John Scalzi wrote a post last week called Writing: Find the Time or Don’t that brought to mind something I’ve heard from many friends who’ve made the transition from part time to full time writing: The more you have to do, the more you get done. This has certainly been true in my case. When I was working full time, I got things done a lot faster than I do now. With a full time job, writing had to go into the available holes in my schedule. Without that full time job, writing can be done anytime of the day or night, and that makes it easy to say I’ll get to it later, after I buy groceries or clean the stove or mow the yard or watch L&O SVU (I’m currently streaming the series from the beginning on Netflix.).
At one point in Scalzi’s post, he says:
Cory Doctorow says that no matter what, he tries for 250 words a day (that’s a third of what I’ve written in this entry to this point), and if you write just 250 words a day — the equivalent to a single, double-spaced page of text — then in a year you have 90,000 words. That’s the length of a novel. Off of 250 words a day. Which you could do. On the … bus. If you really wanted.
Let me tell you about my writing schedule when I worked a full time job. Though I hired on at the oil company where I worked FOREVER in 1989, I didn’t start writing seriously until 1991, didn’t sell until 1993, then didn’t sell again until 1995. Our office moved downtown in 1996, then I moved and married the husband in 1997, and so I very clearly remember the writing routine from then on because I did so much of it ON THE BUS. I stuck headphones in my ears, listened to Kelly Howell’s Brain Sync, or Aimee Mann’s Whatever, or the Smashing Pumpkins’ Adore, and wrote with pen and paper. Sometimes I wrote with my Alphasmart, but a very crowded forty-five minute commute made pen and paper easier to manage. Oh, and for a couple of years when our company offered us health club benefits, I would go at lunch and dictate my story while walking the track.
I also wrote on my lunch hour, on the bus ride home. I didn’t write after work because I was whipped, and until all the kids were grown and gone, they were teens and had to be marshaled into shape. ;) But I did get up for weeks on end between 3:00 and 4:00 to write before I needed to start getting ready for work around 5:30. I spent some very exhausted years there, and missed my husband a lot because I went to bed SO early! And, yeah, I’m over that now. These days when I have a project to do, such as The Icing on the Cake, I work regular office hours, stay off the Internet, and treat it as a job so I can have my evenings free for the husband and dinner and TV, and my mornings free for sleeping. ;)
At Murderati today, MJ Rose tells Toni McGee Causey:
A few too many years of having to write on the run – in cars, planes and hospital rooms – forced me to learn to write wherever I was. My workspace became my laptop and the journal that belonged to my main character.
I have boxes and file cabinet drawers full of notebooks from my handwriting days. I never tossed a one of them. Lots also have grocery and to do lists jotted in margins. Or ideas for blogs, or rants against whatever was bugging me at the time (which is why I will never show them to anyone). They also have a lot of story ideas and that’s why I’ve saved them. I tell myself that one day I’ll page through them all and cull the brilliance that’s since escaped me. ;)