Writing is hard work. I spend a lot of time not writing. Even on a ‘good writing day’ I only spend at most six hours out of an entire twenty four whacking out words on my keyboard into a vaguely logical/meaningful order (that’s right, I said good day).

Read more and find out how to make the most of your non-writing time…

Those are the days when I don’t procrastinate. Otherwise, like many aspiring writers, I find myself panicking as precious grains of time slip between my fingers never to be regained, yet find myself completely unable and unmotivated to put pen to paper. However. In such times it is important to consider what other uses we can make of our free time, particularly in terms of improving our writing once we get back in the zone. At the moment, my free time looks a little something like this…

But occasionally I actually do a few things which are useful for my writing too, which mean that I don’t beat myself up about it too much when lacking inspiration, and it helps me feel at least a little bit constructive. Here are some ideas…

1. Edit. The key to all good writing. Cut out those unnecessary words, scenes and characters, and your story will thank you for it.
2. Read. Learn from those who have gone before us and read fiction, or read about writing and learn your craft.
3. Go for a walk. Or meditate. Or sit by the sea. Sometimes it is important to just ‘be’, I find walking around the city gives me the best ideas or helps me form the partially formed ones.
4. Talk to other writers. Visit a local writers’ group, or attend a literary event. There is something about being around other writerly types that is very encouraging and reminds you of how cool we all are (and modest).
5. Research. Look up that thing you’ve been wondering about for ages. Last thing I looked up – ginger (the root, not the hair colour), ok so that didn’t lead to much. But a lot of facts lead to one little spark of inspiration.
6. Try something new. There is a lot to be said for doing something outside your comfort zone; it’s challenging, you grow a little bit and every so often you meet some really weird people.
7. Eavesdrop. On the bus, in a coffee shop, at work, all around you people are having fascinating/cryptic/highly personal conversations in public, there is a wealth of material out there for the writing!
8. Do your publishing research. Knowing how the industry works is something you will need to know eventually, so start now. Get yourself a copy of the Writers’ and Artists Yearbook and start studying, one day you will have that manuscript done and dusted and this way you will already know exactly where to send it. For short stories, find your local library that stocks literary and journals and start making lists of where you are going to direct submissions.
9. Alternative creative endeavours. Go to an art gallery or a gig and FEEL. You will feel more creative, not to mention cultured.
10. Write a blog entry. Yes, this is where everything gets a little bit meta. But seriously, keeping a blog can really help keep that little writey part (excuse my medical jargon) of your brain switched on, yet is fairly easy to work on randomly since each post is self-contained.

As I said, writing is hard work. Margaret Atwood once referred to the process as ‘labouring in the word mines’. Too right, Mags. I like to believe that hard work pays off. If you work on your writing every day, whether that is actual writing or not, you will still be one step closer to where you want to be.