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This might sound like a broken record, but it bears repeating. I still run into or hear about people who don’t seem to get why writing takes so long or how it could be so hard to just fling words onto a page in some coherent order.
Despite my eye-rolling and exasperation, I do understand that, for a non-writer, it’s easy to just assume that books magically appear out of thin air because very few people see the actual process of writing them. Artists of all stripes tend to be self-conscious about unfinished work, so we keep it secreted away until we feel it’s “done” enough to see the light of day. And thus if I tell someone that I’m working two full-time jobs, they tend to look at me funny because writing doesn’t seem to contribute in a concrete, monetary fashion. (At least, not yet.)
It’s difficult trying to balance two jobs, and this lack of understanding about how writing truly is my second job can make the whole enterprise that much harder. For people who don’t have much support from their family or loved ones in regards to their craft, that difficulty increases almost exponentially. So, I wanted to lay out the kinds of things that I’m trying to consider, plan for, and tackle as I try to build a career as a writer in between all the other day-to-day tasks that require my attention:
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Okay, now that that is off my chest, we can get into the meat of this post. Although I’ll admit that my entries have been a little lean lately. Nearing the end of a project seems to slow my momentum rather than increase it. But I did want to create a companion entry to “Page Counts, Words, Rosemary, and Time.” “Page Counts” dealt with my own schedule and how I use daily word counts or time spent to move forward. While writing that entry, I wondered if any other fantasy authors, or authors in general, did something similar. Did any of them measure their progress by counting pages? Or did they set aside specific blocks of time to work? Or did they just write all day long? I know each author has their own way of doing things, but I also like finding trends.
First post of 2013! Here’s hoping it’s better than 2012.
On my last entry, I asked my readers (or any other random passers-by) to ask me questions. What kinds of topics would you like to see me write about? The first is paraphrased as follows:
A) How do you write consistently every day?
B) How do you decide to measure your progress: with word/page counts or time spent? Which is best?
The first week of National Novel Writing Month was glorious. I was consistently ahead of my daily word count, I had a routine that not only allowed me to write, but encouraged me to write. It got me off to a good start so that when I flagged in the middle of the month, I could still grind through and reach a total 50,065 words. I’m not entirely satisfied because a significant portion of my NaNo entry was fan fiction and various rants about life, but it achieved its purpose: it established habit.
I have never felt quite as focused on writing as I have in that first week. Writing became all-encompassing. My world. My life. And while everything else crumbles around me or changes at lightning speed, I have created some rather intense writing mantras. They may not be for everyone. But these mantras are what give my life structure, my existence meaning, that keep me moving forward when all I want to do is break:
This is my life now. There is nothing beyond this computer in this room.
The rest of my life is nonsense; writing is the only thing that matters.
THERE IS NO LIFE! THERE IS ONLY WRITING!
This is the point. This is it. This is the reason I exist.
Write every day.
Everything else is my life is fluff. It’s extra. This, writing, every day, is what matters. Not my day job, not socializing, not even my family.
It’s ironic that the three writers I look up to the most are also some of the most prolific. Mercedes Lackey has dozens upon dozens of novels. Many are collaborations, but many are not, and even collaborating takes a great deal of time and effort. Oddly enough, she started off as a writer of fanfiction and was a protegée of Marion Zimmer Bradley, one of the mistresses of sci-fi and fantasy. J. Michael Straczynski writes for 10 hours a day, every day, except on his birthday, Christmas, and New Year’s. He says, “If I don’t have an assignment, I’ll write a short story, I’ll write a spec script, I’ll write a novel. I just enjoy the hell out of it.” Out of the 110 episodes comprising Babylon 5, he wrote the scripts for 92 of them, plus all of the movies. Joss Whedon has created several cult classic television shows with some of the most unique and memorable mythologies and characters. He worked on Buffy, Angel, and Firefly as writer and director during the 2002-2003 television season, and said that he only feels his best when he’s writing:
“You know, I always get cranky when I’m not writing,” Joss admits. “I’ll be mad and I don’t know why. I just feel like I’m angry with everybody and I hate everything and life is a sham. Then I’ll realize I haven’t written anything. And rewriting doesn’t count. It has to be an original script” (Havens, 158).