“When do you write? Morning? Evening? Middle of the night?”
“Do you have a goal of so many words per day?”
“Does it work when you force yourself to sit in the writing chair for a minimum of 2 hours?”
Scheduling tactics I have used over the years:
For the decades I was an experienced moody young person, I needed an emotional jolt. The most prolific writing times were between boyfriends. Heartbreak and depression generated ALOT of words.
Also during those same decades, the music had to be right. The music had to evoke passion, danger, excitement, thrills. I couldn’t write without the right music on the stereo.
3.) Day-job hours
Rotating shifts: I wrote whenever my current boyfriend wasn’t around. Writing by hand, I didn’t purchase my first personal typewriter until I went back to college and needed one.
Day shifts: I wrote on my days off. When I had to be up at black-night ongodly hours to be at work by 7am, inspiration grumbled. This is why I worked part time for decades.
Evening shifts: Those were the best. I wrote on my days off. I wrote when I got home from work; even if I went out to a dance club, I wrote when I got back. There was no gruesome wake-up deadline.
4.) Writing Workshops (with assignments)
Writing workshops teach deadlines. Pressure issued by writing instructors worked wonders with me. I learned to churn out a short story every night. I stopped going to writing workshops.
This worked very well; a decade after the mood-music passion decades, I signed up, purchased a little keyboard to work with my phone, and wrote words in the mornings before work, in the medical library during my lunch breaks, and at home at night. I got 35,000 words. I never signed up again.
6.) The Connie Willis method
Connie Willis worked full time while raising a kid. She wrote on the bus, after the kid went to bed, any moment she could. While riding Seattle’s lightrail to the day job, I brought my laptop and wrote. I wrote for 30 minutes every morning, getting up early before setting off. I completed a couple books for Book View Cafe during this period.
7.) Not writing at all
I am not alone in taking a hiatus from writing. My intent is to “get back to it”. Sound familiar? The Novel I Started Three Years Ago waits for me to “get back to it”. Aside from the odd short story for an anthology or irresistible contest and this blog, for the last four years I have been dependably non-productive. I issued the repeated refrain to my friends and family when they asked: My job is very demanding and stressful. True, and full-time as well.
Today, as my new life unfolds like a sloppy origami—that is, negotiating a meandering canal, destination unknown in a barge named Retirement, I am trying out new schedules.
The Novel I Started Three Years Ago actually has some new words. I still get up early for the crossword and espresso, then I am stumped by the challenge of breaking habits built up over the past five years—habits for decompressing over the mere two-day weekend, hardly adequate.
I could dredge up the NaNoWriMo mantra: 1000 words a day. A small doable goal that does demand writing every day.
A friend gave me a pen I’ve misplaced over the years, but I remember it now: Put your butt in the chair. That method works for many writers I know. But I’ve had a sort of revelation.
I’m rusty. I used to think about the novel I was working on all the time, especially the characters—what will happen next? What will they do about it? What mistakes will they make? How will they overcome the next bump in the road? I don’t do that any more. I’m not thinking about my current characters enough. They’re not in my head enough.
The distractions of that damn day job are gone now. Time to let my characters go with me on my daily walk.