When I was let go from my job in March of this year, I decided I’d treat my writing like a business – even though I’ve made no money from it yet. During the years I held down a full time job, I would occasionally open the first manuscript from some folder on my personal laptop, stare at it, play a bit with words or sentences and then put it away without accomplishing much.
It took me close to eight years to finish it. (I’ve mentioned this before – but bear with me)
That first week in April, I was still getting my head around the idea I no longer had to spend all day consumed by the company. Having been used to eight to ten hours a day of deliverables, processes to adhere to, meetings, projects, phone calls and emails, I was finding that I was staring out of the windows a lot, pulling weeds in the yard at random, occasionally glancing at TV and, you know, sort of drifting around. I decided to buckle down and see about 1) writing another book and 2) wondering just how long I needed? If I were to go by the time it took me to do the first book, well that didn’t seem quite fair.
I wasn’t sure how to get “into” it. I played around with the fifty or so pages I had since January, and I found I kept editing the same things over and over. My page count wasn’t growing. Finally, I remembered a method many writers used. I decided that’s it, that’s what I need to do. Set a goal. I recollected hearing about the 1,000 words per day, and I knew based on a loose concept of words per page that would be about four pages. A doable goal. If I got more, great, if not, then I at least got four pages.
That cliche about “baby steps” comes to mind as well as the one about eating an elephant. I also calculated what I would have by the end of each month – something like eighty pages, and by the end of four months, a book that would be approximately 320 pages, and I was actually excited about that. And, I was also relieved about what I thought of as a “process” towards writing. Being the structured/scheduled person that I am, it was a good fit.
But…life happens, doesn’t it? Some days I got 500 words, some 300, while other days I got 2,000. My writing seemed to go along in this herky jerky fashion through the rest of the spring and into the summer. Somehow, despite myself and the ups and downs of life, it did get done, and I think it was because I had that achievable goal. I didn’t have to think about the book as a whole, but four pages at a time.
In the post on August 13th, I talked about typing “The End,” and I believe I was stunned to find I had actually kept on track, even with the periodic day to day unexpected situations. It took me right at four months to have a completed first draft. When I submitted it to my editor about two weeks ago, it wasn’t as long as the first book which came in at 421 pages, but it is a good standard length novel, at 75,000 words and approx 313 pages after some self-editing.
This simple approach made me feel more settled, it was a new routine, but one I was more comfortable with rather than just letting the writing happen. I had also noticed I no longer dreaded going to my desk each day and opening up the manuscript.
What about you? What is it you do to settle in to your writing days?