Thursday, 5 October 2017

When Life Makes You Change Your Writing Process

Recently, I was faced with something of a dilemma.  My day job needed me to increase my hours, which would cut out the usual 90 minutes I had to write before the kids got home from school.  As much as I would have liked to insist on keeping that time sacrosanct, the day job is what pays the bills, so I had to find another solution.

It will probably take me awhile to come up with a new process.  I know from experimentation that 9:30 to 2:30 is my most productive writing time.  That's when it's relatively easy to knock off a thousand words in an hour.

I've tried getting up early to write, but my inherent lack of morning-personness and kids who can apparently hear a keyboard clicking from two floors away quickly put an end to that experiment.

I tried writing in the evening, after the kids are in bed and discovered two problems.  One, I'm usually worn out from the day which slows my productivity and increases my "Screw it, it's a Netflix night" impulse.  Two, I do have a second burst of productivity that starts around 8:30 and goes until about midnight.  That might not sound like a problem, but once I get started, my brain is "woken up" and I'm not getting to sleep until one or two a.m.  since it takes me a long time to fall asleep once I have an active brain.

So, for now, I'm trying a compromise.  I'm insisting that my husband take over parenting duties between supper and the kids' bedtime so that I can hide upstairs and write.  This isn't ideal, since it cuts into our family time for things like Board Game Night and Let's Pretend We're Watching Live TV Night (for Doctor Who and Star Trek Discovery).

I'm definitely slower, averaging 700 to 800 words instead of 1000-13000.  But it beats not having any writing time at all.  I'm still insanely hopeful that I will meet the 50 000 word goal of Nanorimo, which would put the manuscript for Judgment at complete or nearly complete.  (Fingers crossed)

I have real envy for the authors I know who are able to devote their full time to writing (either because that is their job or because they are supported by other income).  I wish I had that.  But the reality is that life doesn't always line up with our wishes (at least, not in the first 3/4 of the story).  

Dr. Phil has a saying that I've heard often: Winners do things that losers don't want to do.  

While I don't believe that success is automatic if one puts in enough effort, I do support the gist of it.  Sometimes we have to do things that aren't ideal in order to reach our goals.  Sometimes we have to do things which are hard, or which prevent us from doing other fun things.  That's what distinguishes successes from failures.  Those who succeed didn't give up on the less exciting parts of their dreams.  So for the foreseeable future, I'll be hard at work, hoping to get through to the next level. 


  1. Wish I had something helpful to my line of work, I have discovered (and am constantly telling others) that several small amounts on focused time throughout the day can be as productive, if not more so, than one large block (the alternative being the idea that if you can't get in a large block, you can't do anything at all). However, it's true that while writing you want to stay in the scene till it's done and getting into the mindset and/or re-finding your train of thought and flow requires a larger commitment of time. Is there anything you can do with shorter bouts of time? Such as being able to put in half an hour before school, half an hour before they come home, half an hour when dinner's cooking...have no idea if any of this fits with your lifestyle at all!!

    1. I do a lot of what I call "writing in the cracks" already, taking advantage of small down times through the day. I usually use them to work on plotting or character issues, but sometimes, if it's more than half an hour, I will haul out the keyboard. The trick is that I don't do distracted writing well, so while I can plot and keep an eye on the kids, either my writing or the other task suffers immensely if I try to do both at once. But I'm going to have to experiment and find a new way that works, so I'll definitely be keeping an eye out for such opportunities.