First, I should explain what I mean when I say I am “writing.” For example, I do not think I’m writing right now. This is because I can write a blog post, or an e-mail, or a Facebook comment with any number of chaotic things happening around me. I know there are others who homeschool 14 kids around the kitchen table while simultaneously writing a novel between questions about homonyms and igneous rock formations. That is not me.
Sad to say, but I am that person that needs total quiet to write. And time – lots of it. And knowledge that there is no chance that anyone will interrupt me. Not even the tiniest chance. It’s 9:00 at night right now. Prime “writing” time for me, but I’m doing this blog post because my husband has been moving around the living room and kitchen for the last 45 minutes. He has not spoken to me. In fact, he’s been completely silent. But it’s just the thought that he might speak to me that is enough to dry up any creative juices. Pathetic, I know.
So I think it’s fair to say I’m a high maintenance writer. I do have a lovely office, covered with built in cherry bookshelves and an enormous old window overlooking the barnyard. It’s floor is also completely covered with all manner of Christmas gifts, clothes to go to Goodwill, and random engineering manuals that my husband is sure he’ll refer back to someday. I have said time and again that my treat to myself for landing an agent would be to invest some money and time to fix up that room. I can see it now: bookshelves perfectly staged, a reproduction light fixture, and an overstuffed chair and ottoman on which to write (I’m a laptop girl). Until then, I drop myself on the sofa, with a clear view of the dishes on the kitchen table still needing cleaned up, and hope I can concentrate for more than a few seconds.
Wait – wasn’t this supposed to be a post about how I find time to write? Fair enough. I just wanted to lay it all out on the table. I am easily distracted, and I have a ridiculous number of small children. Yet I can do it. Which mean you can too.
First, I pinpoint my most productive time of day. For me that time is 10-12 p.m. Mostly because, as I mentioned, I need to know I won’t be disturbed. I’ve been known to write during nap time, but I tend to only churn out 500 words during those two hours, yet can produce 1,500 later in the evening. So I’ve learned to use my children’s nap time to catch a little sleep myself, and then I stay up late to write.
Second, I decide how many words I’ll write a day and stick to that number! I chose 1,000 words a day a few years ago because it’s fairly doable on most days. For some that number might be 500, others 2,000. Whatever your number, don’t let yourself go to bed without making your daily goal. It is non-negotiable.
Lastly, I don’t count today’s overage toward tomorrow’s word count. Because despite what I just said in the last paragraph, there are plenty of days that I get behind on my writing, and no matter how hard I try, it just isn’t going to happen. That’s when my overages keep me from getting too far behind. What I mean is: if my daily goal is 1,000, and I write 1,300 on Monday, that does not mean I only have to write 700 on Tuesday. I still must write 1,000 words. Even though I’ve set a 1k a day goal, my personal rhythm is closer to 1,500 a day. Time and again, I get in the zone, and when I look up, I’ve written almost exactly 1,500 words. In the future, when I have more time and less children hanging on my leg, I’d like to up my goal. For now, I just let those overages compound, and then I don’t go crazy when everyone comes down with the stomach flu and writing is the last thing on my mind.
So far this system has worked fairly well for me. Anyone else care to share their daily word goals and how they achieve them?