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This Writing Life: Turning Dead Time into Writing Time

7 September, 2010

So, yet another busy week is upon me – and upon us all! – in which writing, work, errands and just finding a bit of time to relax all come together to make it impossible to get everything I want done. However, I found myself thinking yesterday about ways in which housework, running errands and all manner of little, but necessary, activities can be put to good use for the frazzled writer. It occurred to me that there are four main ways you can use this ‘dead time’ (and it really does feel like dead time, because who really enjoys washing the dishes or hanging out the laundry?) for writerly bits and pieces.

  1. Offline reading. Ok, this is a fairly obvious one, but how many of us are guilty of forgetting it? All writers need to read, and voraciously, and whether you’re carrying a paperback or an ebook on your smartphone, this is something that can be accomplished wherever you’re waiting. On public transport and in doctors’ waiting rooms are the obvious ones, but what about whilst waiting in queues too?
  2. Online reading. Novels and magazines aside, there’s a vast array of useful information available online that’s worth reading too. The obvious things here are blogs, particularly ones about writing, but don’t forget fiction too. There are a number of great, free online magazines featuring short stories and poetry. Again, if you have a smartphone or a netbook, these are handy things to read whilst waiting, but they can also easily fill a spare five minutes at work if you use a computer. Your boss might not like you checking Facebook, but five minutes spent reading a page of text is much more innocuous – and more useful for the budding writer!
  3. Podcasts.  Like the online reading, podcasts encompass an array of fiction and non-fiction, and there are a number of great ones regarding writing (there are a few links to my favourites in the sidebar). Whilst sticking your headphones on works whilst waiting or catching the bus too, podcasts also have the useful attribute of being consumable whilst driving or walking. Plug your MP3 player into your car stereo instead of turning on the radio, or listen to a podcast whilst walking the dog and you can spend your time catching up on publishing news or hearing new stories.
  4. Thinking time. This is another one that often gets forgotten, but thinking about your writing, be in brainstorming new ideas or trying to work out a tangled plot, can be just as useful as the actual writing. All those spare moments, be they when you end up waiting and have forgotten anything to read or when you finally succumb to the need to do housework, can easily be used to think about your work, so that if you only have a limited time to sit down at the keyboard, you know exactly what you’re going to write when you get there.

So, those are my four favourite ideas for using non-writing time in writing-related ways, but I’m sure there are others. Which others can you recommend?

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