M. got me a couple of books on writing for Christmas. In the introduction to “A Novel in a Year” Louise Doughty asks
Think what you are prepared to sacrifice. Writing a novel takes many, many hours, and those are hours you could spend planting roses, raising children, earning money — or even just having a nice life. What, in your life, is going to disappear, to allow you the time to write a book?
Well, I’vc got no roses to plant or children to raise, but nevertheless that hit home. Mostly because I think, I’m aware a) how much time I seem to waste doing nothing, and b) how long it seems to take me to write things. And then, even within the general category of ‘writing’ there’s a lot of activities I might undertake:
- AFO reviews and critiques
- AFO challenge stories
- both of M.’s books are work-books, books with exercises I can work through
- blogging – which itself is many categories (more later perhaps)
- reading – everything I read on writing says to read more, and I read a lot less than I once did. And a lot of what I read is other amateur writers – which is fine but I’d like to start exposing myself to really good writing.
- Big Serious Writing Projects – not even sure what these will be yet. Maybe they’ll be short stories I want to get published, or a novel, or even a screenplay
So what is going to disappear from my life to enable some or all of this? Well first let me clarify that it may only be ‘some’. I’m going to keep an eye on it but I may scale down my involvement in AFO. At the moment I’ve been reviewing virtually every new story, which has been taking hours. I can’t blame anyone else for that, it’s partly an ego thing that I want to be seen as a good citizen and partly a procrastination thing – 90 mins reading and reviewing a 3,000 story is “writing time” without me having to do the really hard work of my own writing. But I’m still pondering. I need to give it more time, see how things develop.
Anyway back to what will disappear? Here’s what I’m thinking so far
- time not really doing one thing or another. I spend a lot of time half doing things. I’m watching TV but also surfing the web. I’m supposed to be writing but I’m fiddling with computer settings. If I can reclaim even a little of this ‘noodling around’ time I’ll be doing well
- Watching TV – much as I hate to say it, having spent a good part of the last year establishing what is now a really nice MythTV system, I spend too much time watching TV. So on stats alone, since it’s a large proportion of what I do, it’ll need to be a large portion of what I need to give up. Fortunately that’s not too hard (I think). A lot of what I record on Myth is might-be-good-let’s-record-on-the-offchance crap which I then watch just so I can delete it and keep the disk from filling up. I think I’m going to stop doing that. Or at least I’ll set it to auto-expire and if I don’t get around to it before it does, oh well.
- Surfing the web – same rationale as the above. It’s what I spend a lot of time doing so there’s a lot of scope to cut back. This will actually be helped by the fact that I’ve gone a little cold on SoF (which used to account for many many hours online), now I mostly check it through habit. A lot of what I read I’ve seen before in some other form now. Interestingly, M., who I met on SoF, feels the same.
- some late night chats with M. – ok, a slightly delicate one, since I haven’t actually mentioned this to her yet. It’s not the chats per se I want to cut back on, just some of the lateness. M. and I have the ability to just talk and talk, which is wonderful and the sign I think of a close friendship, but sometimes we try to live up to that even when we’ve not got a lot to say – so somehow there’s a feeling that all’s not well if we only chat for half an hour. And the lateness causes tiredness which makes things like sitting down to spend an hour writing a challenge. I know it affects M. too. What I want to do is to actually do stuff which we’ve talked about in the past such as having a limit to how late we talk on week-nights and not trying to force it when we’ve neither got much to say.
How much time that will realistically net me I’m not sure. However I’ve put together a vague plan of how I might spend my “writing time”:
- Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays – an hour of “writing” time and half an hour of reading. The writing time will usually be AFO related. I’m going to try to make sure I alternate between reviews and my own writing.
- Saturdays – two hours writing time spent working through “A Novel in a Year”. It’s got a weekly structure and I don’t want to get ahead so any “spare” time can be spent on AFO/other projects. At least half an hour reading.
- Sundays – three hours writing time (probably in 2 90min sessions) working through “Creative Writing – A Workbook with Readings” with is a pretty serious textbook (also a present from M.) Half an hour (or more) reading – although Creative Writing has readings in it.
- Mondays and Fridays – these are “writing optional” days. I deliberately worked in some flexibility into the system. I can write if I want to, feel inspired. Or just have the night off, start/end the weekend if I’m tired. I’d probably write my blog on a Monday or a Friday. BTW I want to start blogging at least once a week. What I’m going to blog about is best left to another post I think (this must be pretty long by now)
Anyone who’s noticed that this looks suspiciously like New Year’s Resolutions is right but I’m not going to get too hung up if I don’t stick to it. If I miss it one day, I’ll get back to it the next. If I only half-keep to it I’ll be doing a heck of a lot better than I have done.
2008 is the year of me taking writing seriously!
On monday I wrote a 2,000 word story for AFO. It took me two hours to write, another two to re-write/polish and it still felt like a rough draft when I was done.
I think some noodling time is essential otherwise I’ll feel like I’m too regimented.
Eek! Just check preview and it’s very long. Oh well. You read to here didn’t you?