Monday, July 11, 2011

A Day In The Life

As a professional writer, your day starts around 10 A.M. Well, you wake up, but you feel a little drowsy so you go back to sleep. After a good forty-five minutes wrestling with exhaustion, you convince yourself to get up by promising your growling tummy a nice brunch. You order something in – pizza, Chinese, whatever – and answer the door in your bathrobe, because there is absolutely no sense in dressing. You turn on the television and catch up on your stories and celebrity gossip. Around 2:00, you decide you’re ready for a nap. A little after 4:00, you get a call from your friend who wants to go catch the sale at Macy’s. After picking up dinner around 7:00, you decide it’s time to start writing. Well, maybe after a long soak in the tub.

Sounds nice, right?

In reality, most writers have fulltime jobs, and if not they certainly have obligations, be those obligations children, family, errands, cleaning, laundry, dishes, picking people up, dropping people off, cooking, part-time jobs, editing, crit-partner reading, and so on and so on and so on.

Personally, I start my day at 6:00 A.M. I get up, get ready, make breakfast, and am out the door within an hour. I spend the hours between 8-5 answering phones, entering data, and addressing scrap metal customers. I do get a reprieve between 12-1 for lunch and, if I’m lucky, maybe 20 minutes to do what I want (writing, reading, editing, or even just surfing the web) between answering phones (that don’t stop ringing, no matter what time it is). This is also only applicable on days when I don’t need that hour long lunch to run errands (taking over rent or refilling medication) and have already brought my lunch (can heat it up).

I get home around 5:30. Aaron and I have dinner and play an episode of whatever show we’re currently watching on Netflix. Around 6:30-45, I head upstairs to shower. At 7:00-15, I get to sit down and write. I have until 8:30-45 to get as much writing done as possible. This isn’t a lot of time.

This is also limited to other interruptions. Say my mother calls. There goes 20 minutes. And that’s not accounting for time spent editing. As a professional editor, no matter how much I may want to write, my first obligation is to the author who expects me to have their manuscript marked up within a reasonable amount of time. Granted, this doesn’t mean I put my own writing aside. I set goals for myself, something to tune of “If I get X amount of this MS edited tonight, I will allow myself to write.”

All things considered, my schedule is forgiving. I don’t have to take my work home with me, I don’t have children, and my employers are practically my adopted parents who understand my first passion is writing. Other authors, even those who seem frighteningly prolific, have to deal with a thousand other things before they can think about writing.

This industry is one you almost have to be in for the love of it, and likewise one you can’t just up and do whenever you feel like it. Exhaustion and writer’s block can compile upon those precious few minutes you have to pound away at the keyboard. Not to mention if you have a manuscript back from an editor that you’re in the process of prepping for release. Or if you’re doing promos, answering emails, sent author interviews, et cetera. Time management is essential when it comes to writing. And yes, there are exceptions that prove the rule…but exceptions can’t be mistaken for the norm.

The best way to do this? Set small goals for yourself. I feel if I can get 500 words written per every 30-45 min block I have to write, I’m on the right track. And should I be high on inspiration, the words coming faster than I can write them, I boost my word count goal to 750-1000. I don’t demand the impossible from myself. 500 words might seem like a lot to some and laughably pitiful to others, but it’s what works for me.

In essence: cut yourself some slack if you don’t have 50k written in two weeks. Make sure your goals are feasible. And if you are one of those lucky few who possess endless hours to get as much writing done as you like without worrying about paychecks and other responsibilities…I sincerely hope you know just how fortunate you are.

2 comments:

Sharon said...

I honestly don't know how you guys do it, glad you do, but boggled :)

sarahballance said...

I refuse to admit how often I roll out of bed after 9:30 in the morning. I will, however, say this really inspires me. I've never thought of giving myself an hourly wordage goal, but I'm going to see how it might work for me. I've gotten good at meeting my daily wordage, and I just know if I can make it hourly I can steal more hours in the day to increase my output. What a great idea!

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