In which I pledge to write more, make excuses for not writing enough, and (almost) marvel at those occasions when writing stops being the mere act of hammering out words and becomes something more

Almost every year I make a vow to myself that “this year I’m going to take my writing seriously”. Naturally, almost every year I end up writing less than I did the previous year, but I think a whole lot about writing, and I also think a whole lot about not writing. This year it looks like I might actually succeeed in doing some good, honest, possibly rambly, maybe readable writing. It’s exciting. You can tell I’m excited because, well, I’m telling you.

There’s a genuine and practical reason for this post. For the last few months I’ve been quietly going – well, quietly unless you follow me on twitter, in which case I’ve been harping on relentlessly – about producing a few short stories on the assumption that once I start that ball rolling it’ll carry on by itself. That’s more or less the case, but I feel sufficiently confident now that I can make a vague commitment (by the mere act of saying so in public) that I intend to continue writing with some regularity from hereon.

It’s been nigh on impossible for me to make such a statement before now due to either my lack of available time for writing, or my extreme laziness when it comes to writing, depending on how you interpret my excuses. Up until the latter part of last year I had a longstanding freelance job, it’s one for which I was and still am very grateful for but, as anyone who’s worked freelance will know, there’s no such thing as spare time when deadlines are afoot (unless you’re rigidly, mercilessly disciplined). Eventually my wife persuaded me that enough was enough and, given that I already have a full-time job as well, a little less cash was a small price to pay for regaining my free time (and, primarily, reducing my stress levels).

There was also the small factor of us having a child just over three years ago. Since I can’t really write (and I’m not sure I’d want to anyway) until he’s gone to bed my writing ‘window’ is usually from around 8:30pm until I get too tired to carry on, which is generally somewhere short of 10pm. If I’m particularly productive and reach a natural break before 10pm I’ll try and claw back some extra time so I can reward myself with a little catch-up TV. If I’m particularly unproductive I’ll stop and probably just sulk about it instead.

Why am I posting my writing timetable in tedious detail? It’s because it leads into another excuse. Before this year I maintained a pretty dumb standard that if I couldn’t set aside at least two hours for each writing session then it wasn’t even worth sitting down. This harkens back to the days when I did, in fact, have entire days in which I could sit down and write (or entire days where I could sit and think about writing and put it off until it was almost too late to get any writing done at all). This is all back when time was less of a luxury and I could spend an hour or two waiting for the words to hit their rhythm.

Obviously that’s the ideal scenario, but I’ve become increasingly mindful over the past few months of the adage about writers writing every day. I’ve not quite managed every day, and probably never will, but I’ve realised that if I even write just a few hundred words each day then I’m going to reach the end of that novel, screenplay or short story a whole lot quicker than if I don’t write anything at all. Furthermore, as most of you writers will know, once you sit down you usually end up writing more than a few hundred words, and even if you write a few hundred words of crap it’s easier to go back the next night and clean that up that it is to start with a blank page staring back at you.

So this is how I’ve been progressing since the start of the year: a few hundred words when I can, sometimes just a hundred or so words, or a few notes. It’s rarely much more than about 500 words, but it’s enough, it’s a start – it’s more than a start, it’s a continuation of something that I’ve allowed to stall too many times over the past handful of years.

As a sort of partner project I’ll be trying to update this blog on a more frequent basis than I have in the past. Whereas a handful of posts a year has been my average in the not so distant past, I’m aiming for at least a few updates per month throughout 2010. Ideally I’d like to go for a few updates each week, and given my progress this week that might actually happen, but let’s just see how we go.

I actually had a few other things to say. I was, for instance, going to talk about some of the stories I’ve written recently, some of the stories I’m planning to write and, possibly, a few longer term projects. I was also going to talk about that remarkable moment during the writing process when things just start to happen all by themselves, when moments of history that you hadn’t even considered for your characters slot themselves into place, when characters do something unexpected, when that plot point that’s had you stumped for days just calmly sorts itself out the second you sit down to write.

Yeah – all that – but that can wait for another post.