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Sarah Neofield - Guest Post

I am so pleased to bring you this guest post by Sarah Neofield.

Sarah and I connected via Instagram when she suggested we swap our WIP (work in progress) for beta reading.

The WIP I read is now her current release - Number Eight Crispy Chicken - a satirical novel that approaches the immigration issues Australia experiences through a journey (or lack thereof) of an immigration minister and his time spent ‘detained’ in an airport. You can purchase it here.

Knowing absolutely nothing about Sarah, or her work, I was blown away (and completely inspired!) when I discovered that she was travelling the world, living from hand luggage only and had written much of Number Eight Crispy Chicken on her phone while travelling.

As a busy mum of two, I struggle to find time to write and, like many of us, found it easier to do other things rather than sit down and write. After doing a tiny, ok a lot, of online stalking I was impressed by Sarah’s resume – researcher, linguist, ex-university lecturer, world traveller. How does she do it, I wondered and then asked, and she answered.

Writing on the Road

In 2016, after a long period of saving and investing, my husband and I left our jobs to travel the world. These travels have inspired much of my writing. (It's no coincidence that my debut novel Number Eight Crispy Chicken centres on a character trapped in an airport!) Even though we opt for bus or rail transport wherever possible, I’ve spent more than my fair share of time in airports!

Although travel provides a lot of inspiration, finding the time and space to write can be a challenge on the road. But to be honest, who isn’t it a challenge for?

Almost every writer wishes they had more time to write. Yet I've come to learn that most of us have more time than we think. We just have to look for it in the hidden pockets.

We typically spend over 3 hours looking at social media. We 'like' things. Post photos or comments every now and then, perhaps. But for most of us, our posts aren't exactly pursuing a dream of photography or writing.

Even if you spend only 4 hours a day watching videos or using social media that’s 1,825 hours a year.

Or 76 full days.

That’s 2.5 months.

You're probably thinking "there's no way I waste 2.5 months a year on Facebook and Instagram!" We're not talking solid hours, but 5 or 10 minutes in bite-size pieces throughout the day.

Just like one or two dollars wasted here and there, wasted time adds up. And remember, this figure assumes you already consume less media than the average person.

If we think about those 2.5 months as waking hours only, it's really 3.4 months.

Imagine what you could do if you had 3.4 months to devote to something.

Nanowrimo participants routinely complete 50,000 word novels in the span of a single month.

When I realised how much time I could ‘save’ in this way, I shifted all of the social media links off of my phone’s main screen. Just like one or two dollars ‘saved’ but not transferred to a savings account or investment, time isn’t really saved until you put it to use.

While I haven’t completely removed myself from social networks, I no longer open the apps on autopilot and scroll through them as mindlessly. Instead, I make more use of my phone’s notepad function to make notes on the go.

Even though it’s not as comfortable to type on as my laptop, some days I’ve managed to complete my whole Nanowrimo goal for the day on my phone. This is particularly handy when I’m on crowded public transport and can’t use my computer.

The power of a few minutes

Perhaps you’re thinking “how can ten minutes here or there make a difference?” It’s easy to put off being creative. We long for great, uninterrupted stretches of free time. We tell ourselves that we could write a book “if only” we had a year free of commitments. But the reality is, most people who have this luxury don’t do anything with it. Creativity often draws its inspiration from the other parts of our lives.

As my colleague Dr. Jo Sullivan and I explore in our forthcoming free course (if you’re interested, please follow me on the social media listed on my site for updates), an excess of free time can actually result in our not seeing a need for time management. And this results in our wasting time on activities that aren’t aligned with our life’s purpose.

Doing something with it

Since we downsized our belongings and started travelling with hand luggage only, my daily routine has become considerably simpler. Given the constraints of a 10kg bag, I don’t have a huge number of outfits or accessories or cosmetics to choose from.

Travelling lightly not only reduces our carbon footprint and saves us money (in so many ways!)

Most of us can find hidden treasures of time like this. These days, I get a lot of my writing done in airports, or on buses or trains – in large part because the wifi is usually terrible, so it’s relatively distraction-free!

Finding the space to write

When it comes to finding the space to write, just like finding the time, it can be tempting to overlook what we already have. How basic our needs really are.

Often, we see places like Paris or London or New York through a pair of rose-tinted glasses. If only we could be there, we’d automatically be creative. Then we’d become creative too – almost by osmosis.

The fact is, as we’ll also explore in our free course, people like Hemingway and Orwell didn’t live in Paris because of the creative types. Or the fabulous bookstores and trendy cafes.

They lived in Paris because it was cheap.

Carving out your creative space

As Hemingway says, “Paris can be anywhere if you know how to take it with you”.

Even if you don’t have ‘a room of one’s own’, you can find some little space. Make it tidy and inviting. This could be a desk – even if you have to share it with other family members. A corner to sit in. If you don’t have your own desk or chair, you can transform your computer desktop or the cover of a physical notebook by adding a wallpaper or collage that will inspire you to write every time you open it up.

And if you are on the move, many sites now allow you to search for accommodation for ‘business travel’, which can help find places suitable for working. AirBnb has an option to search for laptop-friendly workspaces.

While some digital nomads like to work from cafes, I find it’s not as ‘romantic’ as it looks from afar. Having to constantly buy beverages (even when you don’t need them!) so you don’t have to leave gets expensive fast, and often results in bathroom visits… during which you have to risk losing your laptop, or bring it with you, and risk losing your table.

We often think of the ideal creative process as unstructured, open-ended, and free of limitations. Yet research has found that constraints can actually benefit creative individuals.

But, as we write in our forthcoming course, there is a growing movement of creatives who realise their safe space is more an attitude than a place. With this attitude, any space you occupy becomes home to your creativity.

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