Week 40

So. Here we are again. Weeknotes, and I've not written anything. I've got excuses - oh so many excuses - and currently I'm telling myself it's because I've just left my job and started anew. That's going to involve some time-consuming admin, right? Right?

I've had to update my equipment, buy a new computer, download Scrivener (and pay for it this time - I'm using Apple now, and the Windows beta has moved to version 1.0 anyway, but it's well worth the money), do back-ups of all my work, record podcasts, register as self-employed, budget ruthlessly. Larks. There's been a family event, a talk to write, and FIREWORKS. Plus it's about this time every year I remember mulled wine.

The result? Low productivity margins. Didn't write a word.

That's not true; I wrote notes, and thought about it a lot. Last night I woke up in the middle of the night after a nightmare - the story was still really clear to me, and weird, and fading rapidly, so I got out of bed and scribbled it down. It's another story altogether, and I'm still not sure if Stephen King hasn't written it already. But it was nevertheless encouraging: after thinking about my main book for so long, I sometimes wonder if I'll ever be able to write anything else. That difficult second album had already begun to loom, and I wondered if there was really only one book in me (and maybe - truth be told - it was just a pamphlet). Lifting my head up from my novel for a while has made me see lots of other things I'd like to write once it is written.

The guilt is overwhelming though. Since leaving my job I've stopped baulking at describing myself as a "writer", because there's really only one qualification for the title. It's not payment. It's not a job title. Unfortunately, it's writing.

A writer writes, as someone said (who said it, anyone know? Google's no help). It's that simple, and I'm not managing it. To make matters worse, it's Nanowrimo this month, so my Twitter timeline is full of people achieving thousands of words a day (though my bitterness was somewhat alloyed with this week's LUV & HAT - thanks guys).

I decided actively to take a break until next week, and in the mean time looked for a few other writers' ways of dealing with not writing. Obviously the only real solution is to write, but sometimes that's just not possible. Life gets in the way. That's right: life. You think that Xbox can play itself?

So here's what I found:

  • carry a notebook with you and continue to write down ideas (they all say this - I'm good at buying notebooks. Really good. Top notch. Not so good at filling them)
  • write a blog [TICK], or anything that keeps you writing
  • continue to dream about what you'll wear when you win the Booker prize
  • tell yourself you're on sabbatical
  • wear your glasses more often in the belief it makes you look more intellectual
  • avoid the inevitable question "so how's the book coming along?" by never going out
  • if you have to go out, mumble something about how the protagonist "is me, and yet not me" and hope boredom sets in and they stop asking questions
  • imagine the interviews you will give when everyone is talking about your book
  • feel terrible injustice when Julian Barnes wins the Booker instead of you - even though you weren't shortlisted. Or longlisted. Even though you have not written a novel.


I think that sums it up.

Word count this week: 0 Total word count: 69,688 First draft: 59,672

Week 39

So I've given up my job to write. A huge decision. Difficult. Scary. And what's the one thing I haven't done much of in the last few weeks since making that decision? Write. Leaving your job takes time - you need to change your bank details, draw up budgets, and make contacts that might lead to new work. You need to go out for last drinks with your colleagues. See people for the last time. Get new business cards made.

So writing has suffered, but in the long run, once I've started some part-time work I've got lined up, I'll have two extra days a week to write.

I worry this is the wrong decision, that I won't use the time correctly, that I'll buckle under the pressure to write. I might have given up my career a little prematurely; after all, there's no guarantee my novel - if I finish it - will even sell.

The alternative wasn't really working though. Plenty of people with full-time jobs manage to write in their spare time, but I found it really hard to keep the pressure on every morning/evening and at weekends. I've written almost 60,000 words in the last nine months, but every day I didn't get to write, I started feeling stressed and frustrated. It's hard to write regularly, even harder to write every day, when the majority of your time every week is actually spent in an office or travelling to that office.

I enjoy my job, it's creative and challenging and I was very lucky to do it. But ever since I started writing in earnest, I have to admit it's paled in comparison. I want to change career. I now know I want to write more than anything so I've decided to find a more flexible arrangement that lets me give that a go. I want to write my book sooner rather than later, get it out faster than I would at my current rate. I don't want to take three years to write it.

My plan is to finish the first draft of my novel by Christmas this year, then do two rewrites before next summer. Maybe then it'll be in a good-enough state to start sending out to agents. If nothing else comes of it, at least I can say I wrote a novel from start to finish.

But first, I need to get all that admin sorted, and start writing again. And just in time for NaNoWriMo! Good luck to everyone taking part.

Word count this week: 0 Total word count: 69,688 First draft: 59,672