EVENTS Time to Write

Dr Peta Freestone arrived in Edinburgh fully-charged on Saturday 27th January 2018 with a myriad of ways to help us tackle our writing demons, reports Maisie Chan

Many of us writers have experienced bouts of procrastination, writer’s guilt and just not having enough time in our busy schedules to be the writers we want to be. 

Using her personal experience, alongside research, Peta highlighted ways we can help ourselves out of our writing ruts. 

Peta is a freelance writing and productivity consultant who regularly works with PhD students and academics at universities all over the world. She knows what it is to be a writer too, having just won Undiscovered Voices 2018 and a Scottish Book Trusts New Writers Award in 2016. 

Dr Freestone talks about making time to write. Picture credit:  Sarah Broadley

The workshop was held in central Edinburgh at Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Centre. An apt venue as we discovered our inner detectives and searched for ways that we hold ourselves back. 

Examining why we write was at the core of the first session. It was emotional delving into our inner depths: why go through all of the heartache or the hard work it takes to write a novel?

Why go through the heartache and hard work it takes to write a novel?

We all had varying answers – that we had to express our creativity, connect with others through stories, promote empathy and, simply, we write for ourselves because it makes us feel good. 

Peta encouraged us to record these reasons, and return to them whenever we faced self-doubt, needed a motivation boost, or wanted to make an informed decision about which writing project to next pursue.

Peta broke down the concept of 'writing' into smaller, more manageable stages of a cycle. It's something we already know – that we THINK about a project. Then we WRITE the words. Then we EDIT, and then it needs POLISHING. But often we try to do all those things at once, making the process more painstaking than it needs to be.

Workshop attendees getting invaluable writing tips. Picture credit: Sarah Broadley

She encouraged us to recognise the different stages, for example turning off our inner editors when we’re drafting to enable us to more quickly get words down, knowing we could scrutinise them later and make them shine.

When it came to goal setting, the trick was to not set yourself up to fail. Instead of saying 'I am going to finish my novel this year', which is vague, set a 'savvy goal’. For example: 'this week I am going to write for two hours a day.' Peta encouraged us to diarise our writing schedule, or record our sessions on a calendar.

How can we avoid frittering away precious time?

This lets everyone in the household know that this is our writing time, helping to keep us accountable and to protect our writing time from other activities. We also looked at ways to protect our writing sessions from ourselves—considering why and how we procrastinate and how we can avoid frittering away precious time.

Peta gave us practical tips to help eliminate our usual temptations, including going to a new place to write or using web-blocker apps, listening to writing-specific music or white noise to block out distractions, and using the Pomodoro technique to pace ourselves. You can read more about the specifics on Peta’s blog

What was great about this workshop was that you could pick and choose which parts you felt would be useful to you. Peta's knowledge of productivity combined with her dedication as a writer gave us the inspiration to make 2018 our best writing year yet.

* Featured image: Rob McDougall



Maisie Chan is writing her first novel for teens and was one of the writers on the Megaphone Scheme with author Leila Rasheed as her mentor. She has had a story published in a Penguin anthology and was one of the finalists for the Creative Futures Literary Awards. She has also written two reluctant readers books for Franklin Watts (Hachette). @MaisieWrites

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