Writing in the Margins

March 7, 2018 by Evan Braun


Creative types tend to crave peace and quiet. For good reason! Obviously, it’s hard to buckle down and concentrate on writing when your upstairs neighbour is blaring Metallica or while you’re sitting next to a crying baby on a long-haul flight. This almost goes without saying.

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So it certainly makes sense that authors often choose to postpone their writing time, their bursts of creativity, for more opportune moments. As soon as supper is cleaned up, as soon as the kids are put to bed, as soon as I finish filing my taxes, as soon as the yard work gets done, then I’ll write.

And then supper gets cleaned, the kids are put to bed, the taxes get filed, and the yard work gets done. But after those things, new reasons to postpone creativity inevitably arise. The pipes under the sink burst and you have to call a plumber. The dentist calls to reschedule a filling. Your sister is heading out of town unexpectedly and needs you to watch her kids. The school calls to say your daughter is sick and needs to be picked up early.

So it goes, one distraction after another, ad nauseum. That’s life for you.

Creative types crave peace and quiet, but life seldom delivers. More often than not, life is chaotic. Rules are made to be broken, and plans are made to fall apart.

Before you know it, a month has passed. Maybe two or three months. Maybe it’s Christmas now and you haven’t written since your family’s week at the lake back in early July. That’s okay. You’ll make a new year’s resolution. Life will certainly get back to normal in January. Everything’s been so crazy lately.

Life is always going to be crazy and we’re always going to have an endless list of reasons why we can’t do the things we want to do. But that’s no reason not to do them.

There’s not really any difference in the degree of life chaos experienced by writers who successfully churn out a book or two every year and the writers who don’t. Everyone, after all, has the exact same number of hours in the day, the same number of minutes, the same number of seconds.

You see, there isn’t any secret to finding the time to write. Insofar as there is a secret, it’s this: prolific writers get their work done in the margins of life. Yes, they block time out as part of their day when they can, but this isn’t always possible. Their grass grows just as long, and their dental appointments get rescheduled, too. Their sisters sometimes need them to look after their kids, and their supper dishes are just as dirty as anyone else’s.

The fallacy is that it doesn’t help to get five minutes of writing done while waiting for the bus to arrive, or ten minutes while the casserole is finishing up in the oven.

It does.

Maybe you think that you need at least an hour to get the juices flowing.

You don’t.

It’s amazing how much writing can be done in five or ten minutes, especially when you do it every day. A month later, you might find that you’ve somehow managed to write nearly a hundred pages.

We all want to get “in the flow,” as the expression goes. This refers to those amazing creative times when the words flow out of our brains and spill onto the page in a torrent, like the mighty Falls of Niagara. Once you’ve experienced this once, it’s like a high you chase for the rest of your writing career. And I promise you this: it will happen. You’ll get back into that flow.

But when you don’t have the opportunity to get in the flow, my advice is to subsist in the margins.

Like I said, the water’s gonna flow, but sometimes only after you let the tap drip for a little while.

About this Contributor

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Small_headshot_evan_braun

Evan Braun is a full-time author and editor. He has authored three novels, the first of which, The Book of Creation, was shortlisted in two categories at the 2012 Word Awards. He has released two sequels, The City of Darkness (2013) and The Law of Radiance (2015), completing the series. As a professional editor, Braun has seven years of experience working with Word Alive Press authors. He is also a regular contributor at The Fictorians, a popular writing blog.