When I first started writing full-time, I wondered how on earth I was going to fill the hours ahead of me. I needn’t have worried – within a week, I’d discovered that organising cupboards, cleaning the floor (how had I never noticed how dirty it was before?) and foraging in the kitchen for anything that resembled snack-food took up plenty of time … not to mention the lure of Twitter and Facebook. In short, I became an expert in the art of procrastination.
After several weeks of being thoroughly annoyed at myself – and producing only a few random chapters – I’d had enough. I needed to get serious, to treat my writing as I would any other workplace task. I needed to form routines, set targets, and I needed to deliver. I’d done it for my previous employers, so why wouldn’t I do it for my writing?
So I made a routine, and I stuck to it. Getting myself to sit in my office chair at 8:00 am was half the battle. I allowed myself an hour for lunch – just like my office job – and I kept going until 4:00 pm. After a few months, I began to feel guilty if I wasn’t writing by 8:00 am or if I stopped early. Not everyone has the luxury of writing all day. But even if you only have an hour, if you set a specific writing time and stick to it, after a while it will become habit.
Now that I was in the chair, how could I measure my output? I had plenty of practice eking out the nine to five slog, so I needed to make sure I was actually writing.
Every writer works differently, but for me the most invaluable piece of advice on setting writing targets came from Stephen King’s On Writing. King writes every day (including Christmas!) and he sets himself a daily word target: in his case, 2000 words a day. Sometimes the 2000 words take him an hour or so, sometimes the whole day, but he always gets them finished. I liked the thought of having a measurable target so I decided to follow suit. It’s definitely a struggle some days, but at least when 4 pm rolls around I know I’ve accomplished something.
Things become a bit more complex when I have multiple projects on the go; for example, book promotional activities as well as writing drafts. When I’m trying to organise my head space, I break down the day into chunks, still setting definite times and measurable outcomes to make sure I don’t drift off and iron shirts or stare in the fridge for a few hours.
Writing requires inspiration and creativity. But it also requires an iron will to sit down and just write. Once your words pile up, though, you’ll be happy to have whipped yourself into shape!
(c) Marsha Moore 2010
LWC: Marsha Moore, originally from Canada, is a writer of both fiction and nonfiction. Her first book, 24 Hours London was published by Prospera Publishing 2009 and her second book, 24 Hours Paris, will be published next month. She has also signed a deal for her first fiction book, The Hating Game, under the pen-name Talli Roland, scheduled for release from Prospera Publishing in early 2011.
Follow Marsha on Twitter at @marshawrites