Today marks the 270th day that I have written without stopping.
Hey, pretty good right?
I have learned all sorts of things in this 74% of a year so far. I’ve learned about writing, sure, honed my skills. I’ve learned that I can actually maintain a habit if I really try.
But I have learned about ‘working’ in general, too. Different jobs have different demands, obviously, but writing is the only one which has forced me to entirely self-manage.
For me, that means committing to writing every single day of the year. I have no plans about when to stop enforcing this habit. I may never stop until I retire. I may never stop until I die.
That is how I need to approach this burgeoning writing career, because any missed day tends to turn into a missed couple of days, a missed week, a missed month. Right now, my writing is a battle against inertia as much as anything else.
A lot of people, after I explained my use of the Magic Spreadsheet, have argued that I am doing it wrong. They say that it would be better for me to have, say, five days of writing a week. I guess they want me to structure it like a day at the office.
In a way, I understand the notion. We all need off-time, a period of refreshment and resetting. In a lot of ways, this seems like a post-Industrial Revolution concept — make sure to prepare the workers for maximum efficiency! — but it makes sense in our world.
In another way, this approach could not be more wrong for me at this particular phase in my life. I have not met with much success in explaining this to anyone in real life conversation.
Trying to develop a career in writing is different from an office job. Yes, there may be some mundane connections between the two, in that a successful writer will eventually have his priorities split between developing new material and maintaining whatever demands arise because of the older material. I know that I will find myself beholden to someone when I publish: it may be a publisher, expecting me to carry my weight in promoting the book; it may be an agent, tapping that agent-y finger while waiting for edits so she can finally sell another book.
Those tasks, when they enter my zone of existence, will most likely be relegated to a slice of the ‘weekday office hours’ when that is possible.
And yet I shall continue this persistent writing schedule, fitting in the office work where I can among the various and sundry creative projects I hope to pursue.
I am not a crazy person, though. Not entirely.
I understand all too well that a person cannot maintain a strenuous pace of productivity forever. (Anyone who thinks writing is not strenuous should try writing and editing a novel. That should quell those rumors.)
That is why I have… less productive days.
This usually takes place during weekends, either Saturday or Sunday or both, when family and friends demand more of my time (and the Xbox 360, of course, falls into both categories). On the less productive days, I will achieve my word count goals through alternative methods.
I might work on a short story in development. I might write notes on the larger project at hand to clarify my thoughts at the moment. I might (heaven forbid) write a blog post such as this one. I might do a creative exercise involving over-description of a mundane object.
These do not always tie into my career directly. That is to say, these words will probably never earn me any money. Even so, they are valuable because they help me refine my craft, they help me feel refreshed because I worked on something other than my main Work In Progress.
And they help me get through tough days and still feel like i have a shot at continuing.
It may not be a practice I will maintain for the entirety of my career, but for now, for the first fully serious year of an attempt to build said career, it is enough.