Miles Between Chair And Keyboard
It is perhaps appropriate that the first post of a series on writing fast (without sacrificing quality) should go up late.
In my observation most people who are really slow at writing – including myself in my slow periods – owe their slowness to one main reason: they don’t actually sit down and put butt in chair.
I know – oh, trust me, I KNOW – how many miles there are between your real life and sitting butt in chair and putting fingers on keyboard.
Let me start by saying this is not how I imagined being a professional writer would be. First of all, of course, I never imagined being a professional fiction writer. I was going to be a journalist. I read the bios of journalists, I interned in a newspaper. I was going to go in, early morning shift, type furiously away, while news came in by phone. Flunkies would run to get me coffee…
If I imagined writing fiction at all, I was – of course! – going to be a bestseller from book one. After which, I’d have this wonderful office, with built in bookcases all around it, a secretary and a researcher and a flunky to get me coffee.
Of course now I know bestselling writers, and even they don’t have that. But never mind.
Real life turned out much different. I sold my first book while I had a three year old and a six year old. Boys. For those of you not similarly blessed, picture the stock exchange room during a buying frenzy. It’s about like that, only not as peaceful.
Yet, over the next six years, through a house move and several illnesses (my body doesn’t like me) I wrote about ten books and seventeen proposals. Also, about fifty short stories. All of this trying to only minimally neglect the kids (Not really. I just didn’t hover over them.)
So, how did I do it? Well, there are tricks. Some will work for you, and some won’t. Today for instance, my schedule was shot to h*ll and back by a couple of friend-emergencies this morning and the fact the cats peed on the older boy’s bed. That too is a lesson to use.
Tips and trips to get to the chair, with fingers on the keyboard:
1 – Set a time. No. REALLY set a time. Say you decide your writing time is at 8 am every day. Treat it like a job. At 8 am be at the keyboard, hands ready to type.
2 – But the attic roof just caved in (remember I get these examples from life?) Well, if you were at the office, would you know? Make calls on your lunch break. Right now, work.
3 – But my kid has a full diaper. I can’t ignore him.
True. Pretend you’re at the ofice, and a secretary wants to ask you a question. Change that kid’s diaper, then sit down again.
4 – Speaking of which what do I do with the kids/cats/screaming stock brokers?
Have a plan. If the kid is awake and mobile, setup a play area for him next to you. If he’s old enough and you’re a mean mommy (TM) give him work to do. Actually kids react very well to this. Give them a laptop with a learning program or a notebook to do his writing in. Explain you’re working and the kid should too. They’re grownup now. You’ll see how much they do/learn. Cats are a little more difficult. My method is to have one draped across my lap and one on my shoulders. Screaming stock brokers… I got nothing. Why are you trying to write in the middle of the exchange, anyway?
5 – But what if I can’t sit down? I need to clean house/paint walls/garden and there’s no one else to do it. Dragon Naturally Speaking. I hear you can work with one of the remote dictation recorders. I keep meaning to try it, too. I know several authors who’ve written entire (good) books while doing this. (I really need to try it.)
6 – But the phone rang!
Unless it’s someone who is bleeding on the floor, ignore it. And if they’re bleeding on the floor, ignore it too, unless you’re a registered MT.
7 – I’m HUNGRY
Every writer on first coming home gains a bazillion pounds. This is because your brain learns to short circuit your chair time with “you are hungry.” Take scheduled breaks.
8 – But I’m just sitting here and not writing.
Unless you’re ill (it happens) it’s probably a case of the block. Hint, you’re never blocked on everything at once. Blocked on your serious vamp novel? Write a funny short story about nuns in space (I’ll show you mine, if you show me yours!)
9 – Give yourself license to fail
By which I don’t mean just to write crap. Some days that happens also, but I mean more than that. Give yourself license to have a truly horrible day, like mine today, where you get nibbled to death by ducks. It doesn’t mean tomorrow won’t be wonderful, or that you shouldn’t continue trying to bring order out of chaos.
10 – Try and try again
Sit down every morning at eight (or whenever) and start afresh. Today, it’s going to work.
Tomorrow: Running on empty.