Friday, September 11, 2015

WRITE EVERY DAY--BUT WHEN?



Time is seldom a writer’s friend, but a well-established routine can keep those approaching deadlines from becoming a runaway train barreling down the track toward you. You may not manage the old writers’ rule to write every day, but if you can manage to eke out a few words on a regular basis despite the many constraints life puts on you, you will be ahead of the game.

If you have a job, you have to write before or after work and/or during lunch. I used to write when I got home from my part-time job and on my days off—when I didn’t have “home management” stuff to do. You know, the stuff, like grocery shopping, that I bet Stephen King hasn’t done since he married Tabitha.

If you have kids, you usually have to write before they get up or after they go to bed or to school. When I first started writing, I wrote late at night, after my young kids were in bed. Now that I’m a grandma, I fall asleep in front of the TV about the time I used to be hitting my stride. (Unless I’m talking story in a bar somewhere; then I can usually make it until about midnight.)

If you have a job AND kids, God bless you. You have to choose whether to write or sleep. You can’t do both, sorry.

Just before I came to my new home in NC, when people asked me when I wrote, I usually answered, “Whenever I can.” I taught martial arts classes at all times of the day (and night), most days of the week, for an hour or two at a time. This made for a chaotic schedule, no two days alike. I could barely keep track of my routine, much less describe it to anyone else. I tried to get up early and write for a couple of hours consistently on most days, though. Whatever else happened that day, I could at least have that much accomplished. 

I have to say that two hours was a goal more than an achievement, however, near the end of my stay in Virginia. The demands of my classes, the upheaval of preparing for the move and the promotional effort required to launch my first novel, Unchained Memory, took a lot of my attention.

Now that I’m in a new home, I have an entirely different problem. For the first time since I began writing as an adult, I am completely free to construct a routine built around my writing. I have no outside commitments—no job, no kids, no classes to teach. All I have to do is factor in time for exercise (I still practice tai chi, even if I no longer teach it) and those pesky home management tasks (nope, still no personal assistant/cook/maid, darn it!).

So what will it be? Am I really an early bird, doing her best work before noon? (The habits of a lifetime have a strong pull.) Or will I sleep in, then work steadily until late afternoon? (Tempting, but I can’t see that happening for more than a week.) What about my biggest conflict—the best time for writing (morning) is also the best time for exercise! And napz! Must have napz!

I can hear you all now. This is a nice problem to have, right? I couldn’t agree more. Forgive me if I have to take a minute to scurry around in frantic circles like an ant whose nest has just been kicked. Eventually I’ll find the right path and get back to work in proper orderly fashion. In the meantime, what would you do if you could build the day to suit yourself? Get up early, stay up late, declare noon to be the new dawn? Or just tell time by the rising and setting of the sun?

Cheers, Donna


4 comments:

  1. I still have family constraints on my time, but once the monsters are off to school, I have six hours, five days a week of my own Right now I have edits and a self imposed deadline to meet. So, I take a slightly longer walking route back from school drop off for my exercise, followed by half an hour of housework, both of which get muse up and running. I edit until lunch, do a short dance routine, eat, then edit again. Between facing sections of edits, I'll tweet my progress and share anything shiny I spot on Twitter. Right now, I actually appreciate still having that routine of the school run. I'm incredibly lazy, but that means I have to get up and get out of the house, and once I'm up I'm far more inclined to be productive. Just now, the prospect of NOT having that bit of routine actually scares me a little.

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  2. Right now, I wake up, go to work and get back home around 6-7PM depending on whether I've exercised, then cook, clean, and decompress with my partner on most nights. Then I read if I have time. 9PM is writing time, and I try to write for an hour. I've written for ninety minutes before and would like to try that more consistently, but I'm not best that late at night. On weekends, I try to do additional writing when I can. I'm going to try to push writing to earlier in the night.

    In my fantasyland, I'd sleep in till 9 or 930, do some programming/tech work 10-2, take a mental rest and exercise, and then have the afternoon for writing/music. Around dinnertime I'd do writing or music planning- all the logistics that I push aside while I barge through the story. The rest of the night would be for reading, games, and friends.

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  3. Yes, Donna. Definitely a good problem to have! :)

    When I faze into a full-time writer, I'm going to try to implement a standard "work day" that's dedicated to writing and promotion. Otherwise, I'm afraid it would be too easy to curl up on the couch with a cup of coffee and watch movies, because that's what I do to decompress after a really rough work week. If I don't instill some immediate discipline, I fear it will be too easy to slip into leisure mode and get stuck there.

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  4. Pippa, your schedule sounds pretty efficient--necessary for all that work you do! And Eileen, I can appreciate how difficult it can be to try and write after a full day at work. My brain is always telling me it's time for party or sleep once the sun goes down! Believe me, Laurie, the full-time writing life takes a LOT of self-discipline. There always seems to be something else to do. Ernest Hemingway used to say, when someone asked about his routine, "Well, first you wash the car, then you clean out the fridge . . ."

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