On Writing Time(s)
It hasn’t even been a full 24 hours since I wrote THE END on the rough draft of The Imbued Lockblade, the sequel to The Woven Ring in what will be a four-book series, and I already find myself reflecting on it. In the past had the hubris to brag, including on my Goodreads page, that I’ve never suffered writer’s block before, which pretty much ensured I was due for a comeuppance when it came to writing this one. Looking back in my writing log (and yes, I have a writing log), I find that I started the outline on this back in July of 2016 yet only finished the rough draft a little over a year later. There were, of course, numerous reasons for this, ranging from some screenwriting gigs, a family tragedy, three surgeries, a significant uptick in my dayjob, a new website and social media obligations, and just general malaise; but really, I believe it came down to one reason in particular:
I got out of shape.
I’m not the first to compare writing to working out, many saying the act is like a muscle you must continually exercise. To me though, it’s more like cycling.
As someone whose major form of transportation was a bicycle for 5+ years and who would cycle 100 miles a week, I’ve had a lot of time to cogitate on this comparison. As any dedicated cyclist will tell you, your preferred state is one of cruising, where you’re at your maximum speed and just focus on your reps rather than really exerting yourself. When you’re cruising, you feel like you can go on that way for forever and ever.
Yep, that's my bike. Lovingly named Black Betty.
But then you’ll eventually have to stop, be it a red light, turn you need to take, or a pedestrian who randomly, and with little sense of self-preservation, steps out in front of you. And when you stop, you now have to expend significant effort at getting back up to speed. This, I promise, is the worst part psychologically as you curse how much time and effort you now have to expend just to get back to what you were moments before.
Looking back on my notes for The Woven Ring, I see I wrote the whole thing, from conception to finished first draft, in about three months, which really brings the year+ on The Imbued Lockblade into sharp contrast. But as I dig deeper, I realize back then I had no social media presence and could put off my dayjob to spend 12 hours a day writing for weeks on end, an opportunity I was not afforded this time around.
Basically, I was no longer able to cruise at my writing this time, which meant on this last push to finish I had to switch up my pattern significantly. This time around, and again in the near future as my life will soon go through another major upheaval, it’s more like cycling in the city with cars, stop signs, pedestrians and the like making it stop-and-go rather than 20-mile straight shots where I could just put my head down and write.
Plus, this time around, I would spend months in between sessions, effectively coming to a stop sign and giving up for long swaths rather than expending the effort to get up to speed again. I mean, why bother if you can already see the next stop sign just a few blocks away?
So anyways, I’m employing a new writing strategy going forward, one that served me well enough on the final press to finish The Imbued Lockblade, where I no longer try and see how many chapters I can rip through in a 12-hour session, but get out a steady 1,500 words a day, five days a week.
I believe it was Stephen King who pointed out that if you write just one page a day (approximately 300 words), you’ll have a 365-page novel by the end of the year, and I plan to take this idea to heart. Writing to me will no longer be a long, cruising ride I can dedicate a full day to, rather numerous short sessions with a specific goal each time. Yes, it will take more effort and time, but it will also be a steady process that will get me to my goal eventually.
I’m going to end with the paraphrase of another quote I recently encountered as to how to deal with writer’s block, one that I think underscores my new strategy: “My plumber never suffers from plumber’s block. If he wants to eat, he has to work.”
I have every intention of eating, and eating well. So, I guess, it’s time to get back to work.