A surprising number of writers today still stand by Virginia Woolf’s assertion that women (and men, for that matter) need plenty of time, head space and freedom from the daily grind in order to write well. I disagree.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not knocking those things. If you can arrange to have them in your life they’re wonderful, but they’re certainly not essential. And it’s a big mistake to wait for external conditions to be right before you start writing. I know plenty of people who’ve produced substantial, high quality written work—even whole books—by locking themselves in the bathroom with their laptop for half an hour at a stretch and pretending to have constipation. Sadly, I know plenty more people who could have done the same if they hadn’t still been waiting for the right time and the right place to get going.
Several years ago I heard this sentiment articulated most concisely at a writing conference led by Dr Rowena Murray at Strathclyde University. Dr Murray encouraged us to write in small ‘snack-sized’ sessions rather than waiting for a time when we could ‘binge write’. This is an excellent metaphor, even if it does have a whiff of eating disorder about it. And, contrary to what you may think, it’s possible to get an awful lot done in a very short writing session.
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