This week I have finally had time off to write. When I say "time off", I mean whole days for writing and nothing else. At least, nothing else that required me to show up from 9-5. The days stretched out ahead of me. Eight hours for writing. Think of all those words I could write. Except ... I knew from experience how easy it was for each day, and all those hours, to dribble away on stuff. Household chores, house building things, attacking the endless mess in my office (and going to the stationery shop), reading, etc. How to organise my precious days so they were spent on writing?
It's partly about discipline. Nobody was making me do the other stuff. They were merely procrastination tools, ones I tend to do while thinking "I'll write better in the afternoon", and then finding it was after 5pm and I hadn't written a thing. I thought about what would get my backside in the chair and keep it there. Should I set a number of words to write? Not relevant at the moment because my writing task this week is a major revision, which means some new writing and some rewriting. How about hours sitting at the computer, no matter what? In the end, I decided on pages of revised novel. I aimed for 15 per day. Ha! I thought. That's nailed it.
Not. Monday and Tuesday saw me finally sitting down at the computer around 2pm. Should have been plenty of time to work on 15 pages, but somehow it wasn't. Tuesday I accomplished THREE! Wednesday morning I had a fantastic Skype call with my friend K, who completed the Margie Lawson course on Self-Defeating Behaviours earlier this year. K told me that what works best for her is putting writing first, sitting down after breakfast and writing for 2-3 hours, no matter what. Then the rest of the day is free for all that other stuff, and you feel great because you have written.
Obvious, isn't it? Well, it is if you are a morning person. Which I am not. But related to this are other elements, such as getting a good night's sleep so you can be up and functioning by 8am. Eating breakfast and doing some exercise helps too. Mostly, it's about making a decision that writing needs to come before everything else, and sticking to it. I used to read about full-time authors who go to their desk at 9am and write until 5pm. That's a great day's writing, I thought. But I don't write like that. I'm not sure anyone does. Eight hours at the keyboard? At the speed I type, I'd be producing 8-10,000 words a day.
But it would be 10,000 words of babble. I need thinking and planning and pondering time. When I'm not writing, that's when I see plot holes, and develop exciting new ideas. But I still need at least 2 hours of typing to get it all into the story. When I have a normal writing week, there are two days where I cannot write at all. Not even if I got up at 5am (and Melbourne is so cold right now, there's no way I'm doing that!). But this week has shown me that I can structure those other days better, and get more done, simply by writing first.