A Double Life

ImageI made a decision last year that I would start to take my writing more seriously; that I would start to take the steps necessary to produce, first, stories of a quality that would not embarrass me if they were published, and second, some sort of online presence.

In November of last year, I participated in NaNoWriMo. It was a wonderful learning experience, but one of the things I learned is that I am not a writing powerhouse. My basic average is 1,000 words a day, if I write every day. ‘Butt in Chair’ is also not a tactic that works for me. If the Muse is gone, the Muse is gone. I ended November having barely scraped 50,080 words. I haven’t looked at that manuscript since. It makes me ill to think of it. Second lesson learned: When the Muse is gone, definitely don’t force it.

This goes against almost everything I’ve read online, but that’s okay. For now, I know what works for me, and I can live with that. Given that I have a day job which requires a lot of me, and that job consumes six of the seven days I have during the week, it’s all I can expect.

Since then I have started another manuscript and five different short stories, three of which (as of today) have been completed. One of those stories is available on Amazon (check my Works if you’re interested) and another will be published this coming May, as part of an anthology titled Writer’s Anarchy. I’m not sure where I’m going to put the third one yet. So, overall, I feel I’m making progress on the whole ‘not embarrassed by what I publish’ bit.

The second part of my resolution, to build an online presence, has had unexpected consequences. I have a tendency to really throw myself and all of my energy into a project when I take it on. It’s something I can’t help. To suffer a cliché, ‘if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing right’. I joined several online groups for writers, including Absolute Write, Fiction Writers Group on FB, Out of Print on WordPress and a few others. The communities available to authors are immense.

But, they are also time consuming.

Since joining AW and FWG, I have spent almost all of my free time planning, editing, critiquing and beta reading other people’s works. Don’t get me wrong; I love the process. I love helping others with their processes. I’ve been having a lot of fun, in particular, with the beta reading and line-by-line editing process and am wondering if it’s not something I would like to take up more professionally on the side. If I have the time. I am amazed by people who seem to blog every day (some, obnoxiously, three or four times a day) and still have time for research and writing, as well as all of the other stuff required of an author. It almost seems like they live a double life simultaneously. I can imagine fantastic bloggers like Chuck Wendig blasting away at the keys on their keyboard, chugging coffee like an SUV chugs oil, as they sit in a ring of monitors, one for email, one for blogging, one for writing, one for all that other personal stuff they have to do. Maybe they even vacuum the house with their feet while they’re at it. It’s astounding.

But I also know I’ll never be that. For one, I break the stereotypical rule; I don’t smoke or drink coffee, so I do have an urge to get away from the computer and eat from time to time. I have my day job, which is not freelance writing but teaching, and my students require every bit of my energy while I am on the clock. I am not a multi-tasker. I have truly tried to be one, but it’s absolutely impossible. When I am writing, I am writing. When I am talking to someone, I can’t carry a conversation on with someone else on the side. When I am worried about the things life throws at me, my Muse keeps quiet.

For me, it’s going to come down to time management. I’ll have to assess my daily input into forums and blogs– writing is the priority. I should definitely be writing more than I assist others in writing. And then I still need time to read all the books I want to read around the house.

How do you manage your time?

 

Image credit © Steven Depolo

4 thoughts on “A Double Life

  1. Wow Alex, this one kinda hit home. I can absolutely relate to your post here and I agree with you. I write when the mood strikes me and I do this not because I am less engaged in my work. It’s not because I am less dedicated. It’s because I am very dedicated to not just tossing anything on paper.

    Now, while I agree with the ideals that guide the attitudes and behaviors of those who say write every single day and do around 7 pages a day, I dont believe thats necessary in truth. You said you write 1000 a day. 1000 a day of well written work is much better than 3k of crap. Editting goes much easier as well with a 1k limit. average book is roughly 50 – 100k which means that in 80 to 100 days you can have a book written in completion. Editting and such, basically with 1000 words a day and you could even take the weekends off. You COULD actually put out 1 book a year. But if you decide not to write why not do something else? Write outlines, do cracter sheets, conduct interviews, brainstorm with Nicky outloud and just talk about something in the character background that might not ever even make it to the page. The purpose of this is to keep yourself connected to the story. After all thats why they say write every day isnt it?

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    1. You’re totally right Scott! Of course, I do /something/ creative every day, but I don’t count it towards my totals unless it’s actually for the MS. So character sketches, plot points, casual roleplay with Nicky aren’t included, but those I do upwards of three to four hours every day! Over the last 9 years, we’ve amassed over 90,000 pages of loose ‘play’ which is exactly that, but in the seams we’ve got all the points we need for real stories, which we’re working on now 🙂

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  2. Alex, this is a great post, and I think it can speak to many other areas as well as writing. One of your most obvious points is knowing yourself and what you can and want to do with the time of each day. It’s easy to get in the frame of mind where we think we have to accomplish something every second of the day, when maybe what we really need to do is take a walk (or whatever cleans our minds). After being away from home for several months each year, I realized I could not (or didn’t want to) keep up with e-mailing, which is one reason I started the blog.

    I always chuckle about the relatively new term “multitasking”, as mothers have been experts at this since the beginning of time, but it never had a name!

    I got “Memories” from Amazon and read it during my flight from Mexico to Alaska. I liked it a lot and wrote a review on Amazon. Keep up your good work and enjoy life!

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    1. Hello Marilyn!

      Wow, thank you! I am so incredibly touched. Thank you so much for the review; what a wonderful treat right before bed. It made my day (and it was a pretty good day!)

      That’s a very good point about the emailing. When I was younger, I could throw out 20-30 emails a day, no problem, but now that I’ve sort of got a lot of other things on my plate and dividing my time, it’s a struggle to even type one or two. I’m actually starting to make a transition /back/ to just catching up over the phone, which I used to avoid!

      In any case, thank you again. I really appreciate the comment and the review. Have a wonderful day! Looking forward to your next travelog!

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