Monday 11 January 2016

Getting the habit, losing the habit and getting it back again

Once I started taking myself seriously as a writer and gave up the day job to become freelance I gave myself a regime of writing 1,000 words a day and writing for an hour. That worked. It was a matter of turning up at the page, not worrying about whether the muse popped along or not, and just getting on with it.
My first publications were educational materials. The royalties on them were quite generous and in fact I’m still earning from them now even though they were published in 2001. However, although I was sent copies of the books and they’re on my book shelf, I’m never going to see one of these in a bookshop. They’re sold directly to schools.
Then came my first contract for a “proper” book – one that would and has appeared in book shops. In order to complete that – another non-fiction one so it was sold on a proposal rather than a speculative complete script - I had to up my game to 2,000 words a day and two hours. I’m now a little kinder – I’m still on two hours a day but I only expect 1,500 words.
I now have a day job again but one that is very much connected to writing – I’m a senior lecturer in creative writing – and no one would say a word if I wrote my novel on the employer’s’ computer on the employer’s time. In fact, I’m writing this during office hours.  
Turning up for those words and hours was never a problem. I mainly tried to do this in the morning, even if it meant that some university work had to wait until the evening. Two hours of dedication to my writing.  Bliss! If I didn’t always quite fit in my two hours I would catch up at the weekend or even on holiday
All went well for the six years I free-lanced and for the last seven I’ve spent working at the university. Then all of a suddenly this year there was a massive amount of admin to do.  The only time I could fit it in was in the time when I would normally write. When I did get a few minutes to write there seemed to be no brain space.
The view from my window

I was also invited this year to go on a writers’ retreat.  I normally believe I don’t need this. I usually don’t have a problem with getting down to work. I’m now glad I did. Although I’m still behind, at least I got some solid chunks of work done whilst I was in Devon. Interestingly, the quality of the work was better than normal so I’m now considering trying to programme one of these retreats in each year. Perhaps it’s the concentrated time that helps.  No doubt also being with other writers has its influence. And perhaps even being in a place where s much writing has taken place before.  I’m somehow picking up on the energy.
I’m pleased to say that since just before Christmas life has returned to normal. I’m back into the rhythm of writing first of all each day. My work is progressing and I’m optimistic about the future again.