Thursday, January 20, 2011

Writing Rhythms

So I'm here to report in, and the news is good.

My new-look-don't-you-dare-interrupt-me writing time programme is (so far, touch wood) working a treat. All it's taken is a polite sign on my office door, and the self control to turn off my phone, email, twitter reader, iPad, and mobile for the first two hours of every morning. Oh, and the self control to stop writing at the end of my 2 hours.

And, in the last week or so, I've put out a little over 12,000 words. This is about a third of my sum total for the previous 12 months of writing.

What has struck me most, though, is that this is kinda different to all the writing I've done previously. In years gone by* I used to write in intense 'blocks' of time - putting perhaps a couple of months of the year aside and just burying myself in my current book for up to 8 or 9 hours a day. The writing took over my head, and my life.

Nowdays, of course, I don't have that luxury. Last year one of the problems I faced was that I kept putting off my writing until a suitable block of time presented itself. And, of course, it didn't. Hence my horribly low word count, and lack of a 2011 book.

So, as I mentioned in my last post, this year I've adopted a different approach. I've got 2 hours a day - the first two hours. I get into my office, shut out the world, and write. From 8.30 until 10.30 each morning, there's just me, and the pattering rhythm of my keyboard. At 10.30 I make myself stop - regardless of where I'm at, or how much I'm enjoying it - and get on with the myriad other tasks which make up my days.**

The thing which has surprised me the most is how quickly those two hours have become one of the best bits of my day - something I actively look forward to. And that, in turn, is having a positive effect on the writing. I'm hoping this continues - one of the problems with my old 'intense' approach was that, especially towards the end of a book, I'd find myself feeling burnt out and unmotivated. Sure, I was knocking out perhaps 10,000 words in a day, but I was wiped at the end of it, and even more so the following morning.

But not any more. It turns out that 2 hours is, generally speaking, enough time for me to really get into the rhythm of the writing, and to turn out about 2000 words (give or take, it was only 1200 yesterday, but they were good words, IMHO). And then, at the end of it, I've got something to look forward to the following morning.

The funny thing is that, early on in my writing career, I used to hear writers - big name writers - talk about their writing methodologies and I used to dismiss out of hand those who used the '1000 words per day' or similar approaches. I just knew they wouldn't work for me: writing was too BIG to be contained like that. Too spontaneous. Writing couldn't be contained to a number of words or a period of time - it had to be free and unfettered and all-consuming.

And, at the time, that was the right (write?) philosophy for me.

But - I guess like all things - needs must when the devil drives, and as my life and attitude to writing has changed so too have my needs in terms of time and approach. It's just taken me a while to realise it. I might even be able to attempt NANOWRIMO this year. Perhaps.

What about you? How do you write?

*ie: before marriage, fatherhood and full time work at a University
** Naturally I don't do this on weekends. The EBA*** I worked out with myself 6 years ago is quite emphatic on that point...
*** For Rivka and my other overseas readers: EBA = Enterprise Bargaining Agreement - a draconian piece of industrial relations legislation, and a hangover from the days of Australia's last conservative government. Now, thankfully, overturned...

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