Friday, May 1, 2015

If You Want Change, Change It Up!

My most productive writing month ever was July 2014. My boyfriend was on deployment, and I was unemployed. It was basically a glimpse of what life could be like as a full-time writer, and it was awesome—I wrote 24,172 words! (Okay, boyfriend being gone sucked, but it did make for a lot of free time.) It was no surprise that my productivity tapered off as I started a new job in August, but I did still manage to finish and edit novel 7. It was back to normal for juggling writing with a lot of other priorities.

And so it remained. August 2014: 8165 words. September 2014: 1374 words. October 2014: 4124 words. November 2014: 10,286 words. December 2014: 4484 words. January 2015: 5129 words. February 2015: 127 words. March 2015: 9629 words. April 2015: 23,459 words.

Wait, what?

How did I manage my #2 most productive month ever while working full time, spending time with my boyfriend, going back to school for accounting, bonding a pair of stubborn bunnies, and training for a half-marathon? I briefly touched on this in my last post, but now with more data under my belt I want to re-emphasize it.

First of all, I started writing a new manuscript, which obviously is going to boost word count. Writing short stories and editing just don’t produce as much raw new words. Secondly, productivity breeds productivity. Having to actually think about what is most important and how I am going to manage things can lead to a lot more work getting done then when I know I have plenty of time to do it, which I then fritter away. But the biggest source of this productivity surge was a schedule change.

I am not a morning person. Really. Given my way, I’d stay up until 3 AM every night and wake up at my leisure. Sadly, no one seems to want to give me my way in all things. Until I win the lottery or retire or decide to drop off the grid, I am chained in part to the rat race. And it’s exhausting. My day job schedule is approximately 7:30 - 4:30 with a 15-minute commute on each end. It leaves plenty of time in the evenings, but it doesn’t leave plenty of energy in the evenings. I would come home, get through my workout, scrounge some sort of dinner, and collapse into my couch-potato spot until bedtime (about 10:30). I would kick myself for wasting those 2-3 hours. Plenty of time for writing, Nora! You’re just lazy!

Okay, well maybe I am. But I was just expecting too much of myself. So I decided—what if I got my writing done before my soul was sucked away at my day job? Since I can’t stay up all night anyway, does it matter if I have to go to bed at 10 PM instead of 11 PM? Is getting up at 6 AM any worse than getting up at 7 AM? I figured I would give it a try.

And I’m still trying it! Since I started this, I have missed only ONE day of my pre-work writing. No matter how much I hate it when my alarm goes off, no matter how much I think “I can’t do this,” I force my sorry ass out of bed and into my desk chair. And then I write. I focus on time, not output. It works out to ~45 minutes of writing, or usually 900-1000 words. Five days a week. That is easily 20k words a month, not including any bonus sessions I do on weekend. That’s a first draft in four months! Considering the first draft of novel 6 took me, oh, almost two years, I would call that a success. (Novel 7 took much less time, but was also only 42k long in its first draft, so not very comparable.)

Unprecedented pace of writing for me.

I honestly never thought that writing in the morning would work for a night owl like me. But identifying an obstacle (lack of motivation to write after work), implementing a trial solution (getting up earlier to write before work), and observing the results (33k words into novel 8) is never a bad idea. And if it comes to a point that this isn’t working for me, I’ll try something else. But just trying to do the same old thing and berating myself for failing at it was a terrible strategy. Don’t do it!

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