss one, I won't cry about it or impose any kind of self-punishment. Probably. But they help me to make time for the hobby that I might otherwise push aside out of laziness - instead of lying on the sofa with my feet up, I'll lie on the sofa with my laptop. They aren't word goals - I haven't failed as a writer if I haven't written ten thousand words by the end of the week - but they give me a little kick, and often that's just what I need.

So maybe set yourself a far-off target to do something big. To write a novel in a year, or five blog posts within a month. Not something too huge or daunting, but enough to drive you to make time for it. That is, after all, exactly why a lot of people participate in NaNoWriMo. Or, at least, I think it is - it can't be because they imagine they'll write a bestseller in a month. I bet most of them are bloody awful. 

Enjoy yourself.

I've probably said enough now. I think this is the longest blog post I've ever written. So the most important point is that you're here, reading this, because you love to write, but you also have a life to live. So enjoy it, have fun whenever you put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, and live life to the fullest, because every new experience you have will only make your stories more exciting.

I hope this is useful to all you casual writers. It better be, I spent about an hour on this when I could have been writing a thoroughly mediocre short story. 

If you have any tips of your own, I'd love to hear them. Feel free to tweet me, comment on Instagram, or write on DoD's Facebook wall. Just don't send me abuse; I'm a really delicate soul.

And to everyone who thinks that if you have to persuade yourself to make time for writing then you're obviously not a real writer at all, I say this: Fuck off.