Some Of Us Work Different

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People tell me that the reason why I don’t write as fast as I want is because I don’t take my writing seriously. I don’t treat it as a job. They give me such sage advice as:

  • Schedule your writing time and guard it religiously
  • Get up an hour or two before the kids do
  • Stay up for an hour or two after the kids go to bed
  • Don’t go online when you should be writing
  • Don’t watch TV when you should be writing
  • Set deadlines
  • Outline
  • Take scheduled little breaks

My children go to public school. My writing is the six hours a day, 5 days a week for the standard school year, barring unavoidable issues. Schedule it? Guard it religiously? By my math I have 5 and a half months of 40 hour work weeks after I account for summer break, holidays, half days, teacher work days, snow days and sickdays (a number I discovered in the potty because my husband had thoughtfully removed Fighting Techniques of the Medieval World from said potty to my side of the bed, but left behind my notebook). I know of authors who would gleefully murder me in my sleep for such guaranteed time.

I am not a morning person. I can get up at ye-gods-the-sun-hasn’t-even-had-coffee-yet, and I often catch myself doing so unwillingly, but the price is to be zonked for the rest of the day. That equation looks like getting an extra hour or two at the expense of the other 6 (I know because I’ve tried).

Staying up after the kids go to bed can be done. I’ve done that too. I tend to do my research during this time. Mainly because the only place in the house that I know people won’t re-arrange my stack of to-do reading materials is right next to my bed. To be fair, this summer, I’ve used some of this time to finish my “Good-Enough” SCA Russian costume and other sewing projects I started but never got around to finishing. (I’ve worked on other projects lately because I’ve hit a writing wall at about the speed of 90 miles an hour back in April – Ow.), but I’ve learned a great deal about hand-beading and how I need to research Russian swear words.

Going online when I should be writing? Sooooo not a problem. Seriously. I have panic attacks just thinking about logging on to Twitter or Facebook, so it doesn’t happen. The most I do is check the news every few hours or research an obscure point that I’d like to use in the manuscript – “When did the .45 LC come into general usage? What does it feel like when you’re suspended upside down from the ceiling by your ankles and trying to get out of a straight-jacket?”

Watching TV when I should be writing? Again, not really an issue. There is very little on TV that attracts me these days. I don’t need to watch Dance Moms because I get to witness a lower key version of it every Tuesday when I take Sara to dance class. Although, I suppose I could class this under getting caught in the “Hey Katty, you can build almost any prop, right? Do you think you could make something like this…?” Which of course I end up doing. Because I used to be a theatre rat and for some sick reason it’s exhilarating to wield power tools to build weight-bearing prop item X from a rough sketch on the back of a cocktail napkin or sew a costume piece or something silly like that (reliving my glory years, I guess). Fortunately, it doesn’t happen often.

Setting deadlines and outlining with research papers is effortless. With fiction it seems to press the panic button. The outlining part mainly because something inside my head feels like a total failure when I do not slavishly adhere to the outline, and I get so spun up about it I freeze up, as opposed to the research paper part of my grey matter, which has no problems tossing the outline out the window if it isn’t working.  For some reason, the factual part of my brain and the fiction part are like 2 rival government offices – they’ll trade occasional memos, but actually working together on a project violates some obscure and out-dated subsection of law.

Taking scheduled little breaks is the tricky one. I break off every hour or so to do laundry or quick clean a bathroom or spot pick-up another room. Other days writing doesn’t happen because there was the doctor’s visit and since I’ll be out anyway I should go grocery shopping and quick-run these errands over here, and dammit I have to shovel the driveway (which is friggin’ huge, but not enough snow falls to justify getting a snowblower in this part of Colorado), and oh yeah I have to schedule this and that and so forth.

But I still get 5.5 months of 40 hour work weeks guaranteed to myself every year. I don’t spend a ton of time cleaning my house, so it looks … lived in. I don’t obsess over my yard so it’s … you know … in a non-covenanted neighborhood so I’m not in danger of fines or anything.

So why can’t I slam out a novel a year?

My husband stresses that I strive for quality. My friends tell me I’m OCD, but in a good way. Author advice that one gleans from around the internet insinuate that I’m lazy, unprofessional and lacking in vision.

I constantly tell my kids “Some people have to do things differently because that’s how their brain works.”

So why am I having such a problem believing that?

See what others have to say at the  monthly Insecure Writers Support Group.


About kattywampusbooks

A SAHM with delusions of literacy.
This entry was posted in Writer, Writing and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Some Of Us Work Different

  1. Bish Denham says:

    We all have our own ways of writing, our own time frames. I tend to have huge spurts where I’m very prolific and then can go YEARS without writing much of anything at all. I love the flush of first drafts and struggle mightily with revisions and edits. I just spent nearly 2 months reworking the first 2 chapters of my current novel.

    Try not to judge yourself by the standards of how others work. As long as you enjoy what you’re doing, that’s all that matters! Have fun.

    Bish, your co-host, #128 on the Alex Scale


  2. You’re right, everyone thinks and works and does things differently. Maybe you are a bit too “OCD” and should let go of it. If you’re using the time you have, that’s not the issue. Do you find yourself having trouble coming up with the original ideas? Re-writing things you’ve already done? Meticulously going through line by line, word by word to make sure everyone is in the correct place? Once you get to the root of the problem, then you can work past it.


    • Different projects have different problems – but I think we all know how that works 😉

      My biggest problem seems to be my “muse” beats me near to death for a period of time and then she walks out on me. Most of the time I can just turn to another project and edit it or something, but it still takes about 2 years to get a MS from “rough” to “polished enough I’m willing to be seen in public with it.”

      I think it’s the authors who routinely speak of banging out 4-8 books a year that really get me down. I know we are in different genres, different styles and everything else, but it’s still intimidating and irritating to hear them proselytize on how “if you can’t bang out 4 a year, you’ll never make it.”


  3. I don’t have any answers, either. I know I can be my own worse enemy. I try not to. We forget we’re supposed to be having fun. If things get really difficult, if I realize I’m being particularly hard on myself, I stop dead in my tracks. Then I smile. Not just a surface smile, but one of those that reach down to my gut. Smile from the inside out. I stop thinking. I stop to admire the setting. Or pat my cat who seems to love me regardless. The negative voice is gone right around the time I hear him tell me in the most endearing of meows, usually with an accompanying look, “I love you.” And suddenly, everything’s back to normal. Looking at photos of my grandchildren works the same way.


  4. doreeweller says:

    The thing is that the things that make you crazy about yourself, like your “OCD” are the things that make you who you are. Why can’t you believe that some people work differently and it’s okay? Because we’re always harder on ourselves than we are on others. I’m a firm believer that things happen when they’re meant to. Your novel will be finished when it’s done. Because it will be time for it to be done then.


  5. M.R.R. says:

    Unless you’ve got a contract demanding a novel a year, I doubt it matters if you need a little more time to finish things.


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