The ability and the determination to write when you work full time and have a whole rich and absorbing life beyond it is not a given fact. People have kids and hobbies and washing machines that break and road accidents and weddings and funerals and doctor appointments and tax forms to fill in. And then you have to relax and go look at the sea and walk the dog and do yoga and make love and read of course, always read, which is what got you into this mess in the first place. So, many times it is not easy at all and there are growing pains: problems and challenges that come up as you start growing and getting noticed. People ask you to write articles for magazines, or participate in short-stories anthologies, or write synopses and bios and take care of your website and post on your blog. As with any other business and organization and art, these are the moments that will make you or break you. If you can overcome the unbearable overwhelming moments of growth when you think you can’t take it anymore, if you can come out swinging after those, you will succeed. But for that, you must be organized, focused, determined and not panic.
So, we’re coming to the end of the year. This will be a crazy time. I have been working on my WIP, the second volume of my zombie-apocalypse novel LAURA AND THE SHADOW KING. I have a definite deadline. I have the chance of publishing this work next year both in English and Portuguese – but for that, I’ll have to finish it by the end of the year. That’s the deadline if it’s all to succeed. But I’m late. I have been having difficulties writing in the last few months for several reasons – mostly life creeping in and showing its fangs. But that’s the trade I’m in and the craft demands I rise to the occasion.
Now, I’m not really able to write 2000 words a day like Stephen King. That’s not me. Believe me, I’ve tried. There was a time, a few years back, when I was unemployed and focused solely on my writing. It was a good time, even though sometimes it didn’t really felt like it to me. I started a table and a graph controlling the number of words I was writing a day. On good days I got to 1500 or even 2000, but those were mostly flukes. I was happy if I wrote 600 or 700, most days I’d get to 500 (Hemingway’s mark – yay!), but some days, more often than I would like to admit, I’d write 0. I mean 0.0. I punished myself for that. I did. I felt horrible for not being able to do more, work more hours, write more pages. I truly believe still today that we need to write every day and write well every day. It’s essential! But at the end of that year, I evaluated the results of that lousy period and this is what I found out: in that year I had written two novels, one play, two long-feature screenplays, three TV-pilots, and at least three interesting short-stories. Wait a minute… That’s not bad, is it? Some of these works I’d managed to first-draft in two or three-week bursts, and many of the ideas and developments I worked on in that year still feed my progress today.
I found out a few other things that year. First, I cannot write more than 1000 words a day for many days in a row. Usually not more than two or three days. After that, I start running out of ideas and stamina and I will need to stop and develop a little more. It’s fatal: I need two or three days rest from time to time, otherwise, the work will suffer. And sometimes it’s best to write 200 or 300 words a day for a week than to mess it up completely and have to put the whole week’s work in the trash. I know it’s not like that for a lot of people, and I do realize that the best thing is to work hard on re-writing, and I do, believe me, but that’s not when I do my best work, so many times I have to pace myself.
Secondly, even if you’re not writing, remember there is a lot to do anyway: outlining, re-writing, revising, developing ideas. This is still work and it’s work we must take seriously, or the pace of our writing will suffer. And we must read, watch movies and TV, we must feed our minds and study the craft, or our mind will wither. So even if you’re not writing, you don’t stop working. The danger is complacency and failing to go to the page because you’re doing other things. You must go to the page. You must write. Everything else is useless unless you write.
But while I was doing all this and learning all this, I wasn’t earning any money. So I had to go back to a DDJ (Dreary Day Job). That meant stop focusing on the writing once more. And the pace inevitably suffered, of course. I am disciplined enough to keep writing, but everything is a lot slower when you’re working 8 or 9 hours a day for 6 days a week. But those are the growing pains you need to overcome.
So here I am, at the end of 2019, a year that has been incredibly challenging and rewarding for me. I published two novels, participated in comic-book anthologies, developed a blog, won awards, etc. But still, if I want that to keep happening, I must be able to write and keep writing. And here I am at the end of the year with a deadline coming in fast and I feel inadequate, slow, late. Time to stop and evaluate my options. It’s clear to me that I have to choose between much of what I have on my plate. I have been shedding things left and right. This blog of mine, Hyperjumping, will also need to take the back seat, for a little bit. It has been one of the joys of my life for the last two years and I wouldn’t dream of leaving it behind, but it has to stay on the bench for a few weeks. Until the last few weeks of 2019, I will not write more than a post or two here – it’s important I focus on my novel and finish it. At the end of the year, I’ll have a few weeks vacation and I’ll get back here in force. So forgive me if I’m a bit scarce for a while.
I hope this post also helps you find your own pace without too much self-loathing. You need to keep loving to write. If you’re doing it for the long run you must create a system that allows you to keep doing it no matter what. Keep at it. Be persistent. And love doing it. Because that’s the craft. I really don’t have brilliant solutions and most of the time I’m as lost as most of you are. But I’m doing what I must. What I love. And that’s the most any one of us can aspire to, really. See you around, my fellow knights.