Advice on how to maintain productivity in a writer’s life insists on the practice of regular writing. Whether you sit down for a session of free writing, have an outline or even a vague plan, the idea is to write something every day. Put the words on paper. Or, more probably, see the words on the screen. 50? 300? 500? One morning I produced 1,000 words. Maybe rubbish, but there they were, when once they weren’t.
Pick up a book with the irresistible title of How to Write a Novel and the expert will tell you that if you write 500 words a day, you will have a novel of 60K words in 120 days or 4 months. You won’t have a novel polished and ready for submission, but you will have a first draft and you will have achieved more than most would-be writers.
So why is it so difficult? We all have busy lives: there’s the office, the school runs, the cooking, the garden, the dog…enough excuses! To become a writer, you must make it a priority to find that hour or two a day to write. However, there are two major annual events which get in the way: Christmas and summer holidays. Now is not the time to discuss Christmas and the summer holidays are coming to an end. So did you manage to write every day? Are those new words on the screen, saved safely until you can get back to your desk to re-write them?
I came away with a packed briefcase: a writing magazine, my diary to note the various competition deadlines, the ‘final’ drafts of my short story collection, my laptop to complete all those re-writes of said short stories and a couple of new books published by indie publishers. A package which showed good intent. Which is about as far as it has got and I’ve only a week left before we go home. What has interfered with my good intentions? One word answer: Life. Examples: family, friends, food, chatting, the sun, swimming, walking, sightseeing – those galleries, which were surely mind enhancing. But they all clogged up my productivity.
The Chateau of Chambord
OK, I’ve made a short list of competitions with their deadlines; almost read the two books (but I’ve read three old favourites I found on the shelves) and I’ve kept in contact by emails and social media. I’m writing this blog but the almost completed short stories will return home unfinished.
There is, however, one achievement. On our way through France, we drove along the Boulevard Périphérique around Paris. Under a bridge we saw an encampment of refugees; their temporary shelters a sad comparison with our destination. We drove on to our holiday villa but the images of the people fighting to keep alive stayed with me. As soon as I had a day to myself, I began to write. I typed the words in a rush, in one sentence, with no punctuation, no constructed story arc, until I had the bones of a story about a young man living in those conditions. I knew I’d have to go over and over it again, changing and moving sentences or whole paragraphs, using my Thesaurus, seeking the pattern of the words and the end of the story. But that first draft was on the screen and I was able to click ‘save’.
If you have found the summer holidays a frustration the good news is that they are almost over. In your first day of freedom, just write. Then click ‘save’ and feel good about yourself.
With acknowledgement and thanks to the ‘overspill’ Louvre at Lens.