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Writing Progress: Week Ending August 11, 2012

August 13, 2012

Hard to say what happened this week, but I’ll tell you one thing that didn’t:

Book of M:

  • Background Notes Wordcount: 0 words
  • First Draft Wordcount: 0 words

Grand Total: 0 words

That’s right.  Writing.  It didn’t happen this week.  I guess there was a lot of exhaustion on the part of both myself and Dear Wife.  We did watch some Olympics, but less this week than last (the events we were primarily interested had already played out by the weekend).  And we did do some work on the Home Project.  But not as much as we really ought to have done.

Some weeks go that way, I suppose.  More lately than we have in the past.  It’s gotten me thinking this week about where the time actually all goes.  What happens from day to day that keeps me from spending time doing anything productive – whether that’s writing, or Home Project stuff. 

I guess, on a typical day, I get home from work around 6:00 to 6:30.  There isn’t that much time – maybe a half hour, maybe an hour – to spend with my son.  Sometimes we get dinner at about 7:00-ish.  Then, before you know it, B.T. is getting ready for bed.  By the time he’s falling asleep, it’s 8:30.  Some days, Dear Wife and I are just then sitting down to dinner.  But even if we got dinner earlier, there are dishes to do.  Then getting ready for the next day – making and packing lunches, picking up just a little around the house, running loads of laundry, ironing shirts and so on.  You know, all the little things involved in running a household that add up to a big chunk of time.  If we’re lucky, it’s only 9:00 on a good day, and this is when I’d sit down to write, or we’d get started on Home Project activities.  More often than not it’s well past 9:00.  And we’re aiming to be winding down and bedward-bound by 10:00, because like most days we have an early start the next way.

Round and round we go. 

Theoretically, then, on a good day, I’ve got a good hour of writing in the evening.  But the good days are rare, and if it’s much past 9:00 before I get to start thinking about writing my brain is already shutting down for the night, and it’s too late to be useful or productive.  When you add to this the fact that my laptop is painfully slow – and when I say painfully, I mean it in the most acutely painful way I can say it, with the machine taking upwards of 5-15 minutes to get to a point where it’s responding to my input (yes, I’m running Windows Vista; and on a 100 GB hard-drive that’s 90% full over half of that is Program Files and Windows updates) – there’s really very little if any time and brain-space for writing.

I’ve read a lot about how busy writers with lives and day jobs should be taking advantage of all the little interstices of life – the five minutes here, the ten minutes there – to get productive and write.  For me, that’s simply not a feasible, not even a possible suggestion (at least not until I can afford a writing machine that is substantially more responsive and quick-to-load, which isn’t going to happen any time soon given current Casa Chez Watkins household budgeting constraints, what with the status of the Home Project and all).

So yeah… I still look for hour-plus blocks of time if I’m going to have anything approaching measurable writing productivity.  And it needs to be distraction-free time, which is a tall order in any household home to a toddler.  Large blocks of distraction-free time that occur early enough in the evening to pre-empt the late evening brain shut-down macros are, perhaps unsurprisingly, hard to come by.

All of which comes off as plaintive whining to anyone who’s managed to work around these kinds of constraints, and especially to those who have beaten even tougher constraints.  To which I can only say: congratulations to you.  But every person’s situation is unique to them.  And most of those who have beaten many of these conditions have had, it seems to me, advantages I have not: they write faster, or they read faster, or they have strong family-support-systems that are finely calibrated to their particular writing needs, and so on.  I’m a slow writer and a slow reader and I work pretty hard to support my family and not the other way around.  So, for me, these things add up and I’m not able to beat them the way other writers have.

All of which is a long, long way of saying this last week was like many other such weeks I’ve had and like many I’ll have in the future: entirely unproductive on the writing front.

How was your week?

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. August 13, 2012 10:06 pm

    I feel ya. I really do.

  2. daeruin permalink
    August 14, 2012 12:51 am

    I got done with this and suddenly realized I wasn’t reading about myself. I’m a slow writer, and I need good chunks of uninterrupted time to get into writing mode before exhaustion sets in. I have a little more time in the evenings than you have, because I work from home. I don’t have a commute or a dress code to worry about. But I’ve also got 4 1/2 kids to liven things up. I would kill to go back in time and shake my carefree college self around a bit and get myself writing about 15 years earlier than I did. Hindsight is 20/20, and all that. As it is, I’m lucky to get a few hundred words written a week. Like you said, there are writers who have had it worse than us, but probably not too many! It reminds me of something I heard Connie Willis say in an interview. She said (IIRC) that you will have more time to write when you learn how to carve it out of solid rock. Very true.

    • August 14, 2012 8:09 am

      I completely sympathize with your point about your college self. I fancied myself a writer back then – I was even working on a novel (the one I call the novel-I’ve-been-writing-since-forever) – but I spent an awful lot of time not writing or doing anything else productive. I finished a new 4000-word chapter on average once every two months. If I’m honest with myself I should’ve done that in two weeks. Back then I had the time to do it if I really wanted to. The novel would’ve been crap of course, But I’d be further along now in my writing career if I’d at leadt finished it then.

      And switching gears: yikes, four kids!? I envy the working from home – that’s at least two hours a day I could reclaim in one way or another – but I suspect the additional kids more than make up for that time-wise. Given the choice though – between the kids and the writing – I know where my priorities lie. The experience of being a father has really affected my outlook on life. Anyway I was raised in a four-kid household and I don’t know how my parents could have done it without my mom having been a mostly stay-at-home-mom.

  3. August 14, 2012 5:16 am

    Can you write longhand? I started a longhand novel draft when my laptop went on strike last summer, and discovered I really liked it–it gives you time to think, and keeps the extra verbiage down. If you could get some wordcount built up in a notebook, then if you could sneak a few afternoons at the library or something you could type it up on Google Docs or something. Good luck finding the time, anyway.

    • August 14, 2012 8:08 am

      Theoretically that’s feasible. But I’m not keen on the idea of doubling the work – once to write it long-hand and once to transcribe it to electronic docs. And it doesn’t really work with my approach to novels: I pause to reference both my notes/worldbuilding/outline and also what I’ve already written frequently. All of that is digitized (which aids and speeds lookups and references), so it would slow me down even further to either be cut off access from that or to print it all and have to sift through dead trees. Short stories, on the other hand, I don’t usually have that added material so it’s possible I could do shorts that way.

  4. August 14, 2012 2:14 pm

    I think we’d all have some firm advice for our younger selves if we had the chance to deliver it (probably some of it about more important subjects than writing :-) ).

    I’m still considering what will be my next project. I’ve got five possibilities listed in my notebook. (Kate: I agree 100% about writing by hand, but it doesn’t suit everybody. I think it’s better for writers like me, who usually have no idea where we’re going anyway. :-)

    • August 16, 2012 8:13 am

      It seems to me the universe would be more just if we all got at least one or two chances to give some advice to our younger selves…

      And it’s a good place to be in to have a small break after finishing a project and to have a good choice of projects to look forward to.

  5. August 20, 2012 10:47 am

    It can be so difficult when daily life gets in the way. Added “constraints” in my own life made writing nearly non-existent for a few months. But now, as I pick up on my writing again, I’m filled with inspiration and ideas. I hope you are able to have a similar writing cycle…using unproductive moments as a break your brain needs to proceed! :)

    • August 22, 2012 8:38 am

      Well, once time permits more writing… well, I’m ready to go. I can’t wait to get back to it more regularly.

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