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Habits: New and Renewed

This first week of the year has been an interesting time for me. I think it’s probably one of those (many and varied) points where you shake off another layer of mummy brain and reclaim a little of who you used to be, though this time it’s not in a massively obvious way, at least, not externally. It’s more about mindset, and clarity.

You see, I used to be a really productive writer, pretty much until I had Natalie. Lauren never slowed me down, not at all. I mean, Ivy was in preschool for 4-5 hrs on a weekday then, and babies sleep a whole lot. In fact, Lauren was almost always on me, but she was quite comfortable to sleep in a wrap and I had my hands free to get on with my outpouring of words.

Back then I wasn’t really editing, or even revising though, I was simply writing first draft after first draft. And it was SO much fun.

Of course, at some point, you have to admit that actually, continual first drafts are not the best way to learn your craft and so before Natalie’s arrival I made the (wise) decision to switch from novels to short stories. I learned to revise, and edit, and how to make a story go from crappy to decent.

(Hang in there, I am getting to my point!)

And then my darling third came along and wow, everything was harder. Two under two is no walk in the park. It was virtually like having two newborns because Lauren was still breastfeeding and any time Nati wanted a feed, so did Lauren. That was my choice, and I was (and am) totally happy I made it as they have this awesome bond that I wouldn’t trade for anything. The point is that it was hard, and my productivity went out the window. I forgot a lot of things between then and now. A whole lot.

I forgot that I am actually a pretty fast writer, and that if I know where I am going, I can achieve a great deal in very little time. I’ve been reminded of this because in the last 4 or so days I have been using a stopwatch and timing how long I’ve been writing for in a day, and how many words I’ve written. I’m stopping the clock every time I get interrupted or have to stop for something or other – it’s not a perfect system, by any means, but it’s done a few things for me.

The first is that because I am aware that there is a clock on, I am more focused. And the second it’s revealed that over the last few years (aside from a few patches of focus), I have been super disorganized and pretty much shooting myself in the foot. I can consistently write 500 words in a ten minute period, even if that ten minute period has been interrupted 10 times (and yes, sometimes that can happen! Today was a good day, I wrote for 27 mins, managed 1610 words, and that was only over 7 blocks – the shortest one was 1m20s, the longest 6m48s).

The fact that some days I have not been writing even 500 words means that as much as I have been complaining about the constant intrusions on my time, I’m really the only one to blame. If I am not giving myself even that long, then what kind of writer am I?

It was kind of hard, making that realization. I mean, I’ve admitted I am a lazy writer, and I don’t plan or outline nearly enough. And yes, I’m constantly exhausted. It’s far easier to blame the rest of my life for that, but really, at the end of the day I am the writer, and I am the one who has to say ‘I need x amount of time!’ and find a way for that to happen.

So now I am making a conscious choice, and I have been writing over 1k every day for the past week or so.

That was the new, the renewed habit came about as a result of taking up with The Artists Way again. One of the first things you read about is the morning pages. This made me remember how I used to use 750words.com as a place to just let off some steam and get the words flowing. Six days ago I logged in and spat out 750 words. Since then I have learned that with no interruptions I can actually get out 750 words in 7-8 minutes. It’s pure freewriting, stream of conscious, not worrying about spelling or anything else. I just vent whatever is on my mind, I let loose, and usually around the 600 word mark switch from that to writing to myself about what I want to do with the day, or what is happening in my story.

This has been AMAZING. I’m really finding that it means by the time I sit down to my novella my fingers are warmed up. In fact, they are itching to get writing. Not only that, but because my last chunk of words is directly related to my story, I can just jump straight into the novella. I had forgotten that too – that daily writing means you never lose touch with the feel and shape of your story.

In the last six days or so I have written about 8,000 words on my novella, compared to December where I managed 13,000 over the entire month. Hopefully, with this new clarity, and these old and new habits back in my arsenal, I can continue on the path I’m currently carving out for myself.

Of course, after I finish this draft, I’m going to be revising, and that’s a whole different kettle of fish! lol I’ve got some new tactics I am going to be trying though – hopefully they work as well as these ones.

How is the year starting out for you? Anything new, or old, that you’re trying out?

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8 thoughts on “Habits: New and Renewed”

  1. It’s awesome to see that you are re-focusing your writing self. Just reading this post has made me realise how much I have slipped into that disruptive mummy stage that you talk about – although I don’t have three children, but I do have a full time job and a baby.
    Planning is awesome, if it’s used effectively. With decent planning, I too have experienced some epic and structured writing. I really must try your free-writing method too. Although I’m not sure I really have the space in the mornings to get through that as week as everything else. Can only but try I guess.

    My year is starting out well though. Apart from having family, (as much as I love them all) but now that they are gone, I can finally see a little clarity again. Writing? Not so much – but reviewing and replanning – yes. And at least it’s progress.

    1. I think you’ll find your groove again this year Leigh. A baby changes everything and as you’re well aware, life becomes a state of chaos interspersed with months here and there where a facade of regularity is in place 😉

  2. Fantastic Cassie 🙂 I was also amazed at how much writing I can get done if I steal five mins here and there throughout the day. That’s was a huge mindset shift for me in November (another NaNo lesson win 😉 ). This month I’ve been editing a lot and I find that I do need a bigger block of time to do that otherwise I find myself editing the same paragraph a dozen times because I forget where I was up to with my structure decisions. I took a few hours off parenting yesterday and hid in a cafe and edited. Now my Regeneration story is way closer to finished 😀

    I’m still in awe of how you juggle everything. How do you find time for housework amongst the children and the words?!

    1. Housework, what’s that? LOL I have a dishwasher, that’s my saving grace.. I unload the it in the morning so things get stacked there over the day (meaning the kitchen is reasonably tidy), then I put the washing on and I don’t worry about the tidying til around 430 – that way by the time Hubby walks in the door, the house is reasonably tidy and I can cook dinner and relax.

      The juggling is harder some days than others, but I think if you want something enough, you find ways to make it work. Totally agree that editing requires a little more headspace than writing!!! I’m nervous as to how I am going to manage when I start tackling my novel rewrites shortly.

      Well done on taking some time off and editing! YAY! I can’t wait to hear how your story does 🙂

      1. thanks 🙂 Dale’s giving it a beta read now. I’m pretty nervous 😛 but so far he’s picked out maybe three decent issues, and two typos. My big concern though is whether it makes any sense or not. If he finishes it and only says “whhhaaattt??” I may not submit it 😉

  3. Yay! It’s awesome to see you getting back into the swing of things. I like timers too – I used the focusbooster app a lot when writing the last novella. Short bursts all the way.

    1. Anna, I still haven’t checked out focusbooster, I think I am going to have to though!! I don’t know what it is about having a timer going, but it seems to work wonders for some people. I am pleased to be one of them 😉

  4. “I forgot that I am actually a pretty fast writer, and that if I know where I am going, I can achieve a great deal in very little time.” I LOVED that you said this. I feel like I often fall into the trap of making writing hard, simply because other people say it’s hard. Writing actually comes very naturally and easily to me, and I love doing it. It doesn’t make any sense, but there are so many ways that we sabotage ourselves. I’m actually working my way through the Artist’s Way right now, and am struggling with the morning pages. I LOVE how you talked about the Morning Pages being a great segway into your actual writing. I will start thinking of them in this way. Great post. I will be following your blog.

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