I had a great writing day yesterday. For God’s sake, I woke up at 5:30 am. To write. (Well, to shower, then to write.)
I have just come back from a much-needed vacation. I got sleep. I put some things in perspective that were making me crazy. I stared at the ocean. I read. I saw friends. I rode 3,592 boardwalk rides with my kid. (The Spinning Dragons. Beware The Spinning Dragons. Parts of my brain are still adhered to the inside back of my skull. Centrifugal force should not be messed with.)
But the most important thing I came back from vacation with is this: nothing gets done without a schedule.
I am a chronic list-maker. If I haven’t a) identified it; and b) prioritized it, it ain’t gettin’ done. What’s more, if I have a whole day in front of me, and I haven’t decided what I’m going to do in that day, I will screw around on social media, reddit and Spotify for hours and hours, just jumping from one fascinating / funny / crazy idea to the next. (The problem is that it feels like I’m doing something, when actually I’m not.)
But back to writing. I decided to schedule four separate times during the day to write:
6:00 am – 7:30 am (ending at the time my kid usually wakes up.)
8:30 am – 10:00 am (during the time my kid is reading / playing.)
3:30 pm – 5:00 pm (after husband comes home, before dinner-making happens.)
9:00 pm – 10:00 pm (after kid’s bedtime.)
That gives me 5.5 hours to write. Less than a full-time job, but still a pretty substantial part-time job. (As you can see, my schedule is dictated by the family.) Also, I have to work out my schedule the night before. Waking up and bumbling around the kitchen for coffee and breakfast, then trying to scrape together enough brain cells to plan the day, then changing my mind about 20 times, yields absolutely nothing.
So, here’s what I found:
1. I was very productive during first three writing periods. Most productive during 1st two writing periods.
2. The last writing period is folly. Nothing good happens after 9pm. Or at least, nothing good happened yesterday. I’ll try more this week and report back if anything changes.
PART II – Procrastinating
So, after all that scheduling, I should be able to just clamp down and write, and write, and write, just like I have envisioned in my years of fantasy. Right?
Nope. For the 1.5 hour blocks I have, I find that I still have trouble getting started sometimes. This isn’t news. I’m a writer. But I have noticed that there are definitely periods of ebb and flow, even in the small chunks of time I allow myself. Though I’ve noticed a pattern to them, and I wonder if it’s me, or if these are universal writer stumbling blocks:
1. Change of scene. You’re satisfied (for the moment, anyhow) with how a scene has developed, and it’s come to a natural ending. Time to move the action on. Here, you have to make decisions: Who’s in the scene? Which character approaches whom? What’s the best way to achieve the effect you’re looking for?
How you begin the scene dictates the action and consequences for the entire scene, and possibly for ensuing scenes. Sometimes I end up procrastinating here, but I wonder if I’m actually procrastinating, or if I’m just turning it over in my head, while I do other things? It’s easy to criticize yourself for having trouble getting re-started, but if we realize that it’s just our brain trying to find the best start to a scene, maybe we can procrastinate in a more productive way. Can you let your mind wander in a focused way? Maybe.
2. Indecision. I have a character who is definitely going to do something. There are equal chances that he will a) storm away from the scene; b) thoughtfully entertain a ridiculous idea; or c) strip naked and fully embrace lunacy. And while those are my current options, what I’d really like is an option d), which I haven’t come up with. Yet.
I think “yet” is my problem here. I have three valid paths for my character, but I’m not in love with any of them. So I’m stuck. I feel terrible that I’m not producing *words* right now, but I can’t move forward until I do something with this guy. And it has to be something that I’m enchanted with. Because if I’m not…the reader won’t be either.
So, I’m procrastinating here instead. I’m producing words because I feel like I have to produce. But when my husband comes home from work and asks me if I’m still in the same chapter, I’m going to have to answer “yes”. Again.
My writing period is done for this morning, and now I’ve got other things to do. I hope my brain figures this out while I’m doing other things.