Friday, October 12, 2007

Making a Literary Life Friday: Routine

We here at the Writers' Group are in different places with our work. Some have completed novels, others are revising revisions. Still, each of us has to make the time to write, the passion. There are the routines before we get to work, the distractions we have to push away -- hard. How about you? What's your routine, what pulls you away from your WIP and how do you push yourself back?

Making a literary life can only happen if the rest of one's life is under control, I believe. This week, I made a commitment to schedule writing time very strictly. Suddenly, I am far more sane than I was a week ago: I focus well on writing when the time comes. I relax and enjoy my amazing job and my time with my kids when I'm not writing. No more catching five minutes here or there for me. In fact, I fight the urge to sit at the keyboard when I find myself with a free time; I'm building up a thirst until it's time for scotch. The end result is I write as though I have been trapped in a straight jacket for hours and my arms have been set free.

Works for me, anyway.

I haven't been writing this week. I've fulfilled a million other demands, but not my writing. As a result, I'm in a sort of stupor. I don't feel well, I'm not pleasant company. A little over a week ago, my novel sold. Everyone tells me I should be thrilled, and I am, but it's not the same thrill I experience when the words come, when a paragraph is solid and a page flows. Then, I fly, intoxicated and truly happy. Good advice, Lisa.

I've been in a phase where I am writing every day without problem. I am close to the finish of a rewrite. I roll downstairs to the exercise bike, then get my son out the door by seven; I wake my daughter as my husband leaves, walk her and her friends to school. I've had a few moments alone with everyone, some exercise. I flip through the Wall Street Journal, get a bowl of cereal and coffee and sit at the computer ("No food in the office" does not apply to the rule-maker.) and do my job-work until -- by nine-thirty? ten? -- nothing more is required immediately. Then. I downsize the email and spend as long as I can putting my characters through their final paces before the computer sounds the email alarm. The only thing that slows me is wondering whether I've nailed it this time; I did go back last week and fix something already. Is there more? I could spend all my time doing this right now... not always the case, so I treasure the feeling. I have The Next Story already pushing at me, too, so this is a good moment in time.

I'm on the road promoting Negotiation Generation, this week in Richmond, VA. My friends and family assume that I'll have no time to write. My secret is that each morning and evening I spend time with my characters struggling to tell their story in my WIP. Secluded away in my hotel room, I find the time to write.


Anonymous said...

I am a holic. I either go and and write and write and write. Sometimes for weeks till I burn myself out and then I need a break.
I've noticed I can't really pace myself.

kristen spina said...

I love what Lisa said here. And I am finding that to be a better way for me, too. I used to just snatch whatever snippet of time I could. Now that I'm far enough along to really believe I might be able to write an entire novel, and now that I'm at a point where I have to really think through my character's next move, I find I do better by holding back a little and scheduling my time better so I have whole mornings or whole afternoons to write through a scene. It feels more productive.

And I no longer worry if I don't get to it every day. I find that when a couple of non-writing days go by, I am even more energized to pick up the thread of where I left off.

Great post!

Eileen said...

I find I have cycles- for example right after I finish a project I need some amount of down time before the next one consumes me. Once I'm in the middle then I do best to have some type of schedule to keep me on target. I long to be organized- but so far it hasn't happened.

Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...

Reality, isn't it funny how each of us has our own pattern? Writing certainly isn't one size fits all.

Kristen, exactly. You sound as though you've developed good habits.

Eileen, down time, what's that? So we shouldn't feel needless stress if we're not writing? Interesting...

Lisa said...

Help! I am mired in non-routine! Like most people, I battle many priorities and I've been lamenting my lack of routine lately and blaming everything from the change of seasons, to my day job, to my inability to prioritize, BUT, it hit me in the face yesterday. I was stealing an hour to work on some edits and it became clear to me that my recent procrastination is almost entirely due to a POV problem I've yet to solve -- one or two? -- makes a huge difference and necessitates substantial RE-Vision on what I've done so far no matter what I decide (that part doesn't bother me too much). I keep thinking the answer will "come to me" soon, but I'm starting to wonder...positive vibes and good thoughts requested! :)

Larramie said...

Like everything else, it seems that writing needs a schedule to keep the momentum flowing.

Lisa Marnell said...

Lisa - Boy do I understand the procrastination thing; mine wasn't POV but title (as my writer's group can attest to). Now, I'm writing, not perserating on title.
Larramie - isn't momentum a wonderful thing? I'm always grateful when it happens my way!

Lou Ann Homan said...

I write 'some' everyday...but don't know exactly how to define some. Because I write a weekly column, I am on deadline all of the time (except the day I send in the column!) I take a breather and then all of a sudden it is time to write again. I do lots of my work in the early morning (4 a.m.) or late afternoon. In betweens I teach theatre and storytelling and travel with my work. How do any of us find the time for writing. Oh, to have lived the lifestyle of Emily Dickinson!

Lou Ann from Indiana..
P.S. I am loving this did I miss it all of this time?

Carleen Brice said...

I've recently been inspired by our Colorado Rockies. They are on a 20-game streak. If they can win every game, I can accomplish something every day. Not just noodling/thinking, but words on the page. 1,000 per day is my goal. I write in the morning and take a break in the afternoon for lunch, bath, walk, etc. after I hit my 1,000 words. Later in the evening, I pick it back up and try to do another 500 or so (but the 2nd daily session can be noodling). Must go now. Rockies are one game from the World Series and that game starts in minutes. Go Rox!

The Denver writers (Lisa K., Rebecca B., Karen D. and I) just might have a good rivalry going with The Writer's Group! :)