In short, it’s not going great.
The observant among you may have noticed that the number of days showing on my little homepage counter is slightly fewer than the number of days that have passed so far in 2012. There have been a couple of days when for various reasons – some more valid than others – I haven’t managed to write a word. And with a baby due to arrive in the family soon, I have no doubt there’ll be more of those to come. That’s OK. It’s the spirit of the thing that matters, not following it to the absolute letter.
Still, you may be thinking, missing a total of three days in three months is pretty good. I must have got a lot done in that time, right?
Well, no. And that’s the point of this blog post. To highlight some of the bad habits I’ve fallen into, so that maybe you can avoid them. (Don’t say I never do anything for you.)
First of all, giving myself the goal of writing every day has allowed me to fall into the trap of thinking that if I write something every day, however little, I’m succeeding. So as soon as I’ve written a few sentences, a switch will be triggered in my mind that tells me I’ve done what I need to do. After that, if I’m not careful, it’s very easy to give in to the demands of some other claim on my time (even if that claim is something wholly unimportant, like – just to pick an example at random – singing along to cheesy love songs on the radio).
Added to that, more often than not, there won’t be time for more than those few sentences. Because I tend to put it off. I come home after work and I’m tired, so I take a rest (usually in the form of Big Bang Theory and some chocolate). I eat my evening meal. I get sucked into watching a film with my partner or debating the relative merits of white versus cream tiles in the bathroom (we’re very good at spending hours getting all the information we need to make a decision, not so good at actually making it). Before I know it, it’s 10:30 and I’m falling asleep. At which point, I’ll just about manage to scribble a paragraph of some degree of coherence before it’s time for bed. And the next day, I’ll get up and do it all again.
Weekends bring a bit more time. But even then, I’m way too easily distracted – mostly, it has to be said, by books. I’ll take a break from writing to have a snack, decide I need to read something while I’m eating, and three hours later I’ll still be reading. This happens even with books I’ve read before. (I probably shouldn’t keep a bookcase of fantasy favourites in my spare-room-stroke-office.) The annoying thing about that is there are plenty of things I could be reading that would be more useful – other writers’ works in progress that I’ve volunteered to give feedback on, or even my own stuff that needs editing. But it’s just not the same. Reading critically requires an entirely different brain from the one I use for reading as a distraction. The secret would be not to pick up the book in the first place, but somehow I just can’t help myself.
As a result of all this, yes, I’ve been writing (almost) every day. But the amount I’ve actually got done hasn’t improved significantly on last year.
I know the solution to all these problems would be to have more self-discipline. I ought to come home from work and hit the computer for an hour before I do anything else. I ought to get up first thing on a Saturday and get a chapter written before breakfast. I really have nothing and no-one to blame but myself. Yet I’m sure you know how it is. Having a full-time job and trying to be a writer is essentially like having two full-time jobs; sometimes a person just needs to relax and stop concentrating for a while. It’s an excuse, yes, but it’s not a totally invalid one.
Still, I haven’t given up. I will try to do better. But if anyone has any suggestions as to how, I’d love to hear them.