Chicago hasn’t decided what season it is yet, but I can tell you what time of the year it is for me: Word Count Nuclear Winter.
Every year at about this time, my writing habit drops through the basement. That’s because twice a year for several weeks, my day job—a demanding job on a normal day—takes over my life. Normally I get most of my writing done during my lunch hours, but during early fall and early spring, it’s difficult to shut off the work brain to let the writing brain have a say.
During these hectic times, I don’t really bother all that much trying to get my daily word count in. I’ve learned that beating myself up about it doesn’t actually help. Instead, I turn those weeks over to the paycheck and know that I’ll do better.
Eventually, I’ll do better.
Eventually, please, please, please let me do better.
It’s difficult to be knee-deep in all this publication excitement and know that you’re not getting the job done. I feel like an imposter most of the time, so actually BEING AN IMPOSTER is hard to accept. I’d love to be one of those writers with the next book drafted and sold before the prior book is even on the shelf. At the moment, I’m just not that person. I can’t be. To change my pace, I’d have to make some big life changes, like, say, giving up sleep, or having my publisher send my page proofs to the alleyway cardboard box in which I’ve taken up residence.
But since I enjoy health care and regular meals—and sleep, let’s not forget how much my days depend on getting the right amount of zzzzs every night—I have to find a way to write books anyway.
And probably so do you. Lots of us have to work. Lots of published writers have to work. There are probably about 23 Buzzfeed articles on all the writers in history who have held day jobs. The writer who somehow feeds a family with writing alone is actually the special case.
Also, I’ve seen how easily I can waste eight hours. It’s not pretty. Better to keep the day job and make that hour a day add up over time, whatever time it takes.
Some people are surprised that I can make a lunch hour schedule work, but that’s the entire point: In writing, we have to make our own schedules, on a daily and a seasonal basis. If lunch hours don’t work for you, try mornings. Or maybe you’re a night owl. Or maybe you don’t have to shut down the works for a couple of months a year.
But maybe you also don’t take your computer on vacations with you. Maybe you’ve never written 10,000 words on the promenade deck of an oceanliner in the west Caribbean. Maybe your idea of relaxing is different than mine.
That’s OK. Figure out the times that work for you, and try not to mourn too hard the times that don’t. Maybe by the time the weather figures itself out, we’ll have a little breathing room, and we can all get some writing done.