In my ongoing quest to integrate You The Public more fully in the 12 Books process, this week I am answering questions from Elaine, who takes lovely photos and blogs over at Dreams and Whispers.
Firstly, I would like to know how you manage to fit so much writing into your daily routine! Do you find you can write better at certain times of the day, or do you stay up late to catch up with it? Do you need a quiet space and clean desk, or can you type amongst noise and chaos?
To be honest, I don’t always fit writing into my routine!
When I did that first book for NaNoWriMo last year I was working in Dalkeith and living in the New Town, which meant I was commuting an hour either way every day. All I needed to do then was write on my phone when I was on the bus, so most days I found I’d reach my daily word count before I even got home. It was mega easy to keep on top of it then because it was just part of my routine.
In January, the legendary time that 12 Books began, I was off work all the time because I was house sitting for my parents for two weeks and my temp agency didn’t have any work that only lasted the fortnight I was available. This meant that theoretically I had all the time I could possibly need to get into a routine, but in actual fact days went by where I didn’t write anything – although I was researching a lot (that first book, Caligula’s Blog, involved quite a lot of reading of history books on account of the fact I didn’t know a huge amount about Caligula). There were a few days where I sat and did massive chunks of around 5k at a time to make up for it.
February was not a lot better in terms of routine, because my temp agency didn’t have anything for me till nearly the end of the month. However there were days I didn’t do much because I was a bit depressed – I really hate being unemployed, not least because it means you have to live on cheese sandwiches or other similarly cheap foodstuffs, but also because being unemployed in a grey Edinburgh February in the coldest flat known to man… Well, it wasn’t conducive to 100% creativity. On the days I did write, though, I was doing vast swathes – I think the most I did in one day was about 7k. Which is a lot to do in one go and I dread to think what I’ll make of it when I go back to edit.
In March and April I had the luxury of being in the same job the whole time, and I’ll be in the same one for May and June too. The wonders of temping. This means I work 4 days a week and have 3 off. However, because my workplace is within walking distance of my house (about 1.5 miles), I don’t have commuting time to write, and depending on how busy we are it can take quite a lot out of you so that when you get in at night you don’t particularly want to hunch over Word on your own in the bedroom.
What I try to do is write during my breaks – the time everyone else in the office goes on Facebook! – and on Mondays and weekends, pending social engagements and what have you. But because I do a lot of other stuff too (writing for various websites being the main thing) I’ve found that admin Monday and random times at the weekend isn’t really enough, so today I’ve sat down and planned out my time in as detailed a way as I can manage, with the specific aim of incorporating both writing and reading time every day. I doubt whether I’ll stick to it religiously, but I’ll try!
I sometimes have a dedicated workspace, but it’s our spare room and currently my sister is staying in it. Over the past month or two I’ve just worked wherever I can – often sitting cross legged on the bed which is doing my back no favours, or at the kitchen table which is better but opens me up to the distraction of chatting to housemates about the latest developments on Judge Judy. (In case you’re interested, there are no new developments on Judge Judy – it’s the same every single time.)
It’s definitely easier to get stuff done in a quiet, dedicated area, but if that’s not possible I find that even going along to a coffee shop can help me get stuff done – particularly if you resist the temptation to ask for the wifi password! I am pretty adept at tuning out noise and chaos, but it’s harder when writing fiction. I can edit an interview together or draw a picture in front of the telly; sometimes I can tune it out enough to do blog posts and job applications; and other times I can even tune it out enough to read a book, but I can’t write fiction like that at all. Stories definitely require me to curb my multi-processing ways to an extent. I can zone out the hubub of background conversation in a coffee shop, but not the laughter track on Friends. Not sure why.
In terms of best time of day to write, I’d be inclined to say I work better either first thing in the morning or last thing at night… but I do have the odd burst of afternoon brilliance ;p When I wake up on a weekend at 8.30am or some such annoyingly respectable time, I’ll quite often bash out 2000 words or so and then faff about for basically the rest of the day. Well, not faff exactly, but I’ll do blog posts and set up interviews for sites I volunteer for, and I’ll go on Twitter and read links to tips for authors or weary articles about the current state of publishing; or do other writing related things that are relevant but could realistically wait till later.
Then during the week, when I come in from work I’ll be tired and find myself doing lots of other boring domestic stuff and suddenly at 9.30 I’ll be ready to do an article or some novelling and I’ll carry on with it till midnight. Then I’ll be grumpy cause I won’t get enough sleep. Oops.
Still, only 8 months to go!
May 3, 2011 at 8:42 pm
You definitely have a good work ethic Ali! I’m in awe. I spend far too much time deliberating over what I’m going to write next, rather than just getting on with it.
May 3, 2011 at 9:52 pm
I would really recommend NaNoWriMo as a way to help you get out of that! Course it depends on what you’re trying to get done… but I found the exercise of just racing to get stuff out there very helpful. Random streams of consciousness notwithstanding, I’ve produced so much work since last November and I think it’s just down to the fact that I proved to myself there was no real reason not to. There again, I’m not planning a wedding!
May 4, 2011 at 1:16 pm
Yes I made a failed attempt at it last year – only decided to do it the night before though, so this year am going to try and have a few fiction ideas ready for November 🙂 (wedding will be well out of the way then!)
May 3, 2011 at 9:26 pm
You make it sound easy. Of course some of the world’s greatest fiction was written under pressure of time, noise, domestic stress, debt and discomfort (Dostoevsky for example). I’m sure you are heading for greatness too. Keep it up.
May 3, 2011 at 9:54 pm
It isn’t always… although I’m pretty impressed with myself that I’ve only had one tantrum so far about the fact I may have bitten off more than I can chew! But that may be another post for another time 😉