I'm in my bed in the dark, a snoring one year old squashed into my side, a crick in my neck, and the sound of a rainforest downpour echoing around the room (the baby won't sleep without it. Just one of his many Mariah-Carey-Dressing-Room-esque requests). This is how I write now. Not all the time - no, sometimes, I am lucky enough to sit in perfect silence, at a proper wooden surface, with notes and coffee and everything. But mostly, this is how I write. On my phone, in the notes app, in a window of time I have grabbed with two hands from a speeding conveyer belt, and wherever I may find myself in that moment, however inconvenient, however far from ideal.
Before my life got as busy as it is now – before three kids, I suppose – I wrote at my laptop in uninterrupted silence, on that proper wooden surface I mentioned, feeling almost like a real writer – you know, the ones who sit at walnut desks, listening to Mozart and drinking coffee from tiny mugs with tiny handles. I’d tap away, watching the little word counter at the bottom of my screen grow bigger and bigger, and the scroll bar at the side, get smaller and smaller, and watch the document in front of me get fuller, and more alive with each page I wrote. I only wrote for long stretches, only in silence, and only if everything was just so. If I couldn’t slot in an hour or so of sitting down at my computer to write into my day, most of the time, I simply didn’t, and would go to bed feeling guilty and sad.
These sorts of days increased when I had my first baby, but I managed. I completed things, albeit slowly, and when he slept well at night or my mum took him for the afternoon, there I’d be: at my wooden surface, in silence, beside notes, and black coffee.
Then: the twins arrived, and those days didn’t just increase... those days were all there was. Time was no longer mine, and it ran from me. I spent my days pencilling in basics like showers and meals, chasing to-do lists, or stuck on the sofa, with two babies on my chest who’d cry if I moved them, or on more eventful days, on a park bench, takeaway coffee in my hand, knackered from walking five miles to get them to sleep. There was no free time. No time at all. And I was sad. I wasn’t writing, and it was all I wanted to do. I was a writer and I couldn’t write. I missed it desperately.
At 5am one morning, I sat, yet again, weighed down by exhaustion and a tiny sick baby on my chest, when a story idea sprung into my head. It wouldn’t let me go, and I felt that zing – that panic of having to get the idea down, remember it and all its specifics, before it faded. I had my phone (I always have my phone) and opened my notes app. I tapped in the idea urgently, and in minutes. But then I just kept going, and going, thumb moving as if on fast-forward. Within 45 minutes, I’d written a scene, and 1000 words. They were rough – I’d never written anything so rough, in fact – and full of typos and capital letters where they shouldn’t be. But I’d written. I’d got the words down, for the first time in weeks and weeks. I was happy. I was writing.
So, I surrendered it all -- all my ideals, all my "rules", my wooden surface and silence, and I began to write in a way I’d never tried before.
I promised myself that I would get the words down however I could, whenever I could. Because if I could manage to text and tweet and impulse-order pyjamas, I could manage to write. Even if it was messy, twisted-by-autocorrect, in the wrong order, and written on the loo, in bed, on park benches, and in the car at the local tip (really) instead of my lovely desk, in a quiet room. Because it didn’t matter. The words did. I could tidy and polish it later. I just needed to put one word in front of the other.
I am now nearing the end of my final draft – three quarters of which I wrote on my phone then emailed over to myself, and three quarters of which wouldn't exist if I hadn't decided to erase all ideas of perfection and work with what I had: those tiny barely-there pockets of time, and a writing space that is anywhere I say it is: in bed at 1am, standing in a doctor’s waiting room, or at 3pm by the school gate. I could list a hundred odd places I have written in and still have room for more.
If time is running from you, remember: words are words. Ten minutes of work here and there, is ten minutes of work that will add up to stories and scenes and characters and worlds. Words are words. However we get them. Go after them with a mallet. And remember that regardless of wooden surfaces and tiny jumped-up mugs, real writers are writers that find a way, despite it all, and write. (And they probably drink their coffee from mugs the size of buckets, too.)
Lia is a busy mum of three and currently in the process of writing her second novel. She is the winner of the 2015 ELLE Magazine writing competition and is also studying for a BA in English Literature and Creative Writing. Lia lives at home in Hertfordshire, with her boyfriend, five year old, baby twins, and stacks of clothes and books. Find her on Twitter here.