I tried to write 1,000 words a day. I mainly managed it – at the time when I was a full-time teacher and had young children. A few years in I decided to do an MA in Writing for Children. By then my little children were teenagers, with all that that brings along, and I was Head of Modern Languages at a quite difficult comprehensive. The writing was a little more demanding because it had two masters: the academy and the industry. Nevertheless, I managed to write a lot: MA assignments, competition entries, and some projects of my own. This happened after 10 p.m. on week days, at weekends and during the school holidays.
I eventually got published and decided to give up the day job, though still did supply teaching and one-to-one tuition. One book deal led me to upping my daily quota to 2,000 words. I now have over 50 works in print and could class myself as a full-time writer. I have a job as a lecturer in creative writing because of my writing. I still aim at 2,000 words or two hours writing a day. I’ve actually found that even with all the time in the world, I can rarely do more than this. After the first two hours, the energy flags. Because of the other things a writer has to do – and most of what I do for the university can be described as just that – there sometimes isn’t time to do the actual writing.
Many writers recognise this. Jacqueline Wilson now often writes on the train, Alan Gibbons in hotel rooms and Philip Pullman misses his earlier routine of writing for a couple of hours after a busy day teaching.
I know many writers, in fact, who have given up the day job and are now writing less than they did before. It’s almost as if they needed the other routines of their lives to make this one stick. Maybe there is also an element of now having less to write about as they have less contact with the outside world.
So, getting published isn’t the golden ticket to a life where you stay cocooned in your writer’s room, sending the works electronically and watching money being transferred into your bank account. It often means you’ve got to get out there, get behind your book and help sell it, and that can sometimes put a squeeze on your writing time. We have to learn even more self-discipline now. We must be able to write in any circumstance and to drop into writing mode without difficulty after a busy time doing other things. We may no longer have the luxury of a room of our own and of an uncluttered mind that we had before we were published.