It’s an interesting title to work with, ‘My writing day’. It kind of implies I have one. It suggests, like, a career.
However, as is the case with most of the writers with whom I’m on first-name terms, writing is less a career and more an incredibly labour-intensive hobby that occasionally nets me enough to cover a month or two of council tax, with maybe a bit left over for a nice meal out. That probably reads more self-pityingly than I intended: it’s basically just a long-winded way of saying that I have a day job, which I have to write around.
Which makes my ‘writing day’ kind of an amorphous thing. I write whenever I can. On the bus on the way to work. During my lunch hour. On my work computer between tasks, hurriedly saving scraps to a USB stick; notes on my phone; maybe even scribbled with an actual pen on actual paper in my shamefully deteriorating handwriting. I’m sure to some that sounds nightmarish. Unworkable. It’s perhaps less than ideal. But somehow I seem to be managing – I certainly don’t feel frustrated in terms of productivity.
I also write at home, of course, but that has to be balanced with spending time with my girlfriend and young son, doing life admin, catching up with the 10,000 or so films, TV shows, books etc that I have on the go at any one time, sitting and staring into space as I contemplate the horror of climate change, you know. All that stuff. Weekends will often offer a few free hours, and these are probably the periods that would look the most familiar to anyone writing a piece like this in the Guardian. Steaming mug of coffee on the desk, soft light streaming through the window, bathing the creative space in a beatific glow. Come along, trusty keyboard! Time to save the world with prose!
The thing is, though, sometimes a big block of time isn’t necessarily the most conducive to productivity. I certainly find that now I am a father, I will often knock out more writing in a precious free hour than I might have done back when I had whole days to waste. Not that I wouldn’t like to have days and days at my disposal, of course. Even if just to compare the two approaches from a scientific perspective.
Honestly, I think there is far too much mystification of the writing process – as though if you don’t have the perfect writer’s grotto with just the right books arranged just so on the correct shelving unit, you won’t be able to plug into the ether and download the creative spark. When it comes down to it, writing is a craft, like any other. It’s a craft in the idyllic solitude of your literary burrow, and it’s a craft when you’re squashed next to a sweaty person on the number 48 heading up Fishponds Road.
We work with what we have. I’m fortunate that I can switch my writing on when I need to – if I was constantly having to wait for the muse to come upon me, flood my veins with the ethereal tonic of her inspiration, I’d be screwed. The magpie approach, grabbing shiny fragments of time wherever possible, piecing them together into what hopefully eventually becomes a readable whole … it might not be the perfect ‘writing day’.
It’ll do, though.
Stefan Mohamed is an author and performing poet based in Bristol. His novels Falling Leaves and the Bitter Sixteen Trilogy are published by Salt Publishing and his poetry collection PANIC! is published by Burning Eye Books. He can be found tweeting via @stefmowords or lounging around at stefmo.co.uk