Carving Out the Time to Write – and to Read

On Christmas Eve, we explored the theory that 10,000 hours of quality practice can make someone an expert in a given field.

It’s a concept I’m still thinking about five weeks on, so I’ve been conducting a couple of unscientific experiments about increasing the time available for writing – and indeed reading, which is almost as important for an author.

As many mornings as possible, I go for a half-hour walk around the local park. I’m also a frequent radio listener, so I often take my pocket-sized DAB receiver with me. I use it when I walk other places, and occasionally at work when it’s quiet.

For five weeks, I’ve replaced that radio listening with educational podcasts; the subjects covered have not been writing-related, as I’m already familar with that.

Similary, I also have two 15-minute breaks per day. To increase my reading time, I’ve started setting my watch to beep after ten minutes, during which time I concentrate on my book. When time is up, I then finish at the next convenient break, usually the end of the current paragraph or page.

By doing this consistently, I’ve now clocked up an estimated 100 hours of learning in just over a month: that’s already one percent of the 10,000 aformentioned hours.

If I were a beginner writer, I could replace the walks with audiobooks, and replace the reading with writing, and I’d be on my way to becoming better at what I enjoy. There is usually time to be carved out if you look for it.

Time and Motion

I’ve recently been placing a lot of effort into my Fun a Day project, which I talked about last month. It’s now been dubbed Junkuary, as it makes use of recycled materials.

This means that my writing has taken a back seat as I’ve made an effort to step away from using words and focus on visual art. However, this is only temporary, and I’ll go back to writing shortly.

Head over to my Instagram page to see what’s happening, and I’ll catch you here next week for more talk of prose and poetry.

Fixing the Triolet

I tried to bring you this entry last week. However, I was writing on a mobile device instead of a PC because of time constraints, and the poetry wouldn’t format properly. As such, I’ve now made the necessary corrections and presented the entry to you as it should have been.

Most of my poetry comes out as free verse, but every so often, I find myself writing to a particular form. One of these is the triolet.

The triolet is an eight-line verse with the first line repeated as lines 4 and 7, while the second line is repeated as the eighth. Here’s my piece Speed Limit, which was published about five years ago:

Don’t follow the speed limit sign
Instead swap your stroll for a run
Always incline, never decline
Don’t follow the speed limit sign
It doesn’t all end with a nine
Stop fretting how late you’ve begun
Don’t follow the speed limit sign
Instead swap your stroll for a run

However, while the form was definitely correct, there was something about the order of the lines that was bothering me. Only in the last month or so have I been able to place my finger on the problem.

Regardless of whether you’re writing in free verse or using a form, it’s conventional to start and end with your strongest lines, as readers pay most attention to these: they’re hooked from the start, while the last thought leaves an impact.

But the traditional triolet also makes the second line act as an ending, and it’s difficult to make that as equally strong as without overshadowing the first line.

My solution was to vary the form by inverting the last two lines. Grammatically, it can be more difficult to make the lines flow when swapped around, but it means a strong opening can also be reused for that all-important final line. If I were writing Speed Limit today, it would probably look like this:

Don’t follow the speed limit sign
Instead swap your stroll for a run
Always incline, never decline
Don’t follow the speed limit sign
It doesn’t all end with a nine
Stop fretting how late you’ve begun
Instead swap your stroll for a run
Don’t follow the speed limit sign