Find your moment, and use it to write....

Find your moment, and use it to write....

About the author: Kathleen Jowitt

Kathleen Jowitt is an assistant education officer at UNISON.

Her novel Speak Its Name was the first self-published book ever to be shortlisted for the prestigious Betty Trask Prize, which is awarded by the Society of Authors to the best debut by a writer under the age of 35.

She has no intention of quitting the day job.

There's this myth that writers are these focused, intense, beings, who get up early in the morning, and write, and drink some coffee, and write, and gaze out of the window, and write, and then they write some more.

That's not how it works for me, and (whisper this) I think it's not true for most writers. After all, many of us have day jobs. We have lives. We still manage to write. The truth is (whisper this, too) there's nothing particularly special about us. It's just that we write.

And if we can, anyone can. The trick is to pick your moment. What that looks like will vary from person to person. It's looked different for me at different stages in my life. At the moment, my best writing time is my commute – a fifty minute train journey each way, and if I'm lucky I get a seat. Five years ago, though, it was the hour and a half slot on a Thursday evening between the end of work and the beginning of choir practice. For you, it might be the twenty minutes in the doctor's waiting room, or the lull between one job finishing and the next job starting, or however long the baby's nap is today. Find your moment, and use it to write.

Carving out that time isn't always easy, and anybody who tells you that you just need to try harder isn't living in the real world. And it may well be slow going. I tell myself that I ought to be able to get five hundred words down on my train journey, easy. I very rarely do. Nevertheless, it's worth it. Words add up. I wrote most of my first novel on Thursday evenings between work and choir practice, and most of my second one on the train.

The other important thing is not to beat yourself up if you don't manage it. Sometimes I don't get a seat on the train. Sometimes you forget to take your notebook to the doctor's surgery, or your first job overruns, or the baby just won't go to sleep. In this case you should ignore everything it says on the internet (also written by people who don't live in the real world) about 'commitment', 'forming good habits', and so on, do what you need to do to get through the day, and give it another go tomorrow.

And yes, you can do it. You don't need my permission, or anyone's. There's no law that you have to have read this many books or passed that many exams before you pick up a pen. Keep reading, keep writing, and, like all these things, you'll get better with practice. The lovely thing about writing is that words are free. You can use as many as you like, and take them all out again if you decide later that you don't like them. Unlike other art forms, which require outlay on tools or materials, there's nothing to stop you just... having a go. For the first draft, it doesn't matter whether you've got a state of the art laptop or just a pencil and the back of an envelope. By the time it gets to the final draft, nobody's going to know.

Give it a try. I'll be cheering for you.

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