Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Writing Post: In Which I Ruminate on Scheduling and Try to Come Up with Answers

I haven't been doing much writing lately. Some, here and there, but not a lot. I did finish revising 2 stories and sending them out to some magazines/anthologies. I'm honestly not expecting anything, but I'll keep my fingers crossed. And I'm currently working on another story.

Lately it feels like there's something buzzing in my brain. Whenever I sit down to write, I can't concentrate, or by the time I finally get to that place where I can focus and really start making progress, I have to stop.

This is partially because of my living arrangement. We live in a one bedroom apartment at the moment, so the computer is in the bedroom. Which means I'm partially at the mercy of when my wife wants to go to bed. It also means I'm a simple shout away, so it's easy for my wife to want to share something with me and yell to interrupt me. But if I'm being honest, there have been several times where she's called for me, and I'm not actually doing anything writing related. I turned on the computer, I opened the word document, I started at the text for a good minute or two, then I decided to open the internet browser and check Twitter, or Facebook, or window shop on Amazon, or watch a YouTube video, so it's not like she's interrupting anything important.

My "writing time" lately has been a lot of Best Intentions leading to Stupid Nothing.

Another issue that I run into is my schedule. What days I have off in the week float, and it's not always two days off in a row. Additionally, I don't work a traditional 8-5 shift. That floats somewhat, too, and my usual schedule frequently leaves me feeling like a big chunk is being taken out of the middle of my day since I go to work late and leave work late.

I do have a decent amount of time in the morning before I go to work, and I've tried utilizing it to write, but I find it taken up with a lot of stuff 1) getting ready for work, 2) making breakfast, 3) talking to my wife, 4) staring blankly at the wall because I am not immediately active when I wake up, 5) cleaning the apartment before I go to work--usually undoing whatever damage we've done the night before.

I've used my time in the mornings a little, but all of the little things that I usually have to get done before I go to work end up eating up my time and by the time I sit down to do some writing, it's time for work. Or I'll sit down and my brain is fifty other places.

I actually just had 2 days off. And my excuse for the days leading up to those 2 days was, "Bah, I'll write a whole ton when I have 2 whole days to myself." And the first day, I didn't. "I just want to relax today. It's been a hard week. I'll get some writing done tomorrow. I'll have all day." And the next day, I kept pushing it later and later in the day. And then it was, "Well, I can still get stuff done in the evening." And then it was, "Well, I needed those two days off to relax anyway."

Writing, as much as I love it, has a tendency to fill me with anxiety. I want to write frequently, to get better, to pursue publication, but I find myself choosing the worst option over and over again, and torn between making myself sick over the guilt of not doing it while claiming I'm "a writer," and telling myself not to stress because writing should be fun.

These are all excuses. None of them are unique. Everyone has to deal with them. And I'm not writing this to give excuses for why I haven't been writing, but rather to take a hard look at the things that have been stopping me and figuring out what I can do to empower myself to make better choices, and to work around my turbulent brain.

I just finished Victor LaValle's excellent The Devil in Silver, and at the end, he talked about how he and his wife had just had a baby when they were both working on their books. He set aside 2 hours a day to write, going to a local coffee shop to do so.

It sounds super old school and basic, but it's something I've considered doing. I need to stop giving myself an out if the writing isn't flowing. It hurts because the older I get the more precious and finite a resource time feels, but I think I might need to set aside, if not a word count, then a time where I write, and that is all I do. If I don't get but 5 words, I still make myself sit there--not online, not on email or Twitter or whatever--because that is my writing time and I will use it only for that. This might force my brain into actually engaging since lately the first sign of resistance, or the moment the writing stops being easy, I usually derail the whole thing by checking Twitter.

I don't think that 2 hours every day is feasible for me, so I'll need to work on how much and how often during the week.

I also want to work on finishing and submitting a new short story a month. I've got a lot of short stories that I wrote when I was trying to finish one every two weeks, and I did a good job of getting stories done, mostly, but I never revised them. I just moved on to the next project. And if nothing is getting revised, nothing is getting submitted. So that's something I need to work on. I looked at the spreadsheet where I track what stories I've submitted, and to where, and it was embarrassing and sad how few stories I've actually finished and submitted.

So that's where I am right now writing-wise. I'm working on making some sort of concrete plan that I can implement. Hopefully I can some up with something that I'll stick to, and that will work for me, at least for a little while.