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In my head, I’m Ian Rankin

The rather sarcastic Stuff Journalists Like website (which, incidentally, would be an awful lot better if the writing was better) sometimes gets a little bit too close for comfort:

Stuff journalists like: writing a book

Buried under nearly every journalist’s notebooks, papers and clips is an idea for a book.

…Unfortunately, a good percentage of these ideas for books will stay just that as journalists are usually burnt out on writing after a full day day of writing for their newspaper, blog, Tumblr and Twitter.

I was looking for something this morning and stumbled across my Book Ideas folder, where I’ve written outlines and in some cases several chapters of four or five different novels. They’re pretty good, I think, largely because only one of them is about a journalist – and he’s only a journalist because it gives me a chance to have him mutilated by gangsters, which is always good. Unless you’re writing a children’s book. But every single one of them has run out of steam, sometimes at the outline stage, sometimes after five or six chapters. The enthusiasm flags and they become Great Big Scary Things That You’ll Never Finish.

Stuff Journalists Like nails the problem: you get brain-dead when you’ve spent all day working, and when you’ve been stuck in front of a screen all day the last thing you want to do after dinner is sit back down in front of a computer again. There are episodes of The Wire to watch! Partners to talk to! Videogames you still haven’t got round to playing! Exercising to do! Magazines to read!

You’d think that the natural ebb and flow of freelancing would be ideal for fiction writing, but it isn’t. That’s partly because work expands to fill the time available, so if you’ve got a spare day then the job you’re doing will magically expand to fill that time, and it’s partly because the time you don’t spend working is spent doing admin, hiding from the taxman, pitching for new work or dicking about on the internet and pretending it’s research.

Which makes me wonder, how do other people do it? Not necessarily writing, but doing anything creative when you’ve got a full time job, a family to feed and a very short block of time before you fall asleep on the sofa? Is it just about determination and willpower, or do you need to manage your “spare” time as ruthlessly as you do your work time? I’d love to hear other people’s experiences.