Monday, March 14, 2005

How not to go insane from the solitary life of a writer

I'm sure every writer working full-time has little tricks to keep from cracking. Writing is a very solitary experience. One person, alone in a room with a computer (or tablet, or napkins, or whatever), and (for a novelist, at least) a long story to tell that won't be finished for months, or years. It's not really a life that's well suited to the kind of person who thrives on contact with others. Fortunately, I'm not that kind of person. Not that I'm anti-social, but I don't mind long stretches of time by myself. Of course, I've only been at the full-time gig a month, so I haven't exactly had time to go bonkers yet.

Here's how I do it. Your mileage may vary:

  • Treat writing like a job (because that's what it is). I write from about 9:00 (after I drop my son off in kindergarten) to around 4:00 or 5:00. I'm no longer working evenings and weekends (well, most of the time I'm not -- there are days when I really want to finish something and I need to work longer, but that's the exception rather than the rule). If you just sit around and wait for inspiration to strike before you start writing, you will probably never finish anything.
  • Take breaks, and get out of the house! I schedule lunches with friends two or three days a week so I can get out of my office and have interaction with real people. (I like solitude, but not that much!)
  • Have a goal or quota, and don't stop until you hit it. Before I started writing full-time, I set a goal of wanting to write at least 1,500 words per day (you might use number of pages or some other measurement, but the idea is to pick something). That would keep me on track to finishing a long novel in about a year. So far I've been hitting 1,600 to 2,300 words every day. As I've said before, outlining really helps!
  • I like listening to music while I write. Others might need absolute silence. I've been burning my CDs down to iTunes while I work (2,000+ songs so far) and I just hit shuffle and let them play. Or I listen to some of the radio stations on iTunes. There's a pretty interesting selection of stations out there.
Tip for getting started each day: Always end your writing day by stopping while the writing's going great. Never stop when you've run out of gas or ideas, or are in a quandary of some kind. I've stopped mid-sentence before -- it makes it that much easier to get started in the morning. Just make some notes on the page of what you're planning next (if you need to), and shut things down. It really works. You can pick right up and get going. I've yet to experience "writer's block" (though I will say that when I make all of the hard choices in the outline stage, things can move pretty slooooowwww.)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to say I'm an avid F/SF fan and yet-unpublished writer who is looking forward to your books.

I'm also glad I stumbled onto your blog right when you started it. I'm looking forward to hearing the progress on the publishing of your novel and your work on the sequels.

BTW, I found your journel through Locus online, if you're curious.

Just wanted you to know someone is reading.