Picking up the thread of Peter Grant’s blog on vacations yesterday, and harking back to David Pascoe talking about writing with an infant in arms, I thought I would touch on techniques to keep productive around the day job. Or in my case, the day jobs and the school. Admittedly, most of my writing this last year has happened while I was on a break, and could sit and write all day (or until my First Reader dragged me from the keyboard to walk the dog and eat). And I am planning to write one, and possibly two, novels during my upcoming winter term break, because I’m not making much forward progress this semester.
However, not everyone has the ability to take a break and write. I worked for years with little ones and a home office, and vacation? What’s that? Yet I still managed to write here and there. Even now, with the demands of school, I am managing a bit of writing here and there (most in this one class, where the ‘teaching’ consists of having ppt slides read at us). It’s not ideal, but it is better than not writing at all.
This is where we find out if we are a good artist, or effete artiste who can’t work unless everything is just so. If I have to wait on my frail alabaster muse to come tickle me with just the right inspiration, I may never get anything done. On the other hand, if I am willing to start putting words on paper, any words, just to keep momentum going, knowing that I can come back later (when it’s all done! no back-editing while you write, or you will never finish anything) and fix word usage or minor continuity slips. The difference between the artist and an artiste? One works at it, the other waits for it to come to him.
Things you can do include getting up thirty minutes earlier than your family (or an hour) and writing. If you’re not a morning person, reverse this for night writing. I have written during my lunch hour. I have written during work, when I was in a position that had long lag times where I was required to be at my desk but had no active tasks. With time and practice, you will most likely find that you can turn the flow off and on at will. I’m not saying it will always be easy.
It isn’t easy. It requires practice, which might mean setting a daily word-goal, and just like going to the gym, make yourself stretch and reach it. I have heard many different ideas for writing while commuting, none of which involved a keyboard on the steering wheel, thank goodness. Digital voice recording can be done with an inexpensive device, or a free app on a smart phone. I’d briefly entertained the idea of setting my laptop secured in the passenger seat and dictating to Dragon Speaking while driving, but it was pointed out that road noise is not conducive to this. While yes, dictation then requires transcription, you will likely find that you also catch and clean up the errors while you are doing so, and the typing will be faster as you aren’t composing while you type.
I’m not the fastest typist in the world. Actually, I am pretty bad at it, not having been taught touch typing (Mom originally taught us to type on a manual typewriter when I was 11, and it took a lot of force to make each letter happen. My tablet keyboard, after that, feels weightless). The last timed test I took put me at about 40 wpm. However, that was three novels and approximately 250K words ago. not counting the blogs, goodness, which might double that. My typing speed has gotten better. I know that I can do 1000 words in an hour, which was my point. (I’m really rambling this morning, it was a long day and I haven’t had much coffee yet). Given an hour a day to write, what could you produce?
Again, don’t worry about editing, just writing. Find those little pieces of time to get words on paper, and then when you have a full manuscript, you can set it aside for a day off to work on editing. I’m not sure I’d try editing in the little bits of time I use to write in. Before you can edit, you need to finish, and to do that, while working, you have to cultivate self-discipline, and use your brain like a muscle. It does get easier with practice.
And if you would like to take a break and read something, my short fantasy tale The Dwarf’s Dryad is free today through Tuesday. It was written in a 5 hour burst one Sunday morning…