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Samantha Turnbull Writer, mother, anti-princess

Writing tips with a grain of salt

Something distressing happened to me a few months back.

I lost my writing time.

I used to sit down in front of the computer around 9pm after the kids were well asleep… or in the middle of the night when I was on maternity leave and could rely on a daytime power nap to catch up later.

But for a bit more than a year I’ve been back at work full-time (my day job is as a journalist for the ABC) and Mr Three and Miss Five have been a little difficult to put down in the evening.

The boy isn’t going to sleep until at least 9pm (sometimes 10pm) and, after a full day at work, my head is usually hitting the pillow at the same time as his.

That small window that used to exist between kids’ sleep time and mine has evaporated.

Over the years, I’ve done plenty of writing courses and read a million tip-type blog posts that all include the familiar catch cry: “If you really want to, you’ll find the time.”

I’ve nodded along as writing advice-givers have urged us to take the laptop to the kids’ swimming lessons, get up an hour earlier than usual to free-write ‘morning pages,’ or download voice-recording apps to dictate our words while we’re driving.

It’s all good in theory, but I’ve learned we need to take these tips (usually from other writers trying to supplement their incomes through sometimes dubious ‘e-courses’) with a grain of salt.

My loss of time recently started to cause me stress. Like an athlete, I worried I’d lose my skills if I didn’t ‘train.’

Then, last night something happened.

Out of nowhere, inspiration hit and I stayed up into the very wee hours writing the beginnings of a new manuscript.

The words flowed easily, as if I’d been writing solidly this past year without a break.

And I realised it’s OK to play by your own rules. Your life can, and most likely will, become chaotic. You can prioritise different things every day. You certainly don’t have to quit your day job to take another passion seriously. And you can write whenever you want… or don’t want… and then want again.

I’ve woken this morning with a spring in my step that a new story brings… and a sense of relief in knowing a break does not mean ‘the end,’ no matter how many ‘creative gurus’ may tell you otherwise.

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