Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Treat it Like A Job

Over at Romance University yesterday, struggling writer Sally Bayless posted about her lack of discipline during revisions. When she started out she treated her writing as a job.

AAh! Bells rang in my head! (yes, just like my characters who are forever hearing warning bells clanging.)

A few years back I decided the only way to take this writing seriously was to treat it like a job. And I did. I kept my writing hours sacred. Not to be interrupted by appointments or kids or other distractions. Like the internet. Or TV. Or shopping. Or housework. I even gave up sewing and crafts so I could use my free time to write instead. I realized if writing was so important, I needed to devote all the time I could to it. After all, focus was the way I had succeeded in other areas of my life and it should work with writing a book.

Somehow, as frustration set in and the writing became harder, I let myself be distracted by everything and anything. But for me, the problem isn't really the distractions. I'm not hooked by the internet or TV or shopping.

The distractions, or the time spent wasting time, is a symptom of my real problem: frustration at not being able to get it right the first time. No matter how many times I tell myself  "don't get it right, get it written" or "you can't fix a blank page" or  "all writing is rewriting" somehow when writing becomes difficult, I start giving up. I'll work on it tomorrow - or the next day- or the next week. As Sally says in her blog piece, if I worked for me, I would fire me. As my employer, I would call me into the office and have a discussion about productivity and pulling up my socks. As an employer, I'm not interested in excuses. I'm only interested in results. And I would give my slack employee (me) a deadline to prove I could do it or else she(me) would be shown the door. (okay, I'll stop talking about myself in the third person because it is totally annoying - and confusing.)

So, I'm putting the writing back as #1 on my list of priorities. And accepting no excuses. If it's too hot, then I just find a fan! or an air conditioned library or coffee shop. At least I will when my daughter comes back with my air conditioned car. Until then, the fan will do.

How about you? Are you taking a vacation from the "job" of being a writer this summer? Or are you making a make or break pact with yourself that this is the summer you will do it?


Janet said...

This is excellent advice, Anne - advice I'm going to take to heart, because I, too, would be fired!

I think a lot of it has to do with the 'no rewards' issue. I mean if I were working a job and not getting a paycheck, I'd be pretty slack with my responsibilities. Writing, itself, has to be the reward - not the 'what ifs' of the future, but the here and now! After many disciplinary procedures (ie: rejections), it's hard to keep going...

But I will - I will make it my job with regular hours and deadlines. Thanks, Anne - and good luck with your job :)

Anne MacFarlane said...

Janet, the writing "job" went well today. Hope yours did, too.

Julia Smith said...

For me, Anne, my writing really hit a massive glacial-sized snag when I got to the revisions stage. And basically, it was because I didn't know how to do it.

I can honestly say it's taken the past several years to get a handle on it. But now that I'm learning to just start scenes over completely fresh, my revisions are zooming along. And I find myself longing to get back to my WIP, instead of grabbing myself by the collar and shoving myself onto my seat at the computer.

Anne MacFarlane said...

Julia, glad to hear the revisions are going well.

For my first two stories I just didn't revise. It just seemed to huge and massive so i shoved them out of sight. For the third one I revised constantly and got so sick of it by the time I hit the midpoint I ditched it without finishing. Finally on the fourth one I started to find a process that works for me - a little writing, a little revising, stop and start, until I reach the end.

Cat Schield said...

Revisions are tough. The writing is fun. You meet you characters, watch them fall in love. Then you get to the love scenes and the fight scenes, it's all fun.

Revisions are all about sculpting the whole big blog into something pretty.

This is something that scares me to death. But I'm trying to feel the fear and do it anyway.

Anne MacFarlane said...

Cat, I think I'm always intimidated at the start by the amount of work involved in revisions.

Kelly Boyce said...

I like my writing job WAAAAYYYY better than my day job. And the only way to make them one in the same, is to give it as much, if not more, priority than the other one.