Thursday, January 14, 2010

When the Lapse Happens

I posted recently about whether writers I know set goals or not, and how I manage mine. One of the things I decided was simply to focus on writing 5000 words a week, regardless of whatever project I was working on. At this time of the year, I am back at work but flexible with hours, and no teaching which means lots of headspace. So for two weeks in a row I have passed 9000 words, seemingly with ease. Gee, a few hundred more and I could be doing my own little NaNo here! But...

To coin an old cliche, I'm making hay while the sun shines. In fact, I feel like I'm baling huge rolls and mounds of it, storing it in my writing hayshed (hey, if you're going to go with a metaphor, you may as well thrash it (thresh it?) to death). One thing I'm doing is getting way ahead of a few important deadlines coming up from April onwards. I can't stand the thought of having a manuscript due in a week and still be sweating on 5000 words of a first draft. My revisions need lots of time and extra thinking to iron out plot holes and shallow characters.

But I'm also writing something else that is just for fun. I don't work on it every day because the other projects are already contracted and they are top of the list. But the fun novel came out of nowhere, I took it for a run over a few thousand words and decided to keep it going. It's not what I thought it was going to be, but that's OK. Everyone needs an outlet for their "crazy writing". Feeling like all you're doing is writing to be published (or at least to submit) can kind of kill your creative spirit sometimes.

So what will happen when work and teaching start in earnest? That time is not too far away. I am going to have to stay determined on those 5000 but, it's a positive thing, not a negative. If you make this resolution to diet, your whole outlook is about holding back or denying yourself. With the 5000, I feel like I'm continually taking steps forward. What are some of the things I have been reminded of?

1. The more you write, the more you write. You get in a zone where writing every day seems natural, and if you haven't started by 3pm, you get irritable and start heading for the laptop.

2. While you're writing every day, the story is constantly with you. So tonight, while I was waiting for the pizza to cook, I sat and planned out the next major part of my plot.

3. When you put writing as your first priority in the day, you start to realise how many other things in your day are time-wasting - and that makes you think about how to get rid of those other things permanently.

4. You also start to realise that those guys who write full-time really mean it when they talk about discipline and some kind of routine. Whatever gets your rear end into that seat and your fingers moving on the keyboard.

5. And finally you realise that your bad ergonomic habits at the computer have to stop, otherwise you will never turn your head from side to side ever again, or lift your arm up without screaming.

6. The more you can write like this, the less likely the lapse is to happen. Fight it. Keep your word count in sight. Aim to increase it every day, even if it's only by 100 words. Every day you write will lead to more and better writing days, and no lapses.


Snail said...

On the subject of sitting down and getting stuff done --- I saw Bryce Courtenay on telly the other day talking about discipline and routine. He said that he did 12 hr days when he's working on a project. I can't imagine being glued to a chair for that long each day!

No wonder he's so productive.

Sherryl said...

Yes, some people think he invented the term "bum glue"!
Mind you, he also has four researchers working for him. But I guess he still has to do the writing. It really is about putting the hours in, isn't it?

Lorraine said...

Love your metaphor, Sherryl. Wish I could think of something clever to add.
You're obviously starting the year well. Good for you!

Kristi Holl said...

Amen and amen to # 3, 4 and 5! If you don't take a holistic approach to the writing, your health will get you no matter how much drive you have!

Bonita said...

Great job getting ahead of your deadlines! That's a feeling I rarely know. Agree with all that you said, especially the ergonomic part. I think I keep the chiropractor in business.