With the kick-off of National Novel Writing Month looming on Thursday, I invested time this weekend in attending a workshop in Hillsborough taught by friend and author James Maxey. James is one of the most prolific writers I know, the hard-to-swallow part being that not only is James a fast writer, he's a good one too.
James shared with the assembled group his top 10 Tips For Writing Fast. Of course, part of the discussion centered on where each of us could find time--or more time--in our day to write. I've been thinking about it, and here's where my time needs to come from:
- Buh-Bye TV! While I like to think of myself as a person who watches minimal TV, that's not actually true. I multi-task and do other things, like read the paper or go through e-mail or write blog posts (that last one explains a lot of bad posts) while I watch probably an hour or two of TV every other night. I'm never happy with myself after watching TV, so I'm actually looking forward to finding time by watching less programming. The one exception is my Sunday night date with The Walking Dead. I won't give it up and you can't make me.
- Reduce Reading Time. This one is harder. Unlike zoning in front of the boob-tube, reading feels purposeful. Look at me reading The New Yorker or the Wall Street Journal! I'm doing something! But James pointed out that writers who have high weekly output often don't get to read as much as they want. While I'd like to maintain my habit of reading a bit of fiction right before bed, I can see that cutting out reading--especially magazines--would open up a lot of time for me. If I'm at a doctor's office or in line at the store or have 15 minutes to kill while dinner cooks, why not whip out a hundred words instead of flipping through the pages of a story I'll forget about 5 minutes after I've read it? Easier said then done, but I'm going to work on it.
- Less Time With Family & Friends. Sounds harsh, doesn't it? I think this one is more of a challenge for people with full time jobs and/or kids. Something's got to give, and sometimes barricading yourself in your office for 2 hours at night is what it takes to get the work done. I know that working from home and having my time be my own, I feel obligated to "be there" for Blair whenever he gets home. And that's a good thing. But just for the month of November, I'm giving myself permission to skip writer's group meetings, coffee or drinks with friends, and if I have to grunt a hello at Blair and continue writing when he walks in the door from work, so be it. Lucky for me, I've got a tolerant husband and understanding friends.
- Less Sleep. James threw it out as an option, but I doubt it will come to this for me. Right now, I average about 7 hours a night and I don't want to mess with that. The fact that I'm not a nighttime writer helps. It's unlikely I'll sit down at my desk at 11 p.m. and get so involved in writing a scene I don't look up until 3 a.m. My plan is to be at my desk every morning from 5-7 and get as many of the day's 1700-words out as I can. An afternoon writing session will wrap up the rest.
The fact is, I waste a ridiculous amount of time each day. Yes, it's unrealistic to expect to be productive every minute of every hour, but a few changes like no TV, less reading, and getting the bulk of the writing done first thing upon waking makes 1700-words a day a very do-able task for me. The bigger challenge will be getting the writing for NANO completed and not using that as an excuse to blow off other tasks. The goal is to fit NANO in around my life, not make it my life.
I'm still excited--and nervous--about participating, but overall am looking forward to it and hoping habits I set to get me through the heavy word count will stick with me long after NANO is complete.