I’ve just taken a sneaky extra couple of days off after the break. After being on the road on and off, and having children on a permanent sugar high around me, I thought I owed myself some writing time.</div>
It was a shock. I have trained myself quite effectively to write around the edges of my life. Faced with whole hours at a time, with more hours on tap to follow, I pretty much shut down. I found myself seeking out bits of coding to do. I configured my email accounts. I made things-to-do lists. Then I colored them in.
I think, in the end, my productivity was only slightly better than it would have been on an average workday, and I felt a whole lot worse about myself.
When eventually I return to the UK and begin freelancing I intend to give over much more time for writing, and I’m clearly going to have to find better strategies for my new circumstances.
For now, here’s what I’m going to try.
Know my schedule
Is that really writing time? Over the holiday I consistently planned writing sessions that in fact coincided with kids’ stories, mealtimes, episodes of Doctor Who (what a mess), and trips to the liquor store. It may be worth auditing a week or so, and being clear about can be negotiated as writing time, and what just needs graying out.
Wear a different hat to write my schedule
Much as I don’t like authority, I clearly need a boss, and I need a structure. Once I know when I can work, I should start my day by creating a timetable for myself. I should write it somewhere separate from my writing place, or wear a special hat, or write in green ink, or something like that. Anything to kid myself that the person doing the planning is in a different space from the person doing the work. I could talk in an odd voice. I’ve found that a similar approach has worked for me in my day job – I have to provide my own structure there, too. I just talk in an odd voice at work because it freaks people out, though.
Divide and conquer
When I create my timetable, I should keep each session short and well defined. If I just color in a morning and write in FIRST DRAFT, I’m afraid I’m going to go bananas. As you know if you’ve read my ten minute writer
post, I have the attention span of a moron. I may have to improve my periods of focus, but I’m going to need to mix in periods of writing with writing admin. I also have the eating, drinking and sleeping habits of a moron. There may be a pattern developing here.
Set goals and deadlines
And still my work in progress trundles along. And still I’m happy if I make wordcount, with little sense that I’ve pushed further towards my goal. I will need my boss self to set some targets. And if I don’t make them, there’s going to be trouble. Honestly! Creatives!
Stay in contact with others
I’m going to be working from home in a new city. I’ll be spending about a quarter of my working time on a project that no-one but me cares about. I have had great experiences with writing groups here in San Francisco. Hopefully I’ll find a similar group of smart creative people with whom I can check in every week or so.
Run, walk, haunt coffee bars
While the boss is planning my schedule, he should be sure to build in changes of scene. There’s something about sitting around in one place that wears me thin. One trick may be to mix in some chores. In theory we’re going to have a garden, so a bit of digging might work. I love coffee and coffee bars, so that’s another part of the cycle. Running is good too, though it can make a real hole in your schedule. A four mile run won’t give you much change from an hour. And I’m going to start sneaking out to the movies every now and then. No good reason for that. I like going to the movies when I should be working.
That’s the plan. In the meantime I’m back at work tomorrow so this problem will go away for a few months. Oh and by the way, this has turned into a new version of the lost post I was mourning in Las Vegas. So that’s something I can tick off my list, at least.