Monday, May 18, 2009

On the Clock

Question of the day: You said in one post you only work on your book about an hour a day -- did I get that right? Do you do it first thing in the morning or after your freelance work? And how often do you violate that rule?

Yep, indeed, I did say that, and it's only sort-of true. I set aside one hour a day to write because that's what I tell myself I HAVE to write...given how arduous I sometimes find fiction, I think if I told myself that I had to write four hours or whatnot every day, I simply become paralyzed with dread. But an hour? I mean, what's a measly hour? It's nothing. So I schedule my day around this hour because let's face it, anyone can do anything for an hour. (I often use this same psychology when it comes to running or working out...I can really endure a little pain for that short a period of time, and then it's over, and then I'm always glad that I did it, right?)

I almost always designate this hour in the morning, if only because my afternoons tend to get away from me with non-writing stuff - dropping in on my son's baseball class, walking the dog, running errands, and the only way that I can ENSURE that I get my hour in is to crank it out when the house is quiet.

Now. Does this mean that I only give an hour? No, not at all. Often times, once I get started, I completely lose track of the time and devote much more. But if I'm having a crap writing day, after minute 59, I give myself an out. Again, just like a workout. You have to break a sweat, but that doesn't mean you have to exhaust yourself. On days like that, just showing up is enough.

As far as my freelance stuff, it all depends on my deadlines. I procrastinate much less on my articles, so carving out time isn't that tough. Many times, I give myself that hour to work on my fiction (or else I'll end up skipping it altogether), and then, once my brain is in the "work mode," I transition pretty easily to my articles.

I think there are a couple of reasons why this works for me: 1) I don't expect too much from myself. As noted above, anyone can suffer through an hour. And 2) I've established a pattern that really works for my mental and physical schedule: I start writing right after my coffee has kicked in, when no one is around to bother me. No excuses. No reason NOT to dive in. It's a no-brainer.

7 comments:

Peggy Bourjaily said...

I work better in the mornings too! Thanks for posting, Allison - it's always nice to see how writers actually do it. Sitting in the chair at the computer and not allowing any distractions for an hour is inspiring for me since I am the queen of procrastination when it comes to fiction. Hmm, I wonder how long it will take until it doesn't feel like a chore?

Trish Ryan said...

I use this strategy for working out, too...can't believe I've never thought to apply it to writing. And your tip about scheduling THE HOUR right after the caffeine kicks in is key :)

Suzanne said...

Thanks for this insight, this is actually very inspiring because anyone can handle an hour and it makes the prospect a lot less daunting than say a particular word count or number of pages...

LarramieG said...

Have to laugh at "It's a no-brainer," when in truth it's all so logical

sarah pekkanen said...

I love the exercise/writing analogy because they are so similar! To get results, you need to put in the time and do it consistently and make it a habit. I used to think that I just needed the setting to be perfect before I could write -- you know, the perfect coffee shop, the right background music, etc. -- and that once I got that part right, the novel would kind of write itself. But I've since learned that you need to write on days when you'd rather be curled up in bed watching lame American Idol re-runs and eating bon bons (and really, who wouldn't rather be doing that?:)) By forcing yourself to write through your creative slumps, you're dong the equivalent of training for a marathon. Sometimes you'll hit the golden days when you feel like you can run (or write) forever -- but not if you haven't laid the gritty groundwork.

pam said...

Allison,

This was a very helpful and timely post. I like the idea of committing to at least an hour, or only an hour, as it's not too daunting. I tried something similar this morning, to just get two pages done, figuring that was doable...and it was. Got a little more actually and it took exactly an hour. Will try to keep to this going forward.

Thanks!
Pam

Jarrod said...

I would give myself about an hour of writing time and also a little time to just sit and think about the story - just relax and read a little of what I wrote and think of the next move. Not only was I writing more and more each time, but I Really looked forward to it and it became such a fun point and highlight of my day.