Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Time To Write

If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that. - Stephen King

State of the Author, 2015:

I barely have time to read. I very barely have time to write.

I am starting to suspect that only barely having time to write, is worse than having no time to write.

("Oh God", says the reader, "he's going to whine that he doesn't have enough writing time." Bear with me, there are some good links coming up.)

I went into this year with no real resolutions, authorly or otherwise. But after doing my taxes I developed one, which is that this year I would finally make some money with my writing. Because I could really use some extra money.

(Technically I've already achieved my resolution: Black Library sent me my latest royalty statement for The Assassin's Dilemma, and with two sales this quarter I made a handy twenty-two cents. It doesn't matter that the company doesn't pay royalties until you hit twenty-five dollars or more, I celebrated.)

I've read some great motivational books on self-publishing, like Let's Get Digital: How To Self-Publish, And Why You Should and Write Short Kindle Books: A Self-Publishing Manifesto for Non-Fiction Authors; and I've read some not-so-motivational articles on self-publishing, like Confessions of a Failed Romance Novelist (which you can find through the somewhat better Confessions of an Irritable Romance Novelist). I've been seduced by royalty numbers and sales figures and the apparent success of even dinosaur erotica on Amazon.

And I like writing short fiction, damn it. I enjoy writing good twists and fast pacing. So, I figured, I would write some short works, put them up for sale, and see what happened. I certainly wasn't short on ideas. Even total failure would be a good learning experience, and maybe I could beat Beverly Bush at her own game.


Nothing. Total mode lock. Not writer's block - this is coming out just fine - but I can't seem to even start anything.

When I get stuck I tend to read books on writing to un-stick myself. This time I sprung for 2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love by Rachel Aaron, which is only a freaking dollar and you have no excuse not to pick it up. No matter what your writing habits are, there are some solid tips there and I'm looking forward to trying them out.

I enjoyed the book, but I'm still not writing, still freezing up at the blank page, which pisses me off to no end because I know I'm better than this and I don't understand what the problem is. But I think I might be getting a handle on it.

I came across a post by Kameron Hurley, Life on 10,000 Words a Day: How I’m Hacking My Writing Process, which after "2k to 10k" seemed like a natural read. (And it's name-checked in the blog post!) And it was thought-provoking and interesting, but there was one passage that stuck out to me:
I heard author Catherynne Valente once compare falling into this immersive state while writing with falling asleep, and the metaphor was so apt that a little bell went off in my head, and I realized that I’d been trying to fit the act of writing into a work week designed to produce widgets, not prose. When you only have 90 minutes to lie down and take a nap, and the dog is barking, and people are opening and closing the doors, and the TV is on, and cars are driving by… you’re constantly popping in and out of that glorious place where you’re drifting off to sleep, and you really never reach the deep sleep you need to feel rested. Sure, you might get some “rest” but you haven’t really slept the way you would if you have five hours, eight hours, ten hours to nod off.

This is what trying to write in 90 minute chunks of time feels like for me. I know I have 90 minutes. I know it’s not going to be enough time to really get into what I’m doing. I know there will be distractions, and my brain won’t have the time it needs to slip into the sleepy-dream-hallucinating-I’m-in-another-world state that I need to crack out some effortless writing.
My writing time has been limited for awhile, but lately it's gotten significantly worse. I'm at work for nearly eleven hours a day, and when I get home my son demands most of my time until he goes to bed. (And he does whatever Daddy does, so if I open a notebook? He's scribbling in it five seconds later. Pull up a keyboard? dkla;ahgdls;a.) After that there's dishes, walking the dog, actually spending time alone with my wife... basically if I want a block of writing time during the week, it's going to start at 11 p.m. And my weekends and days off have been taken up by personal and family crises that obliterate any notion of writing.

I know about that dream-state Kameron and Catherynne are talking about. I've been there, I love it. And I know I'm not going to get there with the time I have available. And knowing that - knowing that any time I start to write, I could be forcibly and irrecoverably interrupted at any time - is turning into a crippling block for me.

For example: I tried to draft this post at 6:00 p.m., and my son scribbled all over himself with my pen, sat on my lap ripping Boogie Wipes out of their bag, demanded I read him the book with the shark puppet, and picked a fight with the dog, all within ten minutes. And then it was his bath time. I am writing this at 11:29 p.m. I am sitting in my office, scared that the clatter of my keyboard is going to wake my son up. He sleeps right above my office, and I've got superstitions about him. He'll wake up if I type too fast. He'll wake up if the dog barks. He'll wake up if I'm up after midnight. And he's stuffy and coughy tonight, which has me even more worried, because if he does wake up that's two hours of rocking and shushing him back to sleep.

Did I mention I have a second child arriving soon?

I'm going to keep writing, that's not in question. But doing it well, and doing it in a way that makes me happy... that's trickier. And I'm not sure how I'm going to work it anytime soon.

So. How are you all doing with time/space management? Any good reads on the subject you'd recommend? Here's one I enjoyed, to send you off with: A Shed Of One's Own, by Chuck Wendig. Who has a writing shed that isn't filled with lawn mower.

I'm not jealous.

Not one bit.

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