But Delilah’s post got me thinking about the writer’s life, and the ways we can make it easier (or harder) on ourselves. The world is full of excellent, prolific authors who are able to produce stunning book after stunning book. But for many of these writers, it is their full time job; they are able to make a living by writing. But for many published and unpublished writers, writing time must be carved out of the hours left over after work, raise kids, maintain a marriage, and any of the other activities that make a life worth living.
So how do you work writing into real life? Every writer’s journey is different, and I’ve found it’s a series of adjustments. What works for one novel may not work for the next. What works for one novelist may not work for the next. But here are some things I’ve found have helped me be productive over the last several years:
Your Other Half:
If you’re in a relationship at any level, the support and understanding of your better half is almost a make or break proposition. We have a finite hours in a day, and your writing has the potential to take 2-4 hours a day of your time away from them. So you have two choices; be an insensitive bastard, or enlist their support.
Obviously, they love you for the person you are. If you’re a writer (of any level) you’re probably creative, quirky, a reader, etc. etc. So writing should be an extension of your personality. The trick to finding a balance is finding a way to involve them so writing is not a solo endeavor. My other half helps me proof, edit, and answers questions that come up during the writing process. Many successful writers use their spouse as a First Reader (S. King, O.S. Card), and some as an editor. (Robert Jordan)
Now, if you’re other half is insanely jealous of your time, or otherwise resents your writing time, you may need to sit down and have a heart to heart. Everyone, regardless of their situation, should always be allowed to follow their dreams. The two keys to any successful relationship is communication and compromise. So enlisting their support is one of the things you’ll need to write in real life.
As we’ve noted before, you have a limited number of hour to write. So it’s vitally important to set a schedule that works within your life. There are plenty of blogs on the benefits of a writing schedule, so I won’t recap them. But for WIRL, it’s perhaps the largest piece. The writing life is not a sprint; it’s a marathon of the ultra-Ironman-Iditarod style. But the good thing is it doesn’t have to be a large chunk of time at once.
My daily writing schedule is to write for an hour in the mornings. My wife works an early schedule, so I’m up with her about 5AM. By the time I wake up and shuffle to the computer with coffee, I’m able to write from 5:30 to about 6:30. I do this every weekday without fail during the first draft. I can usually get a thousand words in that hour, sometimes more. (but also sometimes less, but it’s rarely less than 750-800) The beauty of doing this every weekday? In three months I should have a 90k first draft. Over the last couple of weeks, as various projects have come to a head, I’ve been adding an hour or two in the evenings. But I always try to do it around her, and the kids, so I’m not a father in absentia. Are the evening hours productive? Not as much. But it gets stuff out of the way so I put my morning brain where it needs to be.
Weekends are a little different; I’ll sleep late(r), but before I do anything else I’ll do something in the writing world. Edit, draft, post, etc. (For example, it’s 9:53AM on a Saturday; I can hear the wife and one kid getting ready, and the other kid and I will be leaving soon. I have 27 minutes before I need to get up and start getting ready myself.)
If you have a schedule, stick to it. You can’t cheat if you want to be successful at anything. So drag your butt out of bed, even though it sucks. But you have something to look forward to; once you do it about two weeks, it starts to turn into a habit. That’s when you start to get mileage out of WIRL.
This is the most flexible of the WIRL requirements. Where will you write? It should be the same place each day. It reinforces your habit building, allows you to focus, and should work within your life. The room I’m using to write in has been a nursery, a junk room, and an office. When I decided to get ‘serious’ about my writing, my wife and I converted it into a library/office. We’ve stocked it with stuff that all of us can enjoy; I have my books, my wife and I have chairs we can sit together and read, my youngest daughter has a “desk” and a bottom shelf dedicated to toys.
It’s also filled with pictures and paintings of us or by us. The junkiness of the room varies, based on what we need, but it’s a place we can all use. I (and you) should use your location primarily for writing, but don’t treat it like a sacred space where no one can enter. This is WIRL, after all.
If you look at successful people, you’ll see one common theme: They surround themselves with other successful people. And so your writing should go; find the other weird folk like yourself and keep them close. Follow writers on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. See what they’re doing, see what they are talking about, and just…learn by osmosis.
At the same time, get out; go to conventions, writer’s groups, and workshops. Make it a family affair; my oldest and I are going to an author signing later today. Has she read him? Nope. But I’ll get to spend 3-4 hours with an intelligent, charming young lady, and I can think of worse ways to spend my time. As an added bonus, I’ll meet others, some of them writers, and have an engaging meal. So cast a broad network, be active, and include others. You’ll benefit in more ways than one.
The key to WIRL is the consistency with which you all of the above. Involve your better half on a regular basis. Write every day. Write in an environment that’s friendly to the task. Talk to others writers about writing. As you advance, be kind to newer writers.
Keep in mind that writing is only a part of your real life. It shouldn’t be all of your life.