I am, slowly but surely, learning how to write again.
2012 was the year I set myself the task of learning to write while working a day-job. It took me the better part of the year to figure that out, but I got there. Get up early, write a handful of words, let all the big goals and word-counts I used to set myself when writing was a more significant part of my yearly income disappear into the background.
In 2012 I wasn’t a writer, I was just a guy who wrote. I reset all my expectations and rebuilt up my process from scratch. I didn’t push myself to build a career, I just focused on getting something done. It’s the first time I’d done that since I was…shit, twenty? Maybe twenty-one? I don’t regret it, not being a writer for a stretch. 2012 was a pretty fucking awesome year and the novelty of regular paycheque that was more than I needed to live off was actually kind of awesome.
But I don’t regret that I’m done with it, either. And that’s saying something.
2013 is a new beast, although it feels familiar enough. Four days a week away from the dayjob, which is when I get the lions share of my work done. Three days a week at the day-job, in which I get to do awesome stuff. It’s the best of both worlds, but I worry about the split. The way my process has to shift from Tuesday to Thursday, then shift back when the four-day weekend of writing starts.
I thought the days at work would be the problem. Turns out, I knew how to handle them. I’d taught myself in the close of 2012 and the process works just fine now. Get up early, do some words before work. Get the writing over with before the dayjob starts.
It’s the shift back, on Fridays, that caught me off-guard. The temptation to slip into slough when the dayjob isn’t there to write around. There is always tomorrow, I tell myself. Or, I don’t need a schedule, I can just stay up late if I don’t get it done now.
In 2012 a good day’s writing was only 500 words. In 2010, the year that kicked the shit out of me, a good days writing involved getting my ass in front of computer and not punching myself in the nuts (I was, that year, pretty goddamn burnt out).
In 2013 a good days writing is closer to two or three thousand words. Dear god, I’ve missed those kinds of numbers. Hell, I’ve missed that kind of focus. Stories actually form and sprawl out, figuring out their natural length.
I’m writing long, these days. Stories aren’t really stories, but novellas and novellettes in the making. Once upon a time I’d aim to get most stories done in three thousand words of less. These days, my default length seems to be three times that.
One thing that I’ve missed, for the last few years, is the freedom to throw something out. Earlier this week I turfed 16,000 words. It hurt, but it was the right choice. The project is better for it, and I’m getting more done after throwing stuff out.
There’s something pleasant about abandoning a story, knowing you don’t have to fight it. That’s there’s still enough words left over the course of the week to ensure you can get back on track.
I have plans for this year and, lo, they are ambitious. If I achieve even half of them, it’ll still be the most productive year I’ve had in my life. I’m doing a lot of process hacking, testing what I’m doing and figuring out what works. I’m looking at routines, figuring out how to shore up the process when things, inevitably, go wrong.
For now, I’m remembering how to write again, and it feels fucking great.