Keeping It Up

So how am I doing a week after stating that I’m ramping up my writing schedule? Not bad at all, actually! I’m averaging around 1000 words each on all three projects, and staying on top of the other things such as daily drawings, personal journal entries, and these here blogs. It keeps me reasonably busy for most of the day with some extra time to catch up on non-writing writing biz things when need be. Quite happy about that.

So how am I pulling this off? By sticking to my daily schedule, closing browsers, and having a bit of a rough outline of the current scene(s) I’m working on. I’m writing Project 1 by 9am, starting work on Project 2 by 11, finishing that off after lunch and working on Project 3 by 2pm. I give myself about two solid mostly uninterrupted hours with minimal distraction other than perhaps acquiring more coffee.

I’m also making it into an immediate-errand-completion-success process in my head. That in itself is important, as that was now I managed to teach myself to get my schoolwork done on time back in the day. I’ll open up only the Word docs I need, and focus only on that until I feel I’ve done a decent amount of work on it for the day. Sometimes it’s around 700 words, other times it’s 1200, but as long as I’m happy with what I’ve completed and left off at, that’s what really matters.

And what about off days? Well, I took Tuesday off from everything for the sole purpose of celebrating A’s birthday and going out for a bit (we went to see Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, which was a super fun film!) and I ensured that I didn’t feel guilty or twitchy about not working. I didn’t even write a journal entry! That’s the other important thing: it’s totally fine for me to take a personal day off from the writing! Taking the day off isn’t the problem for me…it’s trying to shake the feeling that I’m procrastinating and feeling guilty about it. It never quite goes away, but I’ve learned to ignore it.

I have no idea how long this schedule will last, nor do I want to know, because the point is not to think about things like that. The point is also to keep doing it until further notice!

Days Off

shirokuma cafe relaxing

Tomorrow is Veterans’ Day, so had I planned it earlier, I could have taken today off as a floating holiday.  [If memory recalls, I think I used it up earlier in the year so I could go to one of the cons.]  On days like this, I usually get up around the same time, maybe an hour or so later, and start the day.

[Granted, I thought I *did* have the day off (A. even initially took the day off so we could do stuff during the day), thus the inspiration for this post.  I figured I’d keep it up and revise it a bit.]

And like most creative people, my Best Laid Plan on bank holidays is that I want to spend the entire day writing, or doing writing-related things, or catching up on all the small fiddly writing-related things that I’d put aside.  Carpe diem!  Or something like that.  I say Best Laid Plan, of course, because in reality I’m usually doing the exact opposite: futzing around with email, watching cat videos, goofing around with my mp3 collection.  And just like most regular days, squeezing the actual writing work into the last three hours of the day.

Really, though…I do have to remind myself that it’s good to use a day off as a real day off.  Do stuff I enjoy doing that doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with my creativity.  Going on a road trip, going to a movie…hell, even watching an anime series on TV.  There are other things out there I enjoy doing, especially with A., and days off are good for that sort of thing.

If that means I’m squeezing my work into just a few hours as the sun goes down, then so be it.  At least it’ll have been a full, productive, and entertaining day!


sleepy cat

It wasn’t as if I’d had an energy-draining day at the Day Job on Friday.  In fact, it was smooth sailing for most of the afternoon.  I kept myself busy by catching up on personal emails and listening to some new release tunage.  After work we went for a walk to the Legion of Honor Museum up on the hill (it’s just a little over a mile from our house by foot, uphill 98% of the way) for a sneak preview of their Degas, Impressionism and the Paris Millenery Trade exhibit.  A bit tired from the walk but otherwise just fine.

Did I get any writing work done, though?  Not a word.

Nor did I get any work done Saturday, when we went to see a movie at the Opera Plaza (the documentary Letters from Baghdad) and afterwards stopped by Green Apple to buy a few books I’d been looking for.  I did turn on the PC to update a few drivers and software, but spent the rest of the day catching up on webcomics that I’d been backed up on.  [I’m a big fan of webcomics for multiple reasons and will most likely have a future post on them at some point!]

Sunday was shopping day, so hopefully some time tonight I’ll be able to squeeze in some Lidwells work.  If I’m not distracted by other things!  Heh.

It’s not all that often that I’ll take a day or two off without feeling some sort of guilt.  I’m at that point in my writing career where I’m once again comfortable with my processes, that I don’t feel the need to rush to get things done.  [I’ll still kick myself for procrastinating, but that’s more about getting my daily processes started in the first place.]  I can afford a few days off where I’m living a normal life, watching TV and going out into the world and whatnot.

It’s a struggle of many writers, considering many of them are like me, juggling their writing career with their Day Job.  You can’t really decide ‘I’m gonna play hooky from my Day Job, I deserve to do it now and again’, at least not without consequences and/or lost pay.  On the same token, you don’t want to do that with your writing either, because a) that’s admitting your writing is less important (which you do NOT want to admit), and b) that’s one less day you’re moving forward, one more day your story is just sitting there, doing nothing.  It’s also why, when writers do take a day off from writing AND their Day Job, it’s usually for vacation purposes and purposely doing nothing, and STILL feel guilty about it.

Still, it’s a struggle I’ve gotten under control.  I’ve been hitting over 2000 words daily, between blog posts, personal journalling and occasional poetry writing, the 750 practice words on Secret Next Project, and Lidwells.  My deadline stress is light.  My near-future plans are clear.  The docket is a hell of a lot clearer than it was just a few years earlier.  I can afford to take a writing day off…especially if that day is spent reading and watching other people’s creations with an eye on what their own processes were!  [See what I mean about Writer Brain never being completely turned off?]

I can afford to be lazy every now and again, and not feel the least bit guilty.  I just need to remember to enjoy it!

On Not Writing: Trying Not to Feel Guilty for Taking Days Off

In which I am the 1,459,476,874,686th person to take this picture in San Francisco.

After so many years at my day jobs, I was finally able to take my birthday off (January 22nd), so I decided to give myself a nice long four-day weekend.  We both had that Thursday off, so we decided to go out and about and have fun.  We hit a few of our favorite spots (bookstores, a yarn store, our local sushi boat restaurant) as well as visit a few new ones (Alamo Square, Bi-Rite Creamery and Brenda’s Meat & Three on Divisadero).  We even watched some anime that evening.  All in all it was a nice relaxing day, and the weather was perfect for it.  I spent most of Friday afternoon in the dusty dollar bins of Amoeba Records as a birthday present to myself. Yesterday we went to see a Tom Stoppard play (one of my favorite writers) and went out for dinner afterwards.  And today has been for cleaning and shopping.  Only now, at 3pm on Sunday, am I finally making an attempt to get some writing done.

Aside from a few blog posts and one day of daily words, my output these past few days has been pathetic.

Thing is, I hardly made an attempt.  There were a few moments there where I felt the pull of my daily words or my personal journal, but I chose against it.  It wasn’t a decision made out of being lazy–it was one made on purpose.  This was a way for me to remind myself that it’s okay to take a day off every now and again.  Even if there’s work to be done, sometimes it’s better to stop and smell the roses instead.

We writers often pride ourselves on being able to write whenever and wherever and for ridiculously long bursts at that, but we’re also our own worst enemies when it comes to deciding not to write.  Sometimes we must because of deadlines, or because it’s the only way to get any work done at all, but other times we don’t know when to quit for the day.  Yes, we could be out there watching a football game or walking around the neighborhood, or even sitting on our butts for six hours playing video games, but too often we deny ourselves that moment of entertainment.  Every moment without pen in hand or fingers on keyboard is a moment wasted.

That bit of guilt is still there, days later.  I only managed the daily words on Friday, breaking a 23-day streak, and I haven’t written in my journal since Wednesday.  I didn’t write any new words for Walk in Silence, but I did reread a few passages just to remind myself where I was.  The only thing I’ve done that remotely involves writing lately is read Steven Pinker’s The Sense of Style as part of my self-assigned homework.  After years of avoiding active study of style manuals and books on how to write well (caused by a tenth grade English teacher who tried to teach me how to analyze prose within an inch of its life), I thought it was high time to face that demon once and for all.

I know I’m still going to feel guilty that I squandered all these days off and broke that streak, but life goes on.  I truly enjoyed the days off.  I got errands done that needed doing.  I let myself spend a bit of coin on one of my favorite hobbies.  I shot some pretty decent photos of the local scenery.  And I got to spend some serious facetime with my wife, who usually finds me hiding up back in Spare Oom instead, nose at the grindstone.

Besides, my writing time will be back to normal come tomorrow.