My creativity is a bit of a diva. She is intolerant, belligerent, and thinks she rules my life.
She refuses to cooperate unless she has my full attention. Her list of demands includes total silence, absence of all humans, snacks (because taking time to prepare meals is out of the question), infinite cups of tea, and – here’s the clincher – no deadline. The beast demands that I must be totally, 100%, hers; with no competing priorities, and no intention of stopping. Ever. Not even to sleep. She doesn’t sleep, so neither should I. If I even think about having to do paid work, she flips me off.
It’s not that there’s anything wrong with my attention span. Once in that zone, I can stay there for 30 hours at a time. I know, because that’s how I’ve produced just about everything I’ve written.
The problem is finding blocks of time to get to the zone. And once there, to explore it, use it, relish it, and leverage everything that it offers.
Sometimes it only takes a few minutes to get there. Sometimes, no time at all: I wake up there, desperate to sit down at the computer to see what will fall through my fingertips and onto the screen. It’s like watching a movie, and I love the process, even when it’s difficult to form the ideas into sensible order. It’s addictive and I crave it. The beast is the gatekeeper who decides when to permit the brain to purge and the ideas to flow. Freely, as if from a hydrant. All I have to do is watch all the ideas fall out and be ready to catch them.
Actually, that’s not all I have to do. First I have to satisfy the diva.
Pffft. I’ve been struggling for years to find blocks of time without a limit. Without something else to do that requires me to conform to a schedule. [The diva’s eyes narrow as I write this.] Even weekends are problematic because my 32-hours-per-week job is a ‘flexible’ salaried one. We all know that is modern business code for ‘however-long-it-takes-you-to-get-it-done-on-time’.
But it’s not personal. I am not the only writer in the world trying to figure out how to fit this huge thing into an already full life. We all are, at least until we have a big enough catalog of selling books that the bills will get paid whilst we write.
On this topic, social media has been my friend.
More correctly, other writers who use social media have kindly shared their stories and advice about how to get that first book written whilst working. Most often it’s about how to get the first 20 books written whilst working…
So this is not a short-term or once-off scenario.
The blocks of unlimited time thing is clearly not working for me. Using about two weeks per year of ‘unlimited’ days, I’m producing only about 40,000 words of draft per year. Of course, each year I start a different draft, so that means there’s a ridiculous quantity of semi-drafted novels and nonfiction on my computer. If the past is a predictor of the future, I will die with a bazillion semi-drafted ideas and zero finished books.
So… about ten days ago I decided it’s time to give the 15-minutes-per-day approach a try.
Surely I can do that! Even if the output is awful, it will still be output. Then the year-end break can be used for editing instead of writing.
There are lots of things that can be done in 15 minutes, and many of those are things that have to be done at some stage anyway, and don’t require a huge investment of creativity. For example, brainstorming, plotting, outlining, researching one specific thing, filling in part of a character profile, posting a quick update to social media… Okay, that last one isn’t always quick, especially for an #instanoob such as myself.
But oh! I’m so excited!
The manuscript I’ve chosen to prioritize is almost 30,000 words long right now. I wonder how much I can add to that by the end of the year?
I’m really keen to find out if this approach has actually worked for others to the extent that they have finished a whole book this way. Or if bloggers and social media copywriters used a similar strategy. Please let me know in the Comments, below.
UPDATE: The diva is a sneaky siren. Give her an inch and she’ll take a mile: 15 minutes can blow out to ridiculous proportions. Today, for example, is Sunday and there’s nobody else home. Consequently, I’ve managed to put myself 4 hours behind schedule with the job-related work that has to be done by morning. Oops.
Better log off then.