When I was starting out in this craft I was doing two jobs: writing books and working as a correspondent for the Sunday Times. Sometimes I’d have to travel on assignments, for a week or more frequently, then spend a week writing them up on my return.
I still remember being terrified by this prospect. Would the book I was writing still be in my head when I found the time to get back to it?
The answer, I think, is definitely yes, provided it’s a solid idea that’s taken root already. Stories aren’t flimsy mayflies, ready to disappear on the faintest breeze. If they’re to have substance they must possess substance from the start. Weight and form and some kind of presence in your head. I can work on them without writing, of course, reading drafts, making notes, going through research and my book diary.
But even if I don’t do a thing they will still be there when I return to the manuscript. In fact there’s a strong argument for saying that works in progress improve from being abandoned from time to time. You come back to them with fresh ideas and perspective. Once-thorny problems seem simple to solve. Florid passages that escaped you when you wrote them stand out a mile and demand excision.
Writing’s a marathon not a sprint. It doesn’t worry me in the slightest if other pressures mean I have to set a project to one side for a while. And when this present book’s done I hope to put it in a digital drawer for a month or so before taking it out for a final revise before delivery.
So if you can’t find the time you’d like to work on something don’t worry. If it’s good enough it won’t run away in the middle of the night.