Saturday, December 5, 2009

Writing Every Day?

It's been a pretty typically insane week for us, so I figured I'd ramble a little more about how to keep writing when you're busy. This information is no doubt available from hundreds if not thousands of other writers out on the web. I am not at all good at following other blogs and thus will no doubt be redundant. To be honest, I'm rather shocked at how many people mosey on over to this little corner of cyberspace that I babble in and leave their comments on my blog or Facebook, or tell me about what they read when they see me face to face. I don't consider myself a real blogger because I don't put in the time reading other blogs and being part of the online community. I'm just a full time writer/mother/random hobbyist that happens to also have a Blogger account.

Anyway, this week we've been getting our medical needs taken care of before we head to Britain. On Monday I met with an ENT about my allergies, then had surgery on my nose Tuesday. On Thursday I went to the dentist, and yesterday Trevor and I both went to the eye doctor to get our prescriptions up to date. We drove to Albuquerque for that - it's two hours away but our eye doctor is very good. We're charging more on our credit card this month than we ever have before (but yes, we pay it off every month, and this one will be no exception. Really important to do that.)

On Thursday, on my way to the dentist, I lost control of the car and banged its wheel against the curb. I hit a patch of ice, but fortunately I wasn't going all that fast and had plenty of time to brace myself. I'm fine, the wheel got bent, so we've got a mechanic's bill to pay too.

When life doesn't fall into a normal schedule, it requires some creativity to find time to write. When I was an attorney, I just got up at 5am to write and that was my routine. At 5 my mind was too sluggish to come up with excuses. Some writers keep this structure no matter what the rest of their life looks like. They get up at the same time (always a good idea regardless), have their morning ritual, and then sit down and write either for a set time or up to a set wordcount. The advantage of this is that it's habit forming and you'll probably keep it up. The disadvantage I found is that when the hard times hit and you don't sell anything, it's feels like a daily ritual in futility. You have a real clear log of exactly how much time you've dumped into an endeavor that pays nothing. It can feel worse than having worked a bad job for years; at least even bad jobs pay. Once you break your habit, it can be impossible to get any writing done until you get your head on straight again.

And writing is all about momentum. You've got to keep going, even when it looks bleak. Some people insist that a writer must write every day. That's not altogether true. What is true is that once you take a day off, it's that much easier to take another and whole months can slide by. But it's also true that if you let this get you down, you're only compounding the problem and should never let your emotions get in the way of sitting back down at the keyboard and picking up where you left off.

What works for me is setting a wordcount to write every day (mine's 2000 words) and getting those words in whenever I can. 2000 words might be a daunting task first thing in the morning - although it isn't always - but if I've written dribs and drabs throughout the day, I might find myself with only 600 words to go after my son's gone to bed. I write on a little Asus EeePC that I carry around with me, slipping it into the diaper bag when I go out. Sometimes a wait in a doctor's office is a chance to get some words down, and sometimes a nice long block of time in the afternoon is better spent playing with my son than staring at a computer screen. What's been important for me is to have a concrete goal.

But if you browse around other writers' blogs (and there are a ton) you'll find a million different approaches to getting stories and novels done. Right now I'm very grateful for the method I have because my life is crazy at the moment. It's provided me with tons of flexibility and still I can move forward.

The only real rule is that you find what works in your life - which is pretty obvious but here it is in black and white. Don't try to set up a regular schedule if you don't have a regular schedule and won't be getting one any time soon. Don't give yourself flexibility if you're bad at self discipline. People often seem to see writing as this bizarre, passion driven process that is wild and unschedulable - but anyone who thinks this is, to be blunt, an amateur and a blockhead. Writing is like any kind of independent contracting. Your boss isn't in your face every day and it's up to you to meet your deadlines. Tons of people from small business owners to construction contractors to lawyers need to know how to do this, so there are far more examples of how to structure a writing career than people realize. If it is just a passion that you indulge in when the words flow easily, then it's a hobby, not a career. (And even if it isn't just a passion, it'll take a ton of time to become a career in any case.)

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