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Never Enough

One of the annoying things I’ve found about the full-time writer gig is a much stronger feeling of not getting enough done in any given day.

Working for the state, I knew I had an hour to write during lunch, and maybe a little time later that evening, depending on what was going on. So if I got 1000 words done, I was doing great.

Now, I get up and do my two hours of telecommuting, and then at 10:30 the rest of the day is all mine. Since I have more hours to write, I should be doing 5000+ words a day, right? Because that’s what the math says.

Of course, the math doesn’t care about calls from the school, grocery shopping, holiday preparation, vacuuming the house, picking my son up from school because he’s not feeling well, and all the rest. Nor does it recognize that sometimes I need to get up and stretch, or walk away from the story so I can think a bit and figure out where to go from here.

My math doesn’t care about any of that.

At the same time, I’ve been thinking about more projects I want to do, things I’m really excited about. There’s the middle grade book, the trilogy I pitched to DAW, and a list of other things that not only would my fans (hopefully) really like, but that would also help me continue to grow my career, and as a writer.

Basically, I want to WRITE ALL THE THINGS! And I somehow expect myself to do it all RIGHT NOW!

Realistically, the past few months have been incredibly productive. I did three and a half short stories in October. I wrote the first draft of a book in November. It’s halfway through December, and I’m halfway through the rewrite of that same book. I also did page proofs for Revisionary somewhere in there.

And it doesn’t feel like enough. I knew being the stay-at-home parent would eat up a fair amount of time and energy, but it’s hard to find that balance. There’s always been the voice whispering, “Shouldn’t you be writing?”, but now that voice expects it to be all writing, all the time.

That’s not healthy.

I’m thinking I need to do more long-term planning. List out these various projects, come up with a realistic estimate of how long each of them will take, plug in the ones that have deadlines, and see how it all looks. NaNoWriMo was helpful because not only did I have a concrete goal, I also had a daily goal, and if I reached that, it was easier to give myself permission to stop.

This has been your periodic glimpse of writerbrain.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

Comments

( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
juniperus
Dec. 16th, 2015 05:20 pm (UTC)
Your previous pace forced your writer brain to take time off, so to speak... to percolate, ponder, or even just take a break from a conundrum or intense point in the plot. Lunchtime would end, that was that.

Now that your schedule is more fluid, that necessary time still needs to happen somewhere - it's part of the whole process: build it in--block it out if you need to see it on a physical schedule--but give yourself permission to let it happen.

Otherwise you're making bread without letting the dough rise or trying to roll icebox cookies without giving them time in the icebox (or whatever imagery works - if it resonates better, you can't trim a freshly-thrown pot), and then kicking yourself for the recipe not turning out.

Don't try to remove, flip, and trim that wet pot, man. It's no bueno. Give it time to dry, to gain structural integrity.


And dem damn groceries won't get themselves. :)

Edited at 2015-12-16 05:21 pm (UTC)
the_gneech
Dec. 16th, 2015 05:48 pm (UTC)
I've been coming to grips with this myself over the past years; I actually found that setting more deadlines made it worse instead of better.

My current strategy is to basically treat it like I did my day job back in the day: punch in, do my eight hours, and punch out, and let things finish when they're finished. If I do have a specific date to hit (such as the Christmas card promo thing I did today), I'll shuffle it up in the list, but other than that I just keep on working.

So far, it's serving me well. Creative burnout is the worst thing a creator can go through, and pushing yourself like a slave driver is what leads directly to it. You've got to let your muse relax. :)

-The Gneech
kellymccullough
Dec. 16th, 2015 06:56 pm (UTC)
For me time has never been the big issue, creative brain processor cycles are. Some days I get extras and can post 4,000-6,000 words. Most days I don't and get 1,000-2,000. I can force it if I need to and post 2,000—3,000 for long stretches—like whole novels long—but it comes at enormous cost because it empties the well faster than I can refill it. After I finished the Fallen Blade cycle I had about six months where story brain's response to queries was pretty much to laugh at me.
deborahblakehps
Dec. 16th, 2015 07:28 pm (UTC)
I should be achieving more too. Maybe we can rent a TARDIS together?
jimhines
Dec. 16th, 2015 07:37 pm (UTC)
Yes, please!
deborahblakehps
Dec. 17th, 2015 12:53 am (UTC)
I'm thinking time travel is the only way I am going to meet my deadlines :-)
karalianne
Dec. 16th, 2015 07:36 pm (UTC)
I have a "writing timeline" Excel Workbook (mostly I just use the one sheet that I'm about to describe) where I keep track of all of my projects. When I have an idea for something, I add it to the spreadsheet and fill in all the data. One of the columns is for a keyword that will help me remember what the project is when I get to it in the list. It works pretty well and lets me keep track of when I start working on something, what stage of writing/editing I'm on, and how long it is.

Before I had my baby in March, I would do housework in the mornings and try to get writing and other work stuff (I freelance as an editor) done in the afternoon. Now I do housework all day and try to write by hand when I get a chance. Evenings are for work and writing, which isn't working out quite as well as I'd hoped so I need to tweak this for January. I'm going to let December play out for now. :)

NaNo is great with the goal and stuff, but I very rarely write every day during November even though I do NaNo every year and am an ML. Even so, I do manage to win every so often (I didn't this year, but I hit 40k, which is about 2/3 of the story finished).
northernwalker
Dec. 16th, 2015 11:38 pm (UTC)
I read a book by someone who had moved from his city job to working at home/semiretired and responded to his new free time by playing "weekend" every day- he lived in the country and there was always stuff to do to the house/garden/trees that he'd been fitting in on weekends. So, after six months of chopping/hammering/fixing, he was hysterically sick of it all and needed to adapt his schedule so he wasn't going crazily along and wearing out.
elusis
Dec. 16th, 2015 11:56 pm (UTC)
I know you're very sensitive to gender dynamics, so I say this somewhat teasingly with love:

My first thought on reading this was "Man realizes primary parenting is difficult and time consuming; news at 11."

Hope that lands as it was intended. :)
xjenavivex
Dec. 17th, 2015 01:45 am (UTC)

One thought is that you were doing writerly pondering during your day before that isn't in the math.

dickgloucester
Dec. 17th, 2015 07:26 am (UTC)
Perhaps the daily goal should be 1500 words, and yay if you do more than that. And remember - when you are away from your story, the story is also percolating, gaining depth and detail in your mind. That's writing too.
sueo2
Dec. 18th, 2015 09:28 pm (UTC)
Is the blog-o-sphere breaking down? I've noticed fewer and fewer posts from people and fewer comments on sites, such as yours, which used to be sooo active.

PS - Have a great holiday season and a surprisingly productive New Year!
jimhines
Dec. 18th, 2015 09:30 pm (UTC)
I haven't been posting as frequently, in part for some of the reasons mentioned up above. As for comments, I think some of that has shifted to Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, etc. I wouldn't say breaking down so much as it's all continuing to diversify and spread out across different platforms and formats.

And thank you! You too! :-)
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )

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