The rhythms of writing

This month’s guest post comes from writer and journalist Simon Hall. Simon has had seven novels published, as well as short stories, a play and even a pantomime. Simon also teaches writing, including at the Winchester Writers Festival, and mentors authors towards publication.

How many times have you been told you need to know your characters, plot and settings intimately to write about them convincingly?

But what about knowing yourself?

To be a successful writer you have to understand the writing rhythms within you, and find a way to build them into your life.

We’ve all heard about the divide between morning and evening people, larks and owls. And that’s a useful place to start.

When I first decided to start writing, around ten years ago, I had to change my life. I’ve always known I was a morning person and I needed to capitalise on that. It’s when my mind is fresh, clear and amenable to sparking with creativity.

I used to go to bed around 10.30, then get up (grumpily) with the alarm.

No longer. Now I’m usually in bed around nine, waking up soon after five, and quickly writing away.

And do you know what surprised me? Despite many initial misgivings, getting up at that time doesn’t feel like a chore. Because I wake with a mind full of ideas and enthusiasm, and can’t wait to get them all down on paper.

For me it’s worked wonderfully, and now I couldn’t imagine life any other way.

But your writing rhythm isn’t as straightforward as simply when you’re at the most creative.

Mind and body work best in tandem, and that takes managing.

As a writer, you can tire your brain with little physical effort. So here’s my next writing rhythms trick, to prod the sacred pairing back into synch.

I know I can only write for around three hours at a stretch before my mind is too jaded to produce anything I’d ever want anyone to see.

So about 8.30, I take myself out for a run.

I’m lucky in that I live on the river in Exeter, meaning a wonderful route is within easy reach.

But I’d recommend finding somewhere you like to unwind and get some exercise, because while your body is working…

…your mind is recharging itself. I find that give yourself an hour’s exercise, and voila!

Your creativity is rested and refreshed, your body is relaxed, and you can settle back down for some more writing.

And one more matter to mention on the rhythms of writing –

Give yourself a break!

I build in a day every week – usually a Sunday – when I don’t do any actual writing. I’m happy to carry a notepad and jot down any thoughts that come to me.

But I find a day off from actually typing away is powerful in recharging the writing energy. So come Monday morning, when you sit back down at the keyboard, you’re filled with the zest to start work again.

In the perfect rhythm you’ve come to discover about yourself, of course…

Our grateful thanks to Simon for contributing this post.