When I started writing Hexed, *cough* my debut novel from Delacorte Press/Random House Children’s Books, coming out Summer 2014 *cough*, I was a full-time nurse working twelve-hour shifts, and I had a one-year-old baby at home.
On days that I worked, I wrote after I got home at 8 p.m., put my son to bed, and finally ate some dinner, if the shift was so bad I didn’t get a chance to eat (which, if you’re familiar with nursing, is most shifts). On days off I wrote when my son napped, and still after he went to bed. I didn’t watch TV and I didn’t read as much as I would have liked, and I definitely didn’t have a social life. And as much as I enjoyed writing, I longed for the day I could quit the hospital and write full-time. “Just think!” I said to myself and many others. “If I didn’t have to go to work, I could get so much more writing done!”
Fast forward a few months. I finished the book. I somehow landed an agent, and that agent sold the book to Random House. And so I did something I never thought I would be able to do but had always dreamed of doing. Okay, so I didn’t quit my job—I was still too scared to do that—but I went part-time. Baby steps.
Anyway, I was now reduced to working just two or three shifts in two weeks. It was (and still is) completely awesome. I got to spend more time with my son! I got to read! Theoretically, if I wanted to go out and be social, I had the time to do that!
But did I get more writing done?
Um . . .
So it took me a long time to admit it to myself, but I was still getting around the same word count done as when I worked full-time. This was troubling. Why? How? I launched an investigation.
Could it be that I just lacked discipline? It seemed plausible, but still, I dug deeper.
Could it be that I was too drawn to the big shiny thing that is the Internet? This too seemed not far off the mark.
Could it be that I just had a limit to which my brain could produce anything creative? Past that limit and the words were just caca? Hmm. Now I was on to something.
Maybe it was a combination of all those things? Ding ding ding!
So awesome. I found out why I sucked as a part-time writer. What did I do about it, you ask?
• Set daily goals for myself, along with rewards for hitting that goal. Get 2K words done, I get to read a book.
• Word war with other authors. Never underestimate the power of shame.
• Freedom. If you haven’t already heard of this app, it’s a wonderful program that locks down your Internet access for a period of time. So if you’re easily distractible like me, you can force yourself to be productive.
• Move locations through the house if the words aren’t coming. A friend gave me this tip, and it really works. Something about moving from the kitchen table to the couch gives my brain a jolt.
• If that all fails, I leave the house. Call me crazy, but the act of driving someplace else and purchasing a coffee somehow makes me feel more accountable. There’s also something embarrassing about having people look over my shoulder while I look at pictures of kittens doing cute things (read earlier: shame).
• I learned to quit feeling guilty for spending a lot of time writing instead of doing other things around the house. Which leads me to me final point:
• I started treating writing like a job. It doesn’t sound as glamorous or romantic when I put it like that, but it’s what it is. Writing pays the bills. So just because my office is my home and I’m incredibly fortunate that I get to laze around in my PJs all day, it doesn’t mean I’m not working. Which means I should be dedicating hours a day to my work. Which means it’s OK if I don’t organize the pantry, or whatever is nagging at me that day.
So there you have it, folks. This concludes my lecture on writerly productivity. I do hope that someone, somewhere gleans something helpful out of my ramblings. Until then, I’ll be over here, looking at pictures of kittens doing cute things.
Michelle Krys lives with her husband and son in Northwestern Ontario. Her debut novel Hexed is forthcoming from Delacorte Press/Random House Children’s Books in Summer 2014. Visit her at michellekrys.com or follow her on twitter at @MichelleKrys.