Time to Write
Many of the major literary funding bodies offer a 'time to write' award, which is a lump sum of money intended to permit a writer to take time off from their normal day job in order to hack away at their novel/script/poetry collection. New Writing North, the Society of Authors and, once upon a time, the Arts council all facilitate such awards. In other words, such kindly funding bodies recognise that (a) the emerging writer most likely has a day job to foot the bills and (b) writing takes up a lot of time.
Such awards are absolutely brilliant - if you can get them. If not, you are faced with a quandary. Either find a way to juggle writing with a full time job, family etc., or don't. Women in particular are faced with this dilemma as family pressues sap time, energy, and inspiration - indeed, an alarming number of female authors have commented on the pressure to choose between 'a child or a book.'
So, how to write AND do everything else that life requires, if a 'Time to Write' award is not forthcoming? Does it really take a nomadic lifestyle with a generous patron to produce that stellar screenplay? I'd bet it helps. But there's also an argument that such stresses and pressures can be beneficial to the writing life. One author - who continues to hold down a 9-5 day job despite wracking enough booksales to focus on writing full time - swears by the rigors of an extra-literary profession to keep the creative juices flowing. An American screenwriter friend of mine found a month-long stint at a writer's retreat - during which she had nothing else to do except write, sleep and eat (a dream, right?) - shockingly unproductive. Without the ebb and flow of the daily grind, she said, her writing became too isolated, too stale. It's well known that Seamus Heaney translated Beowulf at a rate of four lines a night. I've read countless interviews with authors who profess to have written their novels during long commutes - to and from their day job. Admittedly, I wrote one book while in the bath.*
Despite what my American screenwriter friend says, I still dream about days without laundry, dishes, commuting, homework, etc etc - days that are wiped clean of every demand so that I can devote myself wholly to writing. But, by the looks of things, it ain't gonna happen for the next 25 years. That doesn't mean to say that I won't be writing. I'll be writing where and when and how I can. The discipline isn't just about seizing snatches of free time to put pen to paper - the real discipline is using time that isn't free as thinking time, researching time, filtering overheard conversations and experiences at home and in the work place to use as material for dialogue, scenes, and characters.
There IS time. Award or no award.
* That was a long bath, I hear you say. Clarification: I wrote a little everytime I had a bath.
Image credit: .: Philipp Klinger :.