Hi, I’m Bonnie. I’m a recovering workaholic.
The pace I kept was starting to affect my health and the quality of my writing. The friskiness and humor that are the hallmarks of my writing were disappearing faster than unguarded burgers when my dogs are around.
So…..I’m going to play devil’s advocate to some of the writing advice out there.
- Don’t write every day.
Writing isn’t like eating or breathing to me. Writing is my job and I’m trying hard to treat it as such. When I worked for a company, I had weekends and holidays off, and took vacations to recharge my batteries, sharpen the saw, fill in analogy here.
Working for myself was a different story. From 1999 to 2012, I worked close to 7 by 24. I’ve had relapses since then.
Now, I take time off from writing. Time off can be writing related: people-watching to get ideas for characters or traveling to get ideas for settings or storylines. Some time off, though, should be dedicated to total recharge.
- Don’t set a rigid writing schedule.
I do set a schedule. It just isn’t rigid. When I’m updating a book, I know I have to revise 15 pages a day, 5 days a week for 2 months. Which hours of the day or which days of the week aren’t as important to me. (OK, this is my full-time job so I get to set my work hours and days. Those of you with other jobs might not have this luxury.) There have been times—many times, when I sat down to write, and spun my wheels for 2 hours before I realized what was happening. If those 2 hours were my writing time, I’d have a word count of, say, 20 words for the day.
Now, I watch for spinning wheels. When I notice them, I stop and do something else. Sometimes, I simply switch to writing something easier. (With my non-fiction writing, some stuff is easier to write.) Or I might do something else that needs to get done.
A favorite trick of mine is to knock out a short to-do so I can scratch it off my list. The energy boost I get from completing a minor task is often enough for me to tackle something more difficult. Sometimes, a change of scenery helps. Write in a spiral-bound notebook instead of at the computer, or use a laptop computer to sit on the sofa, at a coffee shop, or in a train station.
- Walk away.
Many times, the spinning wheels come from a writing problem: opening sentences, chapter cliffhangers, or a sentence that just doesn’t sound right. I’ve learned to take a break, usually to walk the dogs. Invariably, I end up recording the sentences I need on my cell phone as I walk in the woods.
- Don’t follow other people’s advice!
Everyone is different, so what works for me might be disastrous for you. I know what time of day I’m most productive, the best time for creative work or drudgery. I’ve learned that when I wake up at 1am thinking about work, I need to turn on the light, work for an hour or so, and then go back to sleep. I know that when I get on a roll, I need to cancel other plans so I can make the most of that opportunity. I know when something I’ve written is right, even if others tell me to change it. I’m learning to recognize the days when my brain and body are crying “Uncle!” and then take the day off mostly without feeling guilty about it.
Go ahead. Listen to what others have to say. Then, figure out what works for you and what doesn’t.
End of rant here:
Writers are great. They work in a competitive, stressful industry, yet they share their knowledge and support each other’s endeavors. They work hard. They’re fun to be around.
Thanks for letting me be part of the group.