Apparently Writing is About Sacrifice

If you recall, back in June (holy shit has it been three months already?!) I proclaimed my intention to write a novel.

As it turns out, while I might think the actual proclamation is a major step, it doesn't actually mean anything gets done. So much for that theory.

I'm sure there is exactly one person out there who is wondering just how far I have come in three months. Well, I've thought about it some more - does that count for anything? Yeah, I know - not so much. I keep telling myself I need to put things down on paper (or Excel, whatever), some kind of outline or timeline. I have it all in my head, but I'm not clear on where my gaps are, and I feel I need that clear before I can write the first words.

So what's the deal?

Part of my problem is having too many other things to do and having too many other things I'm focused on. Those are different - the first is responsibilities and the other is simply personal choice.

I have two jobs already, which take me about 10-12 hours depending on the given day. In both of those jobs I spend just about all my time already at the computer, staring at the screen, and producing thousands of words in emails, documents, and journalistic articles.

Apart from work there are always other things that need to be done. Lawn mowing, cooking, shopping - all those things required to maintain normal life (and sure, lawn mowing IS optional - you should see my yard...).

Then there are the things I choose to do because I want to, such as watching T.V. or movies, reading (I'm a firm believer that extensive reading makes one a better writer), spending time with the family, cooking elaborately, writing this blog, taking pictures of the kids (and the computer work that comes with those), hiking, and all the millions of little things that just get done without a second thought.

And yeah, all of these details are simply a list of excuses (well, some may say excuses - I say explanations) as to why the book hasn't been begun. Everyone has to give up something to get it done - new authors don't typically have the luxury to working on their book exclusively. This isn't a complaint, an expectation my experience be any different, but it's a question of where do I make a cut, a sacrifice, in order to reach that final goal?

In the previous post one of the commenters pointed out an average novel has something like 50,000-75,000 words. If you commit to writing at least 1,000 words a day, then finishing a first draft of a novel can happen in no time at all, relatively (or, as another illustration, I could have had it done in the days since I declared I would write one). Hell, when I'm in a zone I can drop 1,000 words in half an hour.

That's nothing, right? Then there is the fatigue factor. After work, when I've already written multiple thousands of words and stared at a computer screen all day, doing it some more doesn't overly fill me with joy, even if this would be fun rather than work. There are a lot of pros in the field who will say good writing only happens a couple hours a day. Stephen King, for instance, wrote in his book On Writing he writes from 8am to noon every day - he learned a long time ago anything he wrote after that almost always ends up cut because he loses the edge.

Any of you who write a lot of words in your daily work - heck, just think about the emails you write, which are far from pieces of literature but still take thought - are probably nodding your head right now.

I could decide to write before work, but that would entail getting up at 4am. And I could, it's absolutely my own choice not to, but I've been there and done that - I think there is also such a thing as too early. Well, unless one shifts their entire life schedule and the schedule of their family. Let's try and avoid that.

So the bottom line here is where does one make cuts? Can I accept a slightly lower income by letting one of the jobs go? Will that be the differencemaker? Do I need to block out X amount of time every day? Do I limit my own television watching like a parent would to an eight-year-old? Do I - and this sounds very odd to me - do the same thing with reading? Or does that become counterproductive?

And what things are absolutely off limits? Family time I need - everyone does, that winding down time, the contented moments when you can just relax. I need one job, that's for sure - haven't won the lottery yet so the bills pay themselves. I need to sleep. I need to run errands. I need to do my part around the house. I need to eat.

I guess going into this I was hoping I could do everything I wanted to do without regimenting my day, compartmentalizing every little aspect and task into a daily schedule, but maybe that's not possible.

"Just Write" is a fantastic mantra and one I'd love to embrace. Apparently, though, it's just not as easy as that, for me.

Writers, I'd love to hear what you have to say. What's a typical day look like for you? When do you write? Do you have a daily benchmark? And how did you find the schedule that worked for you? How many different types of schedules did you try?

1 comment:

  1. I write on the weekends usually and even that's a grind at times. Like you (as you know) I'm in front of a computer all day and the kind of work tends to suck any creativity out the door. A lot of times I'll do revisions during the week if I can. But I usually give myself a half day of writing on the weekend. I tend to write fast so I an crank out a 2K worth in that time period.

    On twitter there's a hastag group called #1h1K I think. I've used that a couple times and I've seen people doing fun competitions.

    I signed up for NaNoWriMo last year (bascially you try to write a 30K novel during November) - the idea is to just write...you don't go back and edit or revise you just write heads down.

    Ginger in my critique group has done NaNoWriMo a few times.