Thursday 8 April 2010

Juggling Time

Juggling Time
I’ve just been applying for promotion. This, as any type of job application, is an eye-opening exercise: you usually surprise yourself by how much you do. So much of what we do is part of a routine that we take for granted. My writing definitely fits into that routine. In my application I spoke of dovetailing my writing output around my university work. As far as I’m aware, I haven’t missed an employer or publisher imposed deadline to date and broadly speaking I’m completing all tasks that these two parts of my job demand to at least a satisfactory level. One always aims for the best possible, naturally.
In one section I found myself writing:
“On average per year I produce:
One novel
Two articles / papers for peer-reviewed journals
Two to three conference papers.
A section of a text book, an edited text book or an authored text book, to do with young adult literature, creative writing, writing for children or writing in other languages.
100 blog posts
Three reviews of literature for children and young adults
Two edited collections of short stories
Two to four short stories”

In another section I wrote:
“I write between 5,000 and 10,000 words a week, or edit between 15,000 and 100,000, partly in designated research time and partly in my free time. I work on my own creative projects, academic papers, a blog I maintain which discusses writing process and practice and aspects of being a creative writing lecturer, and reviews for Troubador magazine and for on-line magazine Armadillo of books written for young adults and teenagers.”
I have to admit, I impressed myself. It is absolutely true and if anything a little conservative.
I’m fortunate that the university recognizes we need research time and we guard our weekly research day jealously. I’ve learnt to read quickly – I can edit my 103,000-word novel in eight hours – and I can write quite quickly - I can produce 1000 words of reasonable prose in an hour. I do find it difficult sometimes though to settle to writing after teaching or completing particularly grueling admin. In fact, writing this blog will often pull me into writing mode. Today is a case in point. I’ve been finishing off that application, getting ready for a trip to Cyprus next week, and preparing for my teaching for the week after. When I started writing, my mind was buzzing with all of those other matters.
Everyone has to find their own rhythms with their writing. I notice for example that after the first two hours / 2000 words I slow down considerably. Above all though, we must write. A danger can be setting too high a goal. Maybe ten minutes a day is enough. Invariably you will spend more time than that … “I’ll just finish this section before I finish.” On the other hand, you’ll put off starting if you don’t have enough time. And when giving publisher estimates of how long it will take to complete a project always allow twice as much time as the minimum you know you need. Deadlines have a habit of all coming at once.

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